5-22-20: Supporting our veterans’ mental health
Check out this blog post borrowed from the National Alliance on Mental Illness about how we can better support our veterans.
5 Ways You Can Support Veterans’ Mental Health
Veterans Day is a day to remember and reflect on the sacrifices of our military veterans and also to thank them for their service. It’s a celebration that honors America’s veterans for their patriotism and willingness to offer their lives for the common good.
Veterans in this country come from different eras, fought in different battles, used different weaponry and wore different uniforms, but they all share a common experience: the experience of training, moving from place to place, fighting (or training to fight) and living a life that is ever changing.
Due to the unique, and sometimes challenging, lifestyle inherent to military life, often our veterans experience mental health challenges such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury or depression. Here are five ways you can help support our veterans:
- Understand Suicide
On average, 17 veterans a day die by suicide. In 2017, nearly one in every seven suicides nationally was a veteran—13.5% annually—compared with Census data that shows veterans make up about 8% of the U.S. adult population. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, up to 20% of military personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan experience PTSD each year. Unfortunately, the numbers are not showing any significant slowing. Our veterans are at risk, and we as a nation need to support them.
- Reach out to veterans through Veteran Support Organizations. Organizations such as IAVA, VFW and American Legion and others in your local community can be some of the strongest protective factors against suicide is social support. If a veteran feels connected to a community, has friends and people to turn to when they need help, they are less likely to die by suicide.
- Donate your time and money (if you can) to help support veterans. Veteran Service Organizations and NAMI help to provide much needed resources and support. Volunteering to help could make a difference in a veteran’s life.
- If a veteran tells you they are suicidal, take it seriously. Talk to them, encourage them and ask them to seek help from a mental health professional. Share the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) with them. It is available 24/7.
- Understand PTSD
Traumatic events, such as military combat, assault and disasters can have long-lasting negative effects such as trouble sleeping, anger, nightmares, being jumpy and alcohol and drug abuse. When these troubles don’t go away, it could be PTSD. Although PTSD is not unique to the military, it is important to note that in a JAMA Psychiatry study it was found that the rate of PTSD is up to 15 times higher among veterans than among civilians.
- Reach out to organizations that specialize in treating and/or providing referrals to veterans who suffer from PTSD. The National Center for PTSD offers support, resources and information. You can refer a veteran you know or inform yourself so you can better support the veteran in your life.
- Everyday events can be triggers. If you work or have knowledge of events where fireworks may be set off to celebrate an event, notify local veterans groups, the loud noise could trigger symptoms of PTSD in veterans. Having advanced knowledge of a fireworks display could help some veterans better prepare and cope with any symptoms that may arise.
- If you notice that someone in your life, a friend, coworker, fellow student or family member has symptoms, refer them to a professional for care. Don’t wait, don’t be afraid to ask. PTSD is a risk factor for suicide.
- Understand Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Known as a “signature wound” of the post 9/11 wars, due to blasts from explosive devices. The high rate of TBI and blast-related concussion events resulting from current combat operations directly impacts the health and safety of individual service members. It’s also important to note that veterans may sustain TBIs throughout their lifespan, with the largest increase as the veterans enter into their 70s and 80s; these injuries are often caused by falls and result in high levels of disability. Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue or drowsiness, memory problems and mood changes and mood swings.
- A TBI may not be noticeable at first, don’t assume that all wounds are visible. Memory problems or mood changes could be the result of depression or another mood disorder or it could be a traumatic brain injury. Even “mild” TBI’s can cause significant impairment in different areas of someone’s life. Don’t let the “mild” fool you.
- Volunteer to work with veterans who have experienced TBI. You can offer help through an organization that trains service dogs, such as Project HEAL, or provide assistance with activities of daily living by volunteering at Veteran’s homes, the VA and more. There are many organizations (Disabled American Veterans, Brainline Military, etc.) that support a veteran who struggles with at TBI. Get informed and help if you can.
- Understand Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. Symptoms include persistently sad or irritable mood, changes in sleep, appetite, energy, problems with memory and concentration, lack of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Veterans struggling with depression can lead to suicide or substance abuse. Among veterans treated by the Veterans Association between 2009 and 2013, about 10% had major depressive disorder.
- You can help someone with depression by helping them accomplish tasks that are difficult from day to day. For example, you could assist with menu items for meals, or you could take them to the store if they have trouble with memorizing lists or driving.
- Recommend helping resources and help with a mental health professional. NAMI offers many resources and information to help those in your life who may be struggling.
- If a veteran is severely depressed and suicidal, get them help immediately. This is something that should be taken seriously.
- Understand Anxiety
Feeling anxious is a normal reaction to stress. Sometimes it can be positive. For example, anxiety can help motivate you to deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, handle a new situation, or stay focused on an important task. In general, it helps people cope. But when anxiety becomes excessive, doesn’t fit the situation or lasts a long time, it can get in the way of your everyday activities and may interfere with how you get along with others.
Some Veterans develop anxiety following severe trauma or a life-threatening event. For others, stressful life events such as transitioning from military to civilian life can cause anxiety disorders. It can be hard for some Veterans and Service members to “turn off” some of the strategies and behaviors that were necessary for military situations.
- Anxiety affects many. It can manifest itself as a panic attack or overall sense of unease. You could help by being available if/when a veteran is in crisis. This could involve letting them know you are there, offering assistance and support.
Understanding and supporting the mental health needs of our veterans is a great way to reach out and thank them for their service.
You can view the original post here.
5-15-20: Injustice and discrimination as a cause of mental illness
Check out this blog post borrowed from Mental Health America. It’s important to keep expanding our knowledge of the causes of mental illness for we can continue to expand the resources available.
To Improve Mental Health, We Need To Take On Social And Racial Injustice
The International District of Albuquerque, New Mexico is a majority Latino neighborhood that vibrates with life. It’s a hub of family-owned bakeries, restaurants, and shops that showcase the distinct origin stories of its inhabitants. But the community also faces challenges that have created high levels of economic and other kinds of stress for residents, which have translated into growing concerns about high suicide rates for young Latino men as well as substance misuse and community trauma.
The challenges in Albuquerque’s International District are far too familiar to many communities of color with low household incomes in the United States: high rates of poverty, under-resourced schools, limited job opportunities, dilapidated infrastructure, unsafe streets, and high levels of violence.
What’s less familiar is the connection these community conditions have with mental health and wellbeing.
It’s time for us to start recognizing injustices like racism, anti-immigrant bias, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination as social injustices and obstacles to mental health and wellbeing. We can’t ignore these injustices if we want all communities to thrive. That means starting to implement approaches to mental health that help remedy the community conditions that cause or exacerbate problems and support communities of color, immigrants and refugees, and the LGBTQ community.
“Stress is too deeply woven into our lives,” says Xavier Barraza of Together4Brothers, a lead organization of Making Connections: International District, which goes by MC: ID. And healthy outlets to cope with stress aren’t as readily available in the International District as are alcohol and cigarettes in neighborhood stores.
To counteract this on-the-ground reality, MC:ID creates opportunities that emphasize supportive relationships and shared leadership. These range from cooking classes to project meetings. Every MC:ID strategy, activity, and decision is led by young men of color, who participate in workshops to strengthen their understanding of community determinants of health, social-emotional health, and policy strategy, all while building healthy relationships with one another.
As peer educators, these young men support each other “to take action in their community and be the problem solvers,” said Raul C., one of the many young men who contribute to MC:ID’s shared vision. They are paid for their work, gain invaluable professional skills, advocate for their community, and cultivate leadership; these are all elements they have identified for improving their wellbeing.
Like MC: ID, there are other initiatives throughout the US that are taking on community conditions that are harmful to good mental health among people of color, the LGBTQ community, and other groups that have been marginalized by mainstream culture and policies. In Tacoma-Pierce County, near Seattle, Washington, the health department partners with grassroots organizations to strengthen social connections and community resilience among men and boys and LGBTQ people of color in communities where adverse childhood and community experiences are widespread. The initiative has served close to 500 individuals with culturally grounded activities such as the All My Relations program for indigenous youth, and Paddles Up, Families Strong, which ties urban natives to deep cultural practices such as the Tribal Canoe Journey.
The centerpiece of the Tacoma-Pierce County program, called 253 Making Connections, is a participatory budgeting process through which community members—who have a deep understanding of what types of support their community needs—have decided to fund people of color-led grassroots organizations to lead the activities described above. This model shifts power from organizations back to communities, distributing leadership and decision-making more equitably.
The programs in Albuquerque and Tacoma-Pierce County, both of which are part of the Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys initiative, funded by the Movember Foundation, have several common elements:
- They intentionally engage community members, particularly those who have been historically excluded, in determining solutions and strategies that promote healing, build trust, and foster resilience. This is because people with lived experience bring a deep understanding and awareness of their own needs, which helps them design effective solutions.
- They understand that trauma is a collective experience and therefore healing is strongest when it’s a community experience. Healing can take place during group conversations, recreational or vocational activities, civic engagement, and culturally grounded rituals. Artistic and cultural expression can be especially powerful conveyors for understanding a group’s trauma and pain and can also serve as doorways to healing and resilience.
- They often support peer networks and counselors to open a channel of communication with community members who may not feel comfortable with traditional mental health structures. Peer networks have the additional benefit of creating leadership opportunities for community members and fostering social connection for everyone involved in them.
We’ve had the privilege of working with a dozen communities who are bringing together partners in the housing, education, and social services worlds with grassroots organizations and, most importantly, community members to improve mental health at the community level. The power and creativity of these approaches is truly impressive, and they deserve more attention.
You can check out the original post here.
5-8-20: Mental health tips from our staff
This article is from a past newsletter and details some important tips for self-care and health. Don’t forget to take care of your brain and body.
SELF-CARE AND MINDFULNESS
Favorite practices and tips from our staff
- Self-care and mindfulness are vitally important parts of not only recovery but living a healthy life.
- Our staff knows that and works to not only have practices to stay healthy themselves but to also equip our clients with the tools they need to be healthy as well.
- Below are self-care and mindfulness tips and practices from our House of Charity staff!
- I try to make my surroundings as cozy and pleasing to the senses as possible. This includes having items in my spaces that are meaningful, colorful, and calming. I also like to include some of the elements in my area: plants and rocks from the earth, a diffuser to provide calming scents in the air, the sounds of water and nature playing on my Pandora.
- Sitting and staring at the sky
- Go to a concert and listen to live music; do some dancing. A lot of live music is free! And dancing can always be free.
- Mindfulness breathing. Breathing in through the nose for 5 seconds from the diaphragm and then blowing out through the mouth. I set a reminder on my phone to make sure I do this regularly.
- Support groups
- Five minutes of watching myself breathe slowly is the best thing I do for myself everyday, except sleep. Sleep is the best.
- When we are trauma informed, we are able to have healthy boundaries, and do not internalize other’s behavior; hence reducing our stress. Understanding that everyone is doing the best they can, in their specific circumstances reduces judgement, and prevents us from putting our expectations on others.
- Listening to music or comedy shows
- Mindfull exercise that is focused on the time you are exercising rather than finishing the exercise teaches present awareness just as well as seated meditation in the fanciest meditation center money can buy.
What are your go-to self-care and mindfulness practices for when you are feeling stressed or worn out?
5-1-20: Five reminders for survivors of trauma
Below is a post from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It was excellent information for those who have survived trauma and those who are close to someone who has. We can never know too much about how to be mentally healthy.
5 Reminders For Survivors Of Trauma
In 1991, when I was 17 and living in Tel Aviv with my family, a loud siren woke me from a peaceful sleep. We knew what it meant. We also knew we had to do. I ran, shaking and crying, with my family to our safe room, where we bolted the door and sealed it for protection.
About three minutes later we felt and then heard huge blasts. Our house shook and rattled. I was terrified. I was sure this was a chemical attack, and that we would die. But it wasn’t a chemical attack. It was a conventional missile—and the first night of a war that required us to sleep for weeks in that safe room.
Eventually the war ended, and people returned to their routines. Most people seemed fine, moving on quickly. For me, “moving on” was harder and more complex. My experience landed me, although it took me many years to realize it, in the community of trauma survivors. Although some of us might seem to be managing just fine, none of us is here by choice. And the truth is that our reactions are a normal response to an abnormal situation.
Trauma takes things away from us—some of which can’t ever be returned. For some survivors, the losses are tangible, like people we loved or a body that once functioned perfectly. For others, the losses are intangible, like a sense of uncomplicated wholeness or pristine memories of beloved times and places.
Either way, coming to terms with irreversible loss is an essential part of trauma integration and recovery.
Today, I am a trauma therapist, working daily with survivors of debilitating trauma. Most of my clients suffer from complex and developmental trauma resulting from neglect, abuse or exposure to unusual stress in the early years of life. Here are a few things I tell my clients, and myself, on a daily basis.
- Trauma Responses Are Unique
While we all react in similar ways when we’re in immediate danger, our reactions after the threat is over differ greatly from one person to the next. Even people from the same family can have differing responses to the same event. Only you can define how a traumatic event affects you. Only you can define how it feels to be in your own body. No one else can know (or tell you) how it feels to be you.
- Trauma Lives On In The Body And Senses
Trauma can impact all of our systems: physical (sleep, appetite, digestion), emotional (feelings of pain, anger, shame, guilt, survival guilt), mental (difficulty concentrating and retaining information), spiritual (meaning of life, God) and social (relationships with family, friends, strangers). In some ways, we’re like a sponge for stress and trauma. And like a sponge, we accumulate it until there is no space to accumulate any more.
On a neurological level, trauma creates what I call an “emergency highway” in the body. During trauma, sounds, sights, smells, thoughts, emotions and movements all blend together when our fight-or-flight-or-freeze response mechanism is triggered. We’re gifted with this primitive survival system to cope with crisis. We run faster and fight harder when it’s activated.
But once it’s created, this highway never goes away. Some people have a hard time getting off of it and stopping themselves from re-entering. Every time we smell, see, hear or taste something or feel something that reminds us of what happened to us, we’re back on the emergency highway again. Usually, we’re not even aware that our emergency responses have been triggered. We’ve been on this highway so often that it almost comes naturally.
- Trauma Stories Aren’t Always Helpful
The urge to tell and re-tell our story after trauma is understandable. Years ago, therapists considered this helpful and encouraged extensive “debriefing.” But research has found that telling the traumatic story over and over is ineffective in bringing relief from symptoms and is even sometimes harmful. Every time we tell our story, we relive it, and the imprint on our brain and body becomes more permanent.
- Trauma Integration Requires Self-Care
The pull to withdraw and rest is powerful for many survivors and should be honored. But some activity, even if it’s slow and gentle, helps reset and support your nervous system. Go for walks with someone with whom you feel safe. Give and get as many hugs as you can from your loved ones. Eat as cleanly as possible, and drink plenty of fluids, especially those that have restful associations (such as chamomile with honey or water with lemon or mint). Try to avoid violent or loud music, movies and video games. Reduce your intake of sugar and stimulating drinks as much as possible. You may feel that you need stimulants, but with your nervous system already on high alert, your goal should be to support it, not activate it.
- Trauma Survivors Are Resourceful
The moment you experienced trauma, your survival system called upon unusual resources to help you survive. Most survivors are barely conscious of the resources that enabled them to still be here today. These resources are not always experienced as “good,” but they are helpful—such as the fear response
that makes you alert when you cross a highway. These resources are always there, and they emerge powerfully in times of crisis, helping you stay alive.
The discovery of these resources after trauma—what therapists call post traumatic growth—comes in its own good time, sooner for some and later for others. If you’re in the latter group, ask yourself the following: What personal resources have helped me hold on to life even when it’s most challenging? What gives me the energy to continue? The answer to these questions could enable you to eventually see resources you possess that you might have never recognized.
We all have resources due to the mere fact that we’re alive. When we don’t recognize our resources, it doesn’t mean that we lack them; it means that we lack self-compassion. We feel not good enough, ashamed, guilty or hung up on all the “shouldas/wouldas/couldas” that often follow trauma.
I have a lot of experience in the battle for self-compassion. It’s a hard practice to maintain, but for me and many of my clients, it’s the best resource for dealing with the pain of past events and fears of the future. In fact, I would argue that self compassion is key for trauma integration. When we’re kind to ourselves, our brain pathways “expand.” When we criticize ourselves, they “tighten.” So, try telling yourself, “It’s okay to feel pain. I don’t like to feel sad/angry/lonely, but it’s okay to feel that way.” Acknowledging this helps your nervous system relax.
Remember: You are always doing the best you can at any given moment. Given a choice, you may have responded differently to events at the time of trauma. But your survival mechanisms took over and helped you do whatever it took to stay alive. And we’re glad you’re here.
You can view the original post here.
4-24-20 Volunteer Week
[Update – This blog was written prior to the pandemic and stay at home order. We are publishing it unchanged. The basic premise is that the work of each volunteer is a sign of progress and hope in the face of great challenges, this is even more true today. As always, thanks to everyone who can still come in to volunteer! Thanks to everyone donating online and finding ways to support us at home!]
It can be challenging to confront the global conflicts which we feel wrapped up in yet powerless about. I was having a talk with my friend the other night about how groups like Black Lives Matter had ignited a newfound rebellious push against police brutality and the killing of numerous people of color.
How the Women’s March in 2017 was a spectacle for the world to see, as women gathered to protest for their rights and demonstrate their power. How youth like Greta Thunberg shocked the world as her and other youth climate activists took a stand in front of the United Nations to condemn their stagnancy and the inaction governments around climate change and infinite economic growth. Yet, between my friend and I, it felt as if a lot of that energy and momentum has dwindled away. It seemed that the transparency of corruption would be the reigning answer to these global conflicts, but even with the truth unveiled, we found ourselves asking: “What can we do?”
The overwhelming ferocity of global strife leaves us feeling like there are not tangible actions we can take –but that’s where we are wrong. Not everyone is a president or Greta Thunberg or a millionaire, but everybody is an actor in our world, with gifts, abilities, and a role to play. We each have the capacity to create powerful connections and form safe spaces for our friends and neighbors. Building, connecting with, and giving back to the community are where rippling and tangible effects can be seen. Each time that I walk into the Food Centre and I hear the bright R&B echoing through the halls, the sounds of laughter among staff and volunteers, see smiling of diners with heaps of hot food, and hardworking volunteers… I no longer feel so swept up in despair.
The cliché which speaks “it all starts with one person” was always so abstract to me as to how one person’s actions could yield impacts on hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. The bridge between the abstract cliché and its grounding is the middle space between one person and the world: community. Whether someone comes with a team of eight to volunteer all day or an individual puts in a few hours a week for the breakfast shift, their altruistic intentions put palpable vibrations into the atmosphere of the Food Centre. Sometimes I even hear diners gratefully thanking volunteers for their time as they walk out of the door. The selfless act of investing their time at House of Charity is what keeps Brother De Paul’s mission alive and well.
4-17-20: We’re celebrating YOU next week!
Next week is National Volunteer Week and let me tell you, we are so excited to celebrate you!
We try to take time to regularly recognize our volunteers but for one week it April, it’s all about YOU, the world’s best volunteers (we’re obviously not biased).
We may not have as many volunteers during the Covid 19 pandemic, but we appreciate all of you so much and cannot wait to see you back! Here are some of the remarkable things that volunteers have been able to do during the pandemic:
- Volunteers who have been able to make it in have helped us to switch to boxed meals and to stay open.
- We have received many generous new online donations from volunteers!
- Volunteers have used their hard work and connections to bring in masks, food donations, and other things we desperately need.
If you’re volunteering next week, please take a picture and tag us or use the hashtags #NVW and #HoCVolunteers
We’re so excited to celebrate you!
4-10-20: Why are client stories so important?Toggle Title
We often share the amazing stories of our clients and diners. And there are a lot of reasons for that.
The first is that these stories deserve to be told. The men and women that walk in our doors seeking help and walk out in recovery or with housing are amazing, inspiring individuals and we want others to know that as well.
We also share the stories because it helps potential supporters understand the importance of what we’re doing. We can give you stats and show you pictures of our kitchen and rooms but without the stories of the individuals impacted by the support of others, it doesn’t hold any weight.
But, most importantly, we share these stories because they have the chance to change another life. Maybe another person will read one of those stories and decide that they can seek the help they need to be healthy or to find a home.
Our hope is that by sharing the stories of our clients, another person (maybe even you) will find hope. Will understand a little better than the man you see with a cardboard sign downtown or the mom with her kids at a lunch service isn’t there by choice or because of a personal failing.
These are stories of hope.
4-3-20 What Exactly is Fair Housing Month?
April is #FairHousingMonth. But what exactly does that mean? In a post borrowed from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, you can learn a little more about the history and why it’s so important.
Since 1968, April has come to be regarded as a time to remember the FHA and reflect on the rights it gives citizens. But why April?
It is a known fact that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) became law in April 1968, as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, a landmark piece of legislation. But the link with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the reason we celebrate Fair Housing Month in April. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the FHA into law one week after the assassination of the civil rights icon, who fought for equality in housing.
This is why, every April, we come together to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act and recommit to that goal which inspired us in the aftermath of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968: To create equal opportunity in every community and eliminate discrimination. This means that each one of us, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability, has access to neighborhoods of opportunity, where our children can attend quality schools, our environment allows us to be healthy, and economic opportunities and self-sufficiency can grow.
Fair housing is an integral part of building strong, vibrant communities.
Read the original post HERE.
3-27-20: Tell us your stories! We miss you!
Next month is dear to us because it’s National Volunteer Month. We like it for more reasons than the extra volunteers we get. This month will be a hard Volunteer Month. We are seeing very few volunteers because of Covid 19 and the Stay at Home Order. We had to postpone our volunteer event until the pandemic has subsided.
We still have a few healthy volunteers who will be coming in to help prepare boxed meals and clean, clean, and clean some more. Others have organized some great donations for us. Many have sent donations in via our website: https://www.houseofcharity.org/donate.
We like Volunteer Month because it means we get to recognize YOU, the world’s best volunteers!
We’re going to say this over and over but you really are the best.
On a daily basis, we are inspired by your generosity and enthusiasm to serve our diners and clients.
As we get ready to really celebrate you, would you take a few minutes to share a story of a moment serving in our Food Centre that has impacted you?
You can share it in the comments below or send it to Noah with the email subject: Blog volunteer story
Stay healthy and we cannot wait to see you again!
3-6-20: Why healthy food is more important that any food
During the Covid19 outbreak, House of Charity remains committed to feeding the people we serve. We have switched to providing nutritious box lunches. It’s easy to get trapped in the thinking that simply making sure people are fed is more important than ensuring they are eating well. Feeding America, an organization doing important things to end the hunger crisis in our country, shares below why nutritious food is so important.
Hunger and health are deeply connected.
Healthy bodies and minds require nutritious meals at every age. But when people don’t have enough food or have to choose inexpensive foods with low-nutritional value, it can seriously impact their health. And once the cycle of poor diet and poor health begins, it can be hard to break.
Put simply, hunger’s toll can be life-altering.
When someone is sick, having to choose between food and treatment can lead to serious complications. For example, for food-insecure adults living with diabetes, the choice between food and controlling the disease can even lead to complications like kidney disease, eye disease and nerve damage.
- Food insecurity can lead to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.
- More than half the households the Feeding America network serves have at least one member living with high blood pressure and more than one-third have a member with diabetes.
- Children at risk of hunger are more likely to be in poor health and struggle in school.
Family members in food-insecure households are also more likely to struggle with psychological and behavioral health issues. And kids struggling to get enough to eat are more likely to have problems in school and other social situations.
You can view the original blog post here.
3-13-20: Homeless Day on the Hill Recap
On Wednesday March 11, 2020, House of Charity staff and board joined nearly 900 advocates from across the state to ask the Minnesota state legislature to take dramatic steps to end the crisis of homelessness. After hearing from public officials, fellow housing and service providers, and from people with lived experienced with homelessness, we split to meet with our legislators to ask them to support:
- $50 million in support for the preservation and construction of shelter beds.
- $15 million to provide emergency services.
- $500 million for affordable and supportive housing in the state bonding bill.
Why did we spend our day at the Capitol waiting to speak to our legislators and gathering with hundreds of other advocates?
In the words of Jodi Harpstead, Minnesota’s Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, “Because we care more about everybody than just ourselves.”
From Cathy ten Broeke, Minnesota’s Director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, “Homelessness is not our destiny.”
We were reminded throughout the day by the people we serve and our colleagues that we have to be there to be counted and get the resources we need to create a Minnesota where everyone had a safe, supportive, and affordable place to live.
Do you want to help? Go here to sign up for action alerts related to ending homelessness in Minnesota: http://homesforallmn.org/
3-6-20: It’s getting warmer but the danger isn’t gone
During the warm summer months, it’s easy to forget about the dangers our homeless neighbors face.
In winter, their struggles and immediacy of the danger they face is evident to us every time we step out into the bitter cold.
However, when it’s warm and all you need to go outside is a pair of shoes (and really not even that), being outside doesn’t feel dangerous.
But here’s the truth.
Being homeless is always dangerous.
Some dangers can change with the season. For example, cold is one of the biggest dangers during winter. But in summer, the heat is dangerous too. Dehydration, heat stroke and even sometimes severe sunburn pose risks to those who don’t have a safe place to live.
Despite dangers that change with the season, there are some that never change.
Hunger. Abuse. Violence. Stigma. Arrest.
Our homeless neighbors are never really safe and it takes an enormous toll on their physical and mental health.
So as we slowly creep toward spring, don’t forget about those for whom the warming temperatures don’t really signal relief, just change.
Don’t stop serving. Don’t stop giving.
2-28-20: Low wages connected to housing crisis
The article below is an interesting and important read about the housing crisis. You can view the original article here.
A coalition of labor and faith groups is launching a campaign fighting for higher wages and affordable housing in the Twin Cities.
Carlos Suazo has worked in construction for about a decade. He said it’s hard to make ends meet on the wages construction companies pay to subcontractors.
“They offer you one job for one price, but when you deduce the hours, you get like $15 hourly,” Suazo said. “That’s not right. How are you going to pay all this stuff on that salary?”
Suazo was among the more than 100 people who attended a housing forum Wednesday that brought together labor unions, elected officials and religious leaders. Organizers say officials give developers generous tax incentives in exchange for building affordable housing, but that workers and tenants also need to be considered.
Workers risk being displaced from their communities because wages aren’t keeping pace with housing costs, said Veronica Mendez Moore, executive director of the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL).
“It’s a crisis across the country,” said Mendez Moore. “The crisis seemed like such an opportunity for us to come together and start crafting solutions.”
But amid the current affordable housing crisis, some builders say the cost of red tape contributes to the problem. They complain that state and local government requirements can add tens of thousands of dollars of unnecessary cost to a new home in Minnesota.
Still, housing advocates say the people who build homes for the construction industry should also be able to afford a home.
“Divide and conquer is no longer an operable strategy on the part of developers receiving public money to build affordable housing but not turning around and paying their workers adequately for their work,” said Korla Masters, a pastor at Shepherd of the Lake church in Prior Lake.
Organizers say the campaign will focus on both legislative proposals and grassroots pressure on companies that withhold employee wages or don’t compensate workers fairly. They’re hoping that a projected budget surplus of $1.3 billion could provide some relief to people who are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
CTUL has previously put pressure on companies they say exploited workers and withheld wages. Other labor organizations, Jewish Community Action and African Career, Education and Resource are also involved in the effort.
2-14-20: Know where to be safe from the cold
We posted this on our social media a few days ago, but this important info needs to be easy to find.
With wind chill dropping temperatures to dangerous levels, it’s important to know where you or someone you see can go to get out of the cold.
Businesses, churches and organizations all over Minnesota are opening up their spaces to serve as warming centers. Check out the list below for the locations that are opening their doors to keep our neighbors safe. If you want to help, you can contact one of these locations to see if there are any supplies needed or volunteer opportunities.
We open our Food Centre as a warming center and the items we need are coffee supplies and games.
Here’s the list:
Oasis for Youth (ages 16-24 only)
- 2200 West Old Shakopee Road
- Open Monday–Friday, 2–5 p.m.
- Metro Transit bus routes 539, 597, 535
Brooklyn United Methodist Church
- 7200 Brooklyn Boulevard
- Open Monday–Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 0° or colder
- Metro Transit bus route 723
Youthlink (ages 16-24 only)
- 41 N 12th St, Minneapolis, MN 55403
- Open Monday–Friday, 24 hours a day, Saturday – Sunday 6pm – 9am
- Metro Transit bus routes 4, 6, 9, 12
Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center
- Female-identifying relatives; 30 relatives max at a time
- 2300 15th Avenue South, Minneapolis MN
- Open 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.; 7 days/week through April 2020
- Metro Transit: #2 Bus; Blue Line: Franklin Station
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
- 3045 Chicago Avenue
- Open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 10° or colder. Enter through the door on Chicago Avenue under the awning.
- Metro Transit bus routes 5, 21, 53, 39.
Salvation Army – Harbor Light Center
- 1010 Currie Avenue
- Open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Open at 32° or colder
- Bus routes 9, 20
Catholic Charities – Adult Opportunity Center
- 740 – 17th Street East
- Open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Metro Transit bus routes 2, 5, 9, 14
Peace House Community
- 1816 Portland Avenue South
- Open weekdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Metro Transit bus route 9
The Bridge for Youth (ages 10-17 only)
- 1111 – 22nd Street West, Minneapolis 55405
- Open when temperatures drop below -15 degrees
- Warm up, grab a warm coat, mittens and scarf, have a cup of hot cocoa/coffee, and charge your phone
- Overnight accommodations could be provided if appropriate
- Bus routes 2, 6, 12, 17, 114, 115
House of Charity – Food Centre
- 714 Park Avenue South
- Open weekdays, noon to 4 p.m. when windchill is at 0 degrees or lower
- Public meals from noon to 1 p.m. every weekday no matter the temperature
- Bus routes 5, 14, 19, 94 (Express), C line
- Light rail: Blue Line and Green Line – U.S. Bank Stadium Station (0.2 mile walk)
Hennepin County Government Center
- 300 – 6th Street South (public areas on levels A, 1 and skyway)
- Open Monday-Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday noon–6 p.m.
- Green and blue light rail lines and Metro Transit bus routes 3, 7, 5, 14, 19, 22, 535, 724
Hennepin County Libraries
2-7-20: HUD Homelessness Crisis Update
This year’s HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) homeless study revealed some sad statistics. No matter what the numbers says, we will continue to work hard in the war to end homelessness. Check out the numbers below.
Unsheltered homelessness nearly doubles in Minnesota
In Minnesota, between 2018 and 2019 homelessness was up 10% and the number of people living outdoors nearly doubled, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In Minnesota, on a single night in January 2019, HUD found nearly 8000 people homeless, a 10 percent increase from 2018. The number of people living outdoors increased 47%, unsheltered homelessness accounting for about one in five people who were homeless. Unsheltered homelessness increased in all communities, rural, urban and suburban, with the largest increases occurring in urban and rural communities.
The 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress looks at homelessness on a single point in time across the country. Nationally, homelessness increased by 3% and the number of people living outdoors increased by 9% between 2018 and 2019. However, 29 states experienced declines in homelessness between 2018 and 2019, with the report attributing the national increase to a 16% increase in California.
Homelessness disproportionately impacts communities of color in Minnesota. The majority (65%) of people experiencing homelessness during the 2019 study identified as a person of color. These inequities reflect the barriers Minnesotans of colors experience as a result of the lasting impact of racism and prejudice on housing and economic opportunities.
The Minnesota numbers:
14.3 in every 10,000 people in Minnesota were experiencing homelessness in 2019
1.4 % increase in overall homelessness since 2010
10.1% increase in overall homelessness in 2019 from 2018.
7,977 total people experiencing homelessness in 2019
- 20.7% (1,653) were unsheltered
- 79.3% (6,324) were sheltered
- 4,586 individuals
- 3,391 people in families with children
685 were unaccompanied homeless youth
1,444 were chronically homeless individuals
65% were a person of color
- 43% were African Americans
- 12% were American Indian and Alaskan Natives
- African American and American Indian communities are overrepresented in the homeless population at a rate of seven and twelve times higher than the general population, respectively.
1-31-20: The state of homelessness
This blog post by the National Alliance to End Homelessness gives some great info on the state of homelessness in our country.
New Homelessness Numbers Reflect Uneven Progress, Increased Urgency
Despite Significant Decreases Among Families, Youth, and Veterans, Overall Homelessness Increases 2.7 Percent
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress reveals that an estimated 567,715 people were identified homeless on a single night in 2019. This represents a 2.7 percent increase over 2018.
The increases during this period were particularly striking among the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. This population rose by 8.7%, including increases of 15% among unsheltered women, and 43% among people who identify as transgender. Other populations that increased included the total number of people experiencing chronic homelessness (+9%), and those who experience homelessness as individual adults (+6.3%).
The report reflects deep and persistent racial inequities among the people who experience homelessness: African Americans accounted for 40% of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019, despite being 13% of the U.S. population.
Despite the increases, three noteworthy populations experienced year-on-year declines during this period, including people in families (-5%), youth under 18 (-4%), and veterans (-2.1%).
The report shows that homelessness overall declined in more states (29 and the District of Columbia) than it increased in (21 states).
“This year’s report is as an urgent call to action to federal, state, and local leaders,” said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We know how to end homelessness. Family homelessness has declined every year since 2012. And veteran homelessness went down eight of the past nine years. Now is not the time to abandon the practices that drove those results. Now is the time to get serious about funding them to scale.”
Roman attributes that success to alignment from the federal government, the homeless services sector, and philanthropy around evidence-based best practices for ending homelessness, and specifically to the adoption of Housing First principles. These approaches prioritize getting people into stable housing as quickly as possible, and connecting them to needed services to address health, substance use, child care, employment or other needs. This contrasts with stairstep, services first, and punitive programs which are far less effective and more expensive.
“Homelessness did not go up in 2019 because we don’t know how to solve it: we do. People who are housed are not homeless. It is from the safety and security of a home that services will work best for those who need them, and that people can connect with jobs, schools, churches, family and other community supports that will help them get back on their feet. So, we must do much more to get people back into housing faster,” Roman said. “The reason for the increase is that more and more people are falling into homelessness. They don’t make enough to pay for the housing that’s available. This year’s numbers must motivate our federal leaders to ramp up the resources for the evidence-based, housing-focused solutions to homelessness that are proven to work.”
A Renewed Focus
The report was released at a time when homelessness and affordable housing are increasingly in the public consciousness, and tensions run high about the causes and solutions.
For the first time ever, most candidates in the 2020 presidential campaign have elevated the nation’s affordable housing shortage as a priority domestic issue. At the same time, several of the West Coast’s largest technology companies have made major monetary commitments to address an affordable housing shortage for which they are often blamed.
Meanwhile, numerous communities attempted to pass harmful ordinances that would criminalize people for not being housed. These efforts were set back in December, when the Supreme Court declined to hear Martin v. Boise, a 9th Circuit Court case that had ruled that a city could not make it illegal for people to sleep outside if it had not made a sufficient number of shelter beds available.
“Any increase in homelessness is bad news. But we must be clear about the causes and solutions,” Roman said. “This isn’t the fault of the homelessness sector, and it is not the fault of people experiencing homelessness. It is the fault of systems that have failed our most vulnerable populations, and leaders who have failed to protect them. Our charge for 2020 is to remain committed to the best practices in ending homelessness, and to remain resolved to addressing the systems that cause people to become homeless.”
You can view the original post here.
1-19-20: Our clients are in need
The list below are items that have been requested by our clients and community. These seem like simple necessities to us but to our neighbors in need, they are hard to find.
Please help provide these simple items. You can drop them off at our residential building at any time (510 S. 8th St.).
Hygienic and Feminine Needs
• Nail clippers
• Body wash
• Shaving cream
• Face wash
• Shower shoes
1-10-20: Why we share Homes for All
Yesterday (and many times before that) we’ve shared posts from Homes for All – MN. We want to take a moment to explain why.
Homes for All is an organization that advances shared policy initiatives that lead to housing stability for all Minnesotans.
Because, like we at House of Charity, they believe home is the foundation.
They often share calls to action to reach out to our legislators, organize advocacy days at the Capitol, and give updates when important legislation is proposed or passed.
It is obvious why an organization like House of Charity would be interested and invested in the work of Homes for All. But why do we share it with you?
Because even if you have a safe home and have never experienced the danger and trauma of homelessness, it is still your responsibility, and ours, to advocate for those who don’t have a home.
All it take is a 30 second phone call or email to your legislator, or a few hours at the capitol. And you could change someone’s world.
Check out Homes for All at their website or just keep an eye on our Facebook page, we’ll share their important posts and let you know when we need you at the capitol!
1-3-20: What does food insecurity actually mean?
We talk a lot about food insecurity and the current hunger crisis in our state and across the country. Below is blog post borrowed from United Way that explains it just a little better.
5 Surprising Facts about Hunger in America
Hunger is not a simple problem. This year, 41 million Americans will worry about where their next meal will come from. They are food-insecure, struggling to provide or eat enough each day.
But hunger means more than starving for a few days. It can lead to malnourishment, impairing children’s development and leading to chronic diseases. Hungry kids can’t learn, weakening a child’s foundation for success in school, work and life. So – hunger is a health, education and financial stability problem.
Experts define food insecurity as having problems getting food, a shortage of food in the house, or reduced food intake (i.e., there might not be dinner every night this week because payday is Friday).
Here are five facts about hunger that may surprise you:
- One in 8 families in America are hungry. That’s 12.3% of all U.S. households, including what economists call “the working poor” who earn about $25,000 a year for a family of four. Out of that estimated $2,017 a month, families need to pay for housing, utilities, child care, transportation, health care – and groceries.
- Some 48% of college students in America are food insecure. A new study published by Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab highlights some staggering stats: 36 percent of college students say they are food insecure. It’s more prevalent among college students of color, up to 57 percent. Find out more about the pressure on college students here.
- We may think those in rural communities aren’t hungry because they can grow their own food. But the fact is, 15% of people in rural areas are hungry. Often, they don’t have access to grocery stores or transportation.
- Food-insecure people are more prone to obesity. Not having a grocery store close by (and limited transportation) forces people to shop at places that sell mostly packaged and prepared foods – higher in calories, but lower in nutrition.
- 60% of households led by older Americans must choose between buying groceries or paying utility bills.
Why are so many people hungry? For many, unexpected life events, health crises or underemployment can contribute to why they don’t have enough food every day.
Many local United Ways in the U.S. and internationally are working to end hunger in our communities. Thanks to a $5 million grant from Wells Fargo in 2017, 27 local United Ways received a grant to continue their work to end hunger in their communities. It was part of our collaboration on a holiday food drive that raised more than 200,000 pounds of food for food banks across the country.
So what can you do to fight hunger? Here are 3 easy ways to become part of the solution:
- Get informed – Check out videos, infographics and stories here and share the link with your friends and family on social media.
- Get involved – Donate your time, talents or money to a local food shelf or meal service.
- Get help – If you or someone you know is worried about having enough food to eat, call 211 to find available resources in your community. Or find your local 211 center here.
You can view the original blog post here: www.unitedway.org/blog/5-surprising-facts-about-hunger-in-america
12-27-19: At look back at 2019
We hope you all enjoyed, or at least survived, the holiday season.
As we look back at the past year, we are so grateful for the amazing and life-saving things that have happened here. We are continually amazed by the generosity of our donors and volunteers.
In the past 12 months, we have been joined in the Food Centre by elementary through high school students, the MPD, our mayor, office teams, families and many individuals. We say it often and we always mean it: we couldn’t do this without you.
We have advocated at the Capitol for our vulnerable neighbors.
We closed on and broke ground for our Park7 housing project and construction for that has been moving along.
We adopted the Shelf of Hope food shelf (previously at Gethsemane Episcopal Church).
We once again joined thousands of others at the Mall of America on Thanksgiving to walk to end hunger.
And in between those big moments were thousands of little moments with our clients, donors and volunteers that inspired us and so many others.
We are so glad that you have chosen to be on our team. Let’s make 2020 House of Charity’s best year yet!
12-20-19: Construction progress!
Seeing the progress being made on our Park7 project is so exciting! It seems like every day we can check out the site and something has been added.
Recently, it’s started to look more like a building; we even have a second floor up!
Stairs will be added in January and there are just two more floors to add.
We are so grateful to each of you who has partnered with us in creating this vital resource for our homeless neighbors.
Enjoy these photos from a recent meeting Deb (Executive Director) and Wesley ( facilities director) had with our construction team!
12-13-19: A request
We try to keep this blog focused on stories and education so we try to avoid posts only asking for donations but this is urgent.
Our Food Centre oven has died and we need to purchase a new one. Quickly.
We need this oven to be able to keep feeding our hungry community in the way they need.
If you can, please give to help us purchase a new oven.
12-6-19: A home for the holidays
For more than 7,000 of our neighbors across Minnesota, going home for the holidays is impossible. Because they don’t have a home.
Think of all your treasured traditions: Christmas dinner, gift exchanges, watching holidays classics with your family. Now imagine if you didn’t have a home or family to celebrate with, what would Christmas look like then?
For our neighbors experiencing homelessness, the holidays look just like every other day. Being homeless in Minnesota means surviving harsh winter conditions. Being homeless during the holidays means surviving harsh winter conditions AND struggling to find resources because many aren’t open Christmas day.
Our Food Centre serves lunch every single day of the year because homelessness never takes a holiday so why would we?
Individuals like you help us serve a meal every day of the year. Thank you.
This year, our Food Centre is doing more than serving lunch. We have a food shelf that is open every Wednesday and we are now a Hennepin County warming site, which means that we’ll be open to the public from 12-4pm when the windchill hits zero degrees.
We know that homelessness doesn’t discriminate or take a holiday, it doesn’t care how cold or hot it is. But we do, so we’re doing what we can to help our homeless neighbors this holidays.
What about you?
11-29-19: Guest blog post
Common holiday traditions involve spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts and feasting on lavish meals. Yet, this is not a realistic scene for a staggering portion of the American population.
Overall, 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. These individuals don’t have homes to bundle up in during the cold weather; instead, they’re sleeping on the street, in their car, in a motel room or a community shelter. Many of them won’t get to enjoy a festive homemade meal.
While it’s true the holiday season is about spending time with family and friends, it’s also about giving to others.
Here are just a few ways you can help those experiencing homelessness during the holidays:
Giving food, blankets, pillows, towels and clothes directly to those experiencing homeless or to the shelters that serve them is one effective way to alleviate the suffering of the homeless.
Also, consider making and carrying around care bags with small essentials – socks, snacks, bottled water, soap, hats, gloves – so that you can give them to a homeless person you see asking for help. These bags are great to make with your kids or even with residents and co-workers to help build upon the notion of helping others.
This is a simple, yet effective way to lift the spirits of those experiencing homelessness. Do you walk by those experiencing homelessness without looking at them? Stop, look them in the eye and say something. Even if it’s just “good morning,” or “I hope you have a nice day,” showing a little kindness, interest and respect can boost their morale. Better yet, a full-fledged conversation – even if it lasts just a minute or two – can help a homeless person feel respected and acknowledged.
Homelessness comes with a stigma, and an important way you can help combat the stereotypes of those experiencing homelessness is by spreading awareness of the truth.
Many people believe that those experiencing homeless are doing so because of severe mental health issues or untreated substance abuse problems. They believe those experiencing homeless are unemployable and perhaps even beyond help.
In reality, the vast majority of America’s homeless population have become homeless due to a life-altering event or bad luck, such as job loss, medical or health emergency, divorce, domestic abuse or the loss of a primary income earner. They are able-bodied and ready to work, but they cannot secure employment without a home address.
11-22-19: Be ready for the cold
The weather is getting colder and for most of us that means jackets, hats, mittens and snow tires. But, for our neighbors in need, especially those who are experiencing homelessness, that means danger.
To help those we see this winter who might need a little more assistance, one of the way you can be prepared is know where the warming sites are in Minneapolis.
Warming sites are locations across the city that open when it hits a certain temp or windchill outside.
This year, House of Charity is an official warming site and will open the Food Centre doors from noon to 4pm when the wind chill is below zero.
If you’d like to help us make the warming site cozy and safe, we would love some donations of coffee and board games.
Below is a list of warming sites compiled by Hennepin County. Take a look so you know when you see someone in need.
11-15-19: We have the best donors
Wow. You are amazing.
We’ve always known that we have the best supporters (a completely unbiased opinion, obviously), but yesterday just proved it again.
In just one day, you, the people who care so much about our neighbors in need, raised $2,360 to help get our new food shelf, Shelf of Hope, up and running.
You joined thousands of other Minnesotans who gave a record-breaking $21.6 million to the organizations you care about. We’re so glad you chose us.
Give to the Max Day 2019 was a success and we can’t wait to keep you updated on the amazing things your donations are going to do.
Tomorrow (Saturday) a crew of movers, volunteers and staff will move the food shelf from its current home in Gethsemane Episcopal Church to its new home in our Food Centre!
We’re excited and we’ll do our best to keep you updated on the move on our social media!
Thank you again for helping us stock the shelves in our food shelf.
(If you missed out yesterday and didn’t get a chance to join Give to the Max Day, you can still give to our food shelf HERE)
11-8-19: Exciting announcement
If you follow us on social media, you’ve probably already seen us mention this. If not, we’re opening a food shelf!
The Shelf of Hope food shelf that has been housed at Gethsemane Episcopal Church is moving to our Food Centre in just two weeks.
Wednesday was the last day of the food shelf’s operation at Gethsemane and we are now in the process of moving shelves, freezers and, most importantly, food.
We are so excited to be able to expand our programs and grow how many of our neighbors in need we’ll be able to reach.
Keep your eyes peeled for volunteer opportunities! And if you don’t follow us on social media, you should do that, because we’ll post updates about the food shelf move when we have them!
For today, we need your help to stock the shelves. It costs approximately $400 to provide the supplies that the food shelves customers need. Can you help us stock the food shelf for two months?
Next Thursday (only six days away!) on Give to the Max Day we hope to raise $3000. That amount will ensure that our food shelf will have what it needs to provide for our neighbors for two months.
Join thousands of other Minnesotans who will collectively give millions of dollars and support our new and exciting program!
You can give toward Give to the Max Day now or wait until next Thursday; your choice! Just please help us start this new program!
10-25-19: Someone’s disease is not your costume
Every year around this time, we write about the devastating effect a costume depicting a mental illness or disability can have on an individual experiencing it.
Costumes that make a joke of the diseases that so many struggle with perpetuates the stigma and fear that surrounds our friends, neighbors and family that deal with mental illness every day.
It’s simple, someone’s disease should never be your costume. Below is a post written by an individual who struggles with mental illness about how those costumes and depictions effect them and those in their community. It was originally published HERE.
My Mental Illness Is Not Your “Scary” Halloween Costume
Please stop spreading — or wearing — the myth that mental illness is scary.
Halloween. You might take this night (or month) to indulge in extreme self-expression, wearing something you normally wouldn’t to go out for a good scare.
After all, it’s a thrilling holiday to bring out the skeleton costume in the back of your closet and don it for the day to send chills up someone’s spine.
While most costumes are harmless acts of self-expression, there are also many costumes that fuel harmful stereotypes about mental health and those in the community.
I’m not talking about horror-themed costume, like vampires or zombies or scary pop culture characters.
I’m talking about costumes for Halloween that seem to make sense because of scary movies and urban legends. Outfits that have been normalized by much of society at this time of year to give chills. Costumes that are also offensive because they exploit the inaccurate idea that mental illnesses are “scary.”
‘Mental patient’ costumes should be avoided at all costs
People with mental health conditions make up a significant part of the population (one in four peopleTrusted Source).
By wearing costumes that are advertised as “mental patient,” “psycho,” or include the words “insane asylum,” you’re telling others that mental disorders are okay to laugh at, scary to have, and potentially violent or harmful to others.
These are all inaccurate.
You may also be projecting a great amount of pain onto someone you know or encounter at a party.
An example of this happened in 2011, when an “Anna Rexia” Halloween costume was being sold online by Ricky’s. The “costume” consisted of a tight, black dress with a skeleton on it, a tape measure to hold around your waist, and a badge that read “Anna Rexia.”
Naturally, the costume and its creators got a lot of negative press because the costume was sensationalizing a mental illness.
The public outrage was notable, so much so that a coordinator at NEDA and a Change.org petition denouncing it caused the companies to stop selling the costume completely.
As someone in recovery from an eating disorder, I remember feeling so confused and upset when that costume first surfaced online.
Today, I wish people spoke out just as passionately as they did with the Anna Rexia costume with other costumes that harm those struggling with other mental illnesses.
It’s very common to still go into a store selling Halloween costumes, or to look around online for costumes, and find “mental patient” costumes.
This country’s history of treating mental health patients is horrid and unjust — awful and heartbreaking. I try to focus on how far we’ve come.
But when as individual puts on a costume of an “insane asylum patient,” most including a straightjacket and restraints, it does such a disservice to the mental health community. It puts a wrench in how far we’ve come since patients — people — were treated so poorly.
As Dean Burnett pointed out for The Guardian, ‘asylums’ are mostly “scary places for the inmates, not because of them.”
The inhumane history of how these patients were treated is not a costume. My struggles are not a costume.
There’s no way to erase the pain that former mental institutions have inflicted on countless lives. However, I think the first step toward healing is to ensure we’re not disrespecting those who struggle, which means not wearing costumes that parody that pain.
A costume can shock, surprise, or scare others — but a costume isn’t a costume anymore if it harms a group of people.
Halloween can be a fun time to dress up in something you wouldn’t normally wear. I hope you’ll make sure that the outfit isn’t offensive to marginalized groups of people or those living with mental illness.
Be mindful of potential Halloween costumes this year
If you see someone wearing a costume that’s offensive to the mental health community, remember you’re free to advocate for yourself and explain that it’s not appropriate.
I believe continuing to have open discussions about mental health — whether it’s in school, at the workplace, or among friends and family — can help.
Not everyone may understand why those costumes bring such heavy pain to those who live with mental illness, but with open discussions, we can better explain why stigma is so dangerous.
By speaking up and asking people to be mindful of their costumes, we’re actively creating a world that’s more understanding, and ultimately, less stigmatizing.
10-18-19: Seeing a need
Written by Paul V., our Development Director.
A few weeks ago, I met a man who was hungry and hoping to eat at the Food Centre long after the public meal was closed. It was cold and raining steadily and he responded placidly to the news that the Food Centre was closed. I explained to him that he could walk a few long blocks to St. Olaf church and the Adult Shelter Connect staff could help get him out of the cold and into emergency shelter (https://www.simpsonhousing.org/adult-shelter-connect-simpson-shelter/).
While I was talking to him and listening to him attentively, my mind was screaming that he was wearing only one wet layer of clothing, shivering, and that he was abnormally distracted. He was not finishing sentences and was convinced that the safest place for him was the parking lot we were standing in. I decided there was nothing more I could do for him and went back to my office a block away.
I was convinced that he was in too much danger to call Street Outreach (612-879-7624) at St. Stephens as they may not get to him on time. I ended up calling Hennepin County’s mobile mental health crisis teams. They informed me that if I was worried about someone’s mental state endangering themselves I needed to call 911 and ask for a welfare check and that they would then be involved. I called 911 and explained and they assured me a team would be sent right away because of the rain and falling temperatures.
Of course, I never found out what happened to him but at least I knew that one less person would be left without any safe options. In Minnesota it is often too cold to do nothing. In those cases, the best thing to do is call 911 and ask for a welfare check.
10-3-19: Join us!
We usually try to stick to writing posts about topics that will stay relevant but today we’ll stray from that because we want to invite you to one of our favorite events of the year!
On Thanksgiving morning (November 28th) we’ll be joining hundreds of other people who are walking to end hunger in Minnesota. House of Charity is a partner of the Walk to End Hunger and we want you to be on our team.
Will you join us at the Mall of America before you head to family gatherings? The event is totally family friendly with balloon artists, face painters and activities hosted by the partner organizations.
Early registration is $25 and kids 18 and younger are free! By joining our team, every dollar you raise through registering, recruiting or fundraising will directly benefit House of Charity and our mission to feed our hungry neighbors.
The team with the most individuals and the person who raises the most money will be awarded a prize. There will also be a costume contest with secret judges so come to the walk in your best hunger or turkey themed costume!
We hope you’ll join us!
You can register here: walktoendhunger.org/houseofcharity
9-26-19: What will life after addiction look like?
This week, we’ve borrowed a blog post from our ally in recovery, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Below is an installment from a series of podcasts they’ve published called Let’s Talk. You can read it below or listen to it on their site HERE.
Reimagining Life after Addiction
Let’s Talk Addiction & Recovery Podcast
9-20-19: Exclusive newsletter sneak peek!
Below is an article written by one of our treatment team for our fall newsletter. Enjoy this exclusive sneak peek! To make sure you can read the whole newsletter, subscribe here: https://www.houseofcharity.org/contact-us
A Note from Charlie
Our Day by Day Program has been slowly transitioning to an ever more person-centered system of treatment in which each person has an individual responsibility for determining their own self-care and each person determines what Recovery looks like for him/herself.
This concept is reflected in House of Charity’s mission of empowering individuals to achieve independence by transforming lives, one person at a time.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as:
“A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”
The cornerstones of a recovery journey include: having a safe home; having stable health, participating in a supportive community; and being directed by one’s own sense of purpose.
Services designed to help one on their journey to recovery are more likely to succeed when they take into account the ten guiding principles set out in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
These principles assert that:
- Recovery emerges from hope
- Recovery occurs via many pathways
- Recovery is holistic
- It is supported by peers and allies
- Recovery is culturally based
- It is supported by addressing trauma
- Recovery involves family and community
- Recovery is borne from the individual’s strengths and sustained by their taking on personal responsibilities
- Recovery is person-driven
At Day by Day we recognize that building a new life free from the harm brought about by substance use and homelessness takes time, benefits from loads of support, and requires that we learn new coping skills that can replace the unhelpful skills we developed while we were using.
Recovery means striving towards wellness, going beyond simply reducing the direct harm that comes in the wake of our substance use. It is a process or journey, with many beginnings and will continue as we each move forward and reach for our full potential.
9-13-19: Our groundbreaking celebration!
On Tuesday, we had a groundbreaking ceremony and we wanted to share some photos from the event with you.
We had a great time gathering with staff, board, community members and city leaders to celebrate the progress we’ve made and the live-saving opportunities that the Park7 building will provide.
We can’t wait to invite you to our grand opening next summer.
Enjoy these photos from the groundbreaking (my personal favorite is the one of the staff, the faces are so funny).
9-6-19: Self-care in recovery
September is National Recovery Month and while we celebrate recovery every day, we like to take the month to pay special attention to recovery and every step it takes to get there.
One of the very important aspects of achieving and maintaining recovery is self-care and mindfulness.
Maintaining recovery means replacing the abuse of substances with healthier coping techniques. It requires staying ahead of triggers and having the energy and skills to deal with unpleasant emotions and situations. A lack of self-care leaves you vulnerable to negative feelings and saps your motivation. If you’re not taking care of yourself, your mood suffers, your concentration decreases and your ability to cope with cravings and triggers is compromised.
We give coping skills toolboxes to our Day by Day treatment clients. These toolboxes have things like scented lotion, coloring books and stress balls. By having a kit of items that helps practice mindfulness and relaxation, our clients are able to independently maintain their recovery.
For everyone, self-care is vitally important for health. Things like eating healthy, exercising regularly and shutting down negative self-talk can help us maintain healthy brains and bodies.
What are your favorite self-care and mindfulness practices?
In our fall newsletter, our staff share their favorite tips and techniques. Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter HERE.
8-30-19: Empowering our clients to empower others
Every Thursday, one of our staff members hosts Cookie Club. This event is a chance for residents and staff to come together and discuss anything they need, ask questions, just spend time together. Below is something that happened at the last Cookie Club and we wanted to share it with you:
We had a great Cookie Club last Thursday where a resident (LW) invited another resident (KD) who had been isolating and avoiding the 510 Building. KD spent much of the meeting sitting quietly in the corner listening as the rest of the group talked about how difficult life can seem when you don’t feel like you have a support network. LW then looked at KD and stated something to the effect of, “You look like you need some support and yet you keep disappearing and you’re not around that much. When we see someone struggling we have the option of exploiting that struggle for our own benefit, standing by and doing nothing, or offering help and the House of Charity wants to help. Now what do you want help with. KD stated that she wanted to get into treatment and that she had one day sober but wasn’t sure where to start or what to do. Kelly and Brandon (HoC) staff happened to be in Cookie Club and were able to set up an appointment for KD to meet with them and start her in the process of treatment right away. The thing I like about this story is that while it speaks to the work that we at House of Charity do, it is a clear demonstration of the power of the residents to support each other and the positive culture that is developing at House of Charity.
8-16-19: Demolition has started!
Demolition has started and we are pumped! Check out the picture and video from day one of Park7 construction yesterday!
8-9-19: In the wake of El Paso and Dayton
In the wake of tragedies like El Paso and Dayton, as the immediate communities try to put themselves back together, the rest of the country also has to try to move on with those events on our conscience.
Individuals who struggle with mental illness, like our clients, often feel the aftermath very personally. Mental illness is so often the scapegoat, the explanation for the horrific actions of so many.
That needs to change.
Below is a blog post written by the CEO and president of Mental Health America about just one step we can take.
By Paul Gionfriddo, MHA President and CEO
The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton are yet another chilling reminder of the changed nation in which we all live.
When the Columbine shootings occurred twenty years ago, we understood it to be an uncommon tragedy. We sought information about the shooters, and naively believed that we might not live through more of these, and that we could move beyond them quickly.
We now know that this is not the case. As these shootings have multiplied, tragedy and trauma have spread throughout all parts of the country, and the effects are lasting.
We mourn the immediate victims; we pray for the comfort of their loved ones.
We try to look beyond the hatred of the shooters to understand the reasons for their actions and to give us hope that there are no more out there like them.
But we now live with the nagging feeling that – much as we hope – these will not be the last mass tragedies we experience. And we know that in cities and families across the nation, smaller tragedies, with equally lasting effects, will occur most every day.
The Mayor of Dayton was eloquent in saying that the lives of ten families – and scores more of those injured – have been changed forever. In El Paso, that is true of dozens more today. We must think about this and, even in the heat of the moment, recognize that we have to do something – today and forever – to respond.
We need a new national commitment from our policy leaders to address trauma. We need more acknowledgement that the traumas we experience are real, and that the effects don’t go away quickly, on their own, or by ignoring them. We need more dollars and more programs, both in the immediate aftermath of traumas and on a long-term basis, to deal with trauma. And we need these things today.
We must never give in to the hate. We must not accept that these mass tragedies are inevitable, or the result of living in a free and welcoming nation. We need policy leaders to recognize that they do lead by example, and that what they say and what they do before and after tragedies have meaning, influence, impact, and consequences.
We need them to confront hate, tragedy, and trauma head on, with words and actions that help our country heal.
At Mental Health America, we pledge to help with that healing, and offer resources on our website free of charge to all who need them.
You can view the original post HERE.
8-2-19: Introducing the Heart of the City Club!
This month, we’re kicking off our monthly giving club with a brand new name for the group of people who regularly support our organization.
The Heart of the City monthly giving club is those supporters of ours who are committed to our neighbors in need and their recovery and independence.
Do you want to be a part of this? Being a monthly donor is valuable for all of us.
For you, not only are you a part of a club with a cool name (everyone’s childhood dream), but you’ll get an inside look at what your dollars are doing. You’ll get a quarterly update with news about each program and the organization as a whole, client stories only shared there and you’ll hear first about chances to keep helping our neighbors and other community events.
For us, knowing your support will come each month allows us to plan for growth and improvement in our programs and supports.
But, most importantly, your reliable support allows our clients to continue to have the stability they need to overcome addiction, beat homelessness and take back their independence.
By you being a monthly supporter, you’re telling our clients that their recovery is important to you.
Your support is more valuable that we can describe. If you aren’t already, will you join the Heart of the City club and be a part of the group of people that’s saving lives every day?
The Otto Bremer Foundation is matching the gifts of every new club member, for the rest of the year!
Join today and start saving lives.
7-26-19: Time for some advocacy!
What to do about it
Before the rule can be finalized, it must go through a 60-day comment period. Submit a comment and let them know how this would our clients!
What I wrote! (Please feel free to use any of it!)
As someone who volunteers in a Food Centre, in Minneapolis Minnesota, where people who are hungry receive services, I understand the repercussions on those we serve if the proposed change to the SNAP program is implemented.
The majority of those that eat with us receive SNAP benefits and are STILL hungry enough to come eat in our Food Centre many days a week.
In fact, on the day of the winter vortex (-50 degrees with windchill, where being outside for 5 minutes put you at risk of getting frostbite) we had 100 community members show up for a meal at our Food Centre.
They braved FROSTBITE because they needed food. Cutting SNAP would put more families at risk of having to make decisions like these.
If that doesn’t say something about hunger, I’m not sure what would.
Not only would the proposal sidestep congress, take food off the tables of working families, children, seniors, those with disabilities, it would also prevent students from receiving healthy school meals and hurt the economy by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity.
Please do NOT support this proposal!
7-19-19: Why Housing First?
Have you every wondered why we follow the Housing First Model in our housing programs? This article by the National Alliance to End Homelessness explains it well!
Housing First is a very simple concept that is often misunderstood. Housing First is an approach to homelessness that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness quickly, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life.
Should housing come first?
But why should housing come first? People who experience homelessness may have a myriad of other challenges, including a mental health or substance use disorder, limited education or work skills, or a history of domestic violence and trauma. Would people experiencing homelessness be better off if we helped them address other issues they are struggling with first and address their housing needs later?
These are not uncommon arguments. Housing First, it has been argued, allows people to avoid addressing severe challenges, such as a substance use disorder. The argument continues that if these underlying issues go unaddressed, people will quickly return to homelessness.
At times, these arguments have successfully delayed implementation of Housing First in many programs and localities. But they’re based on false premises. Services are part of Housing First interventions. People are offered or connected to services that are tailored to the needs of their household. But these services are not mandated: and people are not coerced into accepting them. Client choice is a fundamental tenet of Housing First practice.
What the evidence shows.
Housing First-informed interventions such as Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) demonstrate again and again that when people have help paying for housing, and when they receive services tailored to their individual needs, they will escape homelessness and they will stay housed. Not only are Housing First interventions effective in ending homelessness, they are typically cheaper than allowing people to remain homeless and reliant on public shelters and other services.
Practitioners with long histories of serving people experiencing long-term homeless adults know that withholding housing help until people “get better” can result in people spending years on the streets as their health declines. People with severe mental illnesses cycle frequently between jails, hospitals, shelters and streets without ever achieving a stable home. Those that have seen this heartbreaking cycle, unfortunately still too common given inadequate resources, understand this fundamental truth: withholding housing assistance doesn’t help people, it hurts them.
Housing First promotes housing stability and well-being.
Instead of requiring people to stabilize before receiving housing, Housing First interventions focus on helping people achieve stability in housing first. This is often a critical precursor to other improvements in their lives. People with the foundation of a home are better positioned to take advantage of supportive services: they have the stability in which to engage in job search. They have the platform they need to provide care and continuity for their young children. They have the safety housing affords that allow those who want to address traumatic experiences with a skilled practitioner to do so at a pace that is unthreatening and makes sense to them. They have a safe place to store medication and address their health and mental health needs. The absence of housing help makes attaining personal goals that much harder to attain.
Housing First focuses on providing the housing assistance and the supportive services that people require to sustain housing and avoid future homelessness. Study after study demonstrates that housing has many curative benefits for people experiencing homelessness. It is true it does not solve every need; people still require additional supports to attain personal goals and continue to thrive. But one thing housing clearly does solve? Homelessness.
7-12-19: We made it! It’s time for demolition!
Today was an exciting day at House of Charity! Check out the press release below to learn about our upcoming construction project!
Minneapolis, Minnesota (July 12, 2019) –
House of Charity starts construction on its
Park7 building on Friday, July 12th
This new building will add 61 studio apartments with on-site services for people experiencing homelessness in Minneapolis. Park7, located at 615 South 7th Street, Minneapolis, (former Finance and Commerce property) will be a four-story building with 61
smoke-free and pet friendly efficiency apartments for people experiencing long-term homelessness. The apartments range from
350 – 430 square feet. All 61 units are reserved for permanent affordable housing including ten for veterans, ten for young adults aged 18 – 24, and ten for people who are disabled or dual diagnosis of substance use disorder and mental illness.
Tenants will have 24-hour access to services including case managers on each of the three floors to help tenants make plans to retain housing and move to greater independence. They will also provide access to benefits, neighborhood orientation, and referrals for financial management, employment services and health care services. In addition, tenants will be in close proximity to supports including Hennepin County Medical Center across the street, light rail two blocks away, the VA Medical Center on the blue line, and House of Charity’s Food Centre and addiction and mental health outpatient treatment services a half block away. Affordable housing paired with supportive services is a proven strategy that increases housing stability for people experiencing long-term homelessness.
The building will be completed summer 2020.
House of Charity is partnering with Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC) to develop the building and Urban Works is the project architect.
“House of Charity has decades of experience providing services to the homeless in downtown Minneapolis,” says Heidi Rathmann, Senior Vice President of CHDC. “What CHDC brings is the experience of developing and owning supportive housing developments. Our role is to help House of Charity carry out its mission and to make its vision for this project a reality.”
Special thanks to Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, the National Housing Trust Fund, the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, and private donors for their $11,222,000 in financial support of this critical expansion in Downtown Minneapolis.
An extra thank you to Thrivent Financial for their gift of $1 million that enables House of Charity to provide building amenity and service enhancements.
“House of Charity serves an important role in the East Town neighborhood, and we’re honored to support them as they fulfill their mission to feed those in need, house those experiencing homelessness and empower individuals to achieve independence,” said Teresa Rasmussen, president and CEO of Thrivent. “We at Thrivent know that together we can make a difference by creating strong families, churches and communities.”
“House of Charity has been providing comprehensive services to meet the needs of our homeless community since 1953. It has always been the vision of the program to work towards ending homelessness in our community,” said Deb Moses, CEO/Executive Director of House of Charity. “The building of Park7 takes us one step closer in realizing that vision by providing 61 homeless individuals with a permanent housing solution combined with high quality support services to meet the needs of each individual served, in order to assist in maintaining stability and independence in their lives.”
To keep up-to-date on all things constructions, keep an eye on the page below or follow us on social media.
6-28-19: Food insecurity isn’t just for "them".
Hunger. Food insecurity.
It doesn’t just effect third-world countries or our neighbors who are standing on street corners asking for help.
All it takes is one medical emergency, one car issue, one home repair and your neighbor could be struggling to put food on the table every meal.
Twelve percent of American household struggle with food insecurity. That may sound like a small number but it still means that almost 40 million people are at risk of not having their nutritional needs met.
Summer is an especially difficult time because free or reduced school lunches are no longer an option.
We know that hunger never takes a vacation. It never gives you a break. And that’s why our Food Centre is open 365 days a year. Forty percent of our Food Centre guests say that our lunch will be the only meal they eat all day.
What we’re doing is so important. How will you help us?
How can you help end this crisis?
6-21-19: Stigma has got to go!
The dictionary defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
And, gosh, we see it every single day.
Did you know that almost 40% of people who struggle with mental illness or addiction won’t seek help because of the stigma that surrounds those struggles?
Can you believe that? FORTY PERCENT of our neighbors struggling won’t get the help they need because they’re afraid of what their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. will say.
There is a pervasive opinion that those struggling with homelessness, hunger, addiction or mental illness are dangerous, lazy, failing and myriad other destructive descriptions.
The truth is that the woman and her children standing in line to eat breakfast in our Food Centre or the man waiting to get a bed in our residence hall or a spot in our Day by Day could all be us. All it takes is one tragedy, one medical emergency, one rough day.
A person doesn’t lose their home because of a personal weakness. And individual doesn’t become dangerous because they struggle with a substance use disorder.
I hope that if your parent, child or friend found themselves in one of these situations that you wouldn’t ostracize and abuse them. And if you wouldn’t, our neighbors in need certainly shouldn’t be treated poorly either.
We can do better. We must do better. What can you do today to end stigma surrounding homelessness, addiction or mental illness?
6-14-19: Recovery is about the whole person
This is going to be short and sweet because some things don’t need a lot of words to say what’s really important.
In our Day by Day substance use disorder and mental health recovery program, we believe that caring for the whole person is the most important part of recovery.
Our holistic approach to the treatment of co-occurring disorders has the ability to restore the mind, body, and spirit through such program components as:
- Personalized Recovery Plans
- Health & Wellness Programming
- Chemical Health Assessments
- Mental Health Evaluations
- Life Skills Development
- Dual Disorder Case Management
- Individual, Group, and Family Counseling
Each aspect of our program is designed to help individuals in recovery and encourage life-long coping skills and community. Last year, Kyle, one of our counselors, wrote about how 41% of individuals living with mental illness will never receive help and how 90% of Americans living with substance use disorders will never receive treatment. This is because those individuals expect and feel judgement and isolation when they need help and community the most.
By taking care of the whole person, we are helping each individual who steps through our doors find independence.
6-7-19: What People in the LGBTQA+ and Mental Illness Community Want You to Know
Happy Pride Month! This month we celebrate our LGBTQA+ friends. While this month is about celebrating, we still want to take some time for learning, because knowledge will help end stigma.
Blog post by and published on The Mighty, written by Sarah Schuster.
You can view the original post here: themighty.com/lgbtq-mental-illness-pride-month/
20 Things People in the LGBTQA+ and Mental Illness Community Wish Others Understood
During Pride Month, events and parades across the country celebrate how far the LGBTQA+ community has come in fighting for the right to simply be themselves — and love whomever they want to love — freely. It’s also a time to reflect on the challenges people in the LGBTQA+ community still face, with politicians pushing laws that hinder their right to exist in public spaces or make it legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On top of this, lack of acceptance and cruel bullying can have dire psychological consequences.
According to The Trevor Project, lesbian, gay and bi adolescents and adults have two to six times higher rates of reported suicide attempts compared to comparable straight populations. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also states that folks in the LGBTQA+ community are almost three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. There’s no doubt that discrimination and societal pressures plays a part in this.
There’s also the uncomfortable fact that being gay was actually listed as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) until 1973. Now, those who are gay and living with a diagnosed mental illness have a different set of challenges — while someone may be supportive of your sexuality, they might hold hurtful beliefs about people who live with depression. Another person may get what it means to have bipolar but think a person’s asexuality is “all in their head.” Likewise, while some see their mental illness as part of their identity — perhaps similar to their sexuality — others see their illness as something separate from themselves, unlike their sexual orientation. And neither is wrong.
We were curious to see what the LGBTQA+ people in our mental health community thought about this intersection between mental illness and sexuality, so we asked them to tell us one thing they wish people understood.
Here’s what they told us:
1. “Just because I have a mental illness doesn’t mean I’m confused about my sexuality. A person’s sexuality is not caused by mental illness nor is it a mental illness in itself.” — Lauren D.
2. “My queerness and my neurodivergence are inseparable, and that’s OK. I’m not a bad example for the cause because of it.” — Stá S.
3. “My mental illness did not cause me to be bisexual nor did being bisexual cause me to have mental illness. My identification as bisexual stands alone from my illnesses, and I believe firmly I would still have been bisexual had I not developed MI as a result of the traumas in my early life. I want people to understand it not part of a personality disorder or a reaction to trauma. It is in my genetic makeup as much as my eye color and my skin tone.” — Lisa K.
4. “My sexuality and mental illness aren’t the same nor are they interchangeable. I will always be apart of the LGBTQ+ community and I will always live with the effects of my mental illness. I just wish you guys wouldn’t tiptoe around me when it comes to such subjects like depression and PTSD because it is so degrading and hurtful, and I get that you don’t wish to trigger me, but instead of avoiding it — talk to me about it and find out about my experience. Find out about my triggers and find out about me too.” — Kayla W.
5. “I wish I connect with more people in the LGBTQA+ community, but having social anxiety makes that super hard. I’d love to reach out and meet more like-minded and similar people, but I can only manage to do so much (most of my friendships are long-distance/online). And finding safe spaces nearby to meet people is also a huge struggle as well.” — Elizabeth G.
6. “People outside the community understood that labels don’t define who we are, but stigma damages us more than they realize — as someone who has fought to accept both her mental illness and her asexuality, people telling me ‘it’s just a phase’ or ‘you’ll get over it’ or ‘you just haven’t met the right person yet’ doesn’t help me accept myself one single bit.” — Ciara L.
7. “Just because I was abused by a man (step-dad) does not mean that is why I’m a lesbian. My PTSD has nothing to do with my sexuality. I liked women before the trauma. What really bugs me the most is that some people think that an LGBTQA+ person owes an explanation of their sexuality. No one should ever have to explain to anyone their sexuality.” — Victoria E.
8. “Wish they would understand how hard the LGBTQ community gets bullied, picked on and verbally abused by others and how it affects them in many different ways… we are just normal people trying to live our life as any other people and just want to be accepted for who we are, not what we are stereotyped as.” — Ryan D.
9. “My mental illness does not cause my sexuality. I have PTSD and depression, and I am asexual. The trauma was not the cause, I just so happen to have both of these as part of my life. Period.” — Courtney H.
10. “I’m not ‘just confused’ because I’m non-binary. But my sexuality and gender do impact my mental health. Minority stress is real, and it has a real effect on well-being.” — Sarah B.
11. “It’s hard to find other LGBTQ people when you have social anxiety disorder and aren’t out to anyone. I’ve found the community has an intimidating reputation, and social anxiety makes it doubly so.” — Jessica C.
12. “We deserve to be included.” — Alicja M.
13. “Bisexuality is part of my identity. Depression is not.” — Reming M.
14. “I’m not depressed because of my sexual identity, nor am I queer because I’m depressed. I wish society would stop trying to pathologize my attraction to people.” — Lex C.
15. “Being an outcast in both communities is very lonesome and tiring.” — Minja K.
16. “I am not broken in any sense of the word. But I am 100 percent valid.” — Michelle B.
17. “I wish people understood that I like girls all the time, not only when my mood is manic.” — Julia D.
18. “I’m pansexual, and I wish other people understood, regardless of my sexual orientation, I am still a person. A person with a debilitating mental illness who needs love and support. If you cannot support me then step aside.” — Sarahjane W.
19. “Being bipolar doesn’t make me bisexual, and I’m fully capable of having a proper romantic relationship (and I’ve been in one for almost three years).” — Alanna G.
20. “We are this way, and we are proud of it, so please give us support.” — Megan D.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
5-31-19: mental health is as important as physical health
Written by Nicole Laumer, House of Charity Community Engagement Coordinator
Before I was diagnosed with anxiety, I thought the following was normal:
Being 30 minutes early to every meeting, presentation, class or mandatory event
Avoiding social gatherings
Avoiding talking to people because I didn’t know how they would perceive me
Being afraid to slow down
Being afraid to relax
Feel like something bad was looming around every corner
I thought everyone’s life was like this. Full of fear. Not motivated by passion, love, interest and joy, but rather motivated by the fear of failure or criticism. My thought process was: If I’m good at everything, no one will criticize me or realize I’m not supposed to be here. This is also known as “imposter syndrome”.
To the outsider, I was an A+ student, an amazingly motivated employee, and a hard worker. But on the inside I was in torment. I was always afraid that I wasn’t good enough, and that something bad was going to happen if I didn’t slow down.
When I was diagnosed and treated, the world changed.
All the sudden the cloud of fear that was always in my sky dissipated. For the first time in a long time, I could feel the sun on my face and let joy fill my mind, without the fear that I should be doing something else right now… thinking about something else right now…moving right now. I was able to Stop. Breathe. Listen. Enjoy.
This diagnosis changed my life.
My supportive community changed my life.
My therapist changed my life.
My acceptance that my mental health takes just as much precedence as my physical health changed my life.
In this Mental Health Awareness Month, my hope is we all realize our Mental Health matters JUST AS MUCH as our physical health, and that we need a supportive community when we experience mental health challenges just as much as when we need help after a surgery or when we get the flu. It may not take the form of a bowl of soup, but every supportive voice matters.
Let’s do this work. Together.
5-24-19: Surviving mental illness
Written by Kristi Gibson, House of Charity Mental Health Practitioner and Veteran Liaison
I’ve wrestled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I was an extremely shy child and did not speak much, struggling with an eating disorder and chemical abuse as a pre-teen. My husband, whom I met when I was 18, was a huge influence on me to get my life together. We built a life and had two children. He died of brain cancer in 2013 and my depression came back full force. Both of my kids have depression with losing their dad, and I strive to make them talk about their struggles, and see how important it is to speak out to others.
Luckily, with doctors, therapists, grief groups, medications and some really good friends, I have made it to this point-at the House of Charity helping others. I see myself in the residents with the struggles of mental health and addiction, and know I could easily be in their place. I have come to the realization that depression and anxiety are just a part of me, as much as my crooked teeth and graying hair, and my experiences with them have made me who I am today, humble, grateful, thankful for each and every new day.
Charlie Brown and Snoopy were quietly watching a sunset when Charlie Brown says, “Well Snoopy, you only live once.” Snoopy replied, “No Charlie Brown, you only die once. You live every day!”
5-9-19: Self-care and mindfulness
Whether you are currently struggling with mental illness or not, having the resources to practice self-care and mindfulness is an important aspect of mental health.
Whether in the middle of an anxiety attack, a particularly bad day with depression, or just a stressful day at the office, knowing where to look for a guided meditation or another resource to center your self is vital for your health.
We want to share with you some of our favorite coping skills and mindfulness tactics so that the next time you need help, you have all the resources you need.
A lot of these things depend on what you feel you need and might change day to day. Our goal is to just getting you thinking about these things so that you’re ready.
Breathing is an annoying cliché at this point, but that’s because the best way to calm anxiety really is to breathe deeply. One of the easiest techniques is “5 3 7” breathing:
- Breathe in for 5 seconds
- Hold the breath for 3 seconds
- Breathe out for 7 seconds
This gentle repetition sends a message to the brain that everything is okay (or it will be soon). Before long, your heart will slow its pace and you will begin to relax—sometimes without even realizing it.
A few really good meditation apps are available to help to learn how to cope with different things. Just choose what you’d like the meditation to focus on and follow along. Here are a few of our favorites that are available for both Apple and Android:
The Mindfulness App
The 5 Senses
Another effective way to use your physical space to ground you through a crisis is by employing a technique called “The 5 Senses.” Instead of focusing on a specific object, with “The 5 Senses” you run through what each of your senses is experiencing in that moment. As an example, imagine a PTSD flashback comes on in the middle of class. Stop! Look around you. See the movement of a clock’s hands. Feel the chair beneath you. Listen to your teacher’s voice. Smell the faint aroma of the chalkboard. Chew a piece of gum.
Running through your senses will take only a few seconds and will help keep you present and focused on what is real, on what is happening right now.
Have a collection of a few things that can help you center yourself and relax. We give these to many of our treatment clients; here’s what we put in ours:
- Stress balls
- scented lotions
- art supplies
- glitter sensory bottles
- coloring books
What are some activities that are relaxing for you? Hiking? Going for a drive? Playing and instrument? Find a few activities that you can do and take a mental health day.
Our mental health is so important. Let’s take care of it.
Assemble Coping Skills Toolboxes for our Day by Day treatment clients HERE!
5-3-19: Post from NAMI blog
Post for NAMI Blog by Jessie Yu, originally published on May 1, 2019
In recent years, mental illness has become a popular topic of discussion in various forms of mass media. As Western society has worked to break down barriers surrounding taboo subjects, we have challenged the stigma surrounding mental illness. This is undeniably a positive thing—stigma is one of the primary barriers preventing people with mental illness from seeking professional help.
However, this spread of recognition is introducing a new set of problems that need to be confronted before they get out of hand: mental illness is being both sensationalized and misrepresented.
TV has a long and complicated history with mental illness. Characters with mental illness are often portrayed as violent and dangerous, are sometimes played off as punchlines and mental health professionals such as psychiatrists commonly take on a villainous role. More recent shows like “This Is Us”and “Jessica Jones” have been doing a better job of portraying mental illness accurately, but not all modern TV has been following suit.
A few years ago, Netflix released a show called “13 Reasons Why.” You’ve probably heard of it—the first season quickly gained both popularity and criticism, sparking heated debates across the internet. In the show, the main character dies by suicide, and it’s framed as an act of revenge against her classmates who wronged her.
This portrayal of suicide is an awful misrepresentation—suicide is rarely planned out in such a methodical way. Additionally, there is little mention of mental illness in the first season, even though 46% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental illness.
In The News
In mainstream news, mental illness is often portrayed inaccurately or carelessly. There has been a measure of improvement in the way news outlets report on mental illness. However, the news still tends to sensationalize stories involving mental illness and suicide. For example, in 2018, Kate Spade’s death by suicide was reported in all manners of problematic ways, including graphic details of how she died, photos of her body and headlines that focused on the act rather than the death.
Across Social Media
Social media has become a platform for young people to express themselves and connect with their peers, but it has also become a hub for romanticizing mental illness. In particular, tumblr has allowed teenagers and young adults to share and create unfiltered posts about mental illness.
While this open online discussion can help foster a sense of community, there has also been a trend of treating mental illness like it’s something that should be sought-after. Black-and-white photos of self-harm scars overlaid with sensationalized quotes are a common sight. One alarming image reads “I think suicidal people are just angels who want to go home.”
Why Is This An Issue?
Sensationalizing mental illness can be harmful, especially for impressionable young teenagers. Those images of self-harm might encourage others to view mental illness as something that is “tragically beautiful.” Additionally, sensationalism can lead people to believe that mental illness is just a part of who they are, and that therapy is a “sham.” For example, memes that started out as a way to call people out for being dismissive of mental illness, have evolved into a way for people to excuse their own behavior and even scoff at the notion of seeking help.
More dangerously, suicide can be contagious. Studies show that when the news offers sensationalized stories of suicide or reports attempts in detail, suicide rates increase. The release of “13 Reasons Why”caused an uptick in searches related to suicide, which is concerning because research has shown that such searches correlate with actual suicides.
Personally, I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was in middle school. However, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had mental illness for years. When I finally did, I didn’t open up to others for a while because I didn’t want to add to a culture of sensationalizing mental illness.
How Can We Do Better?
De-stigmatizing mental illness is important, and it’s wonderful that there have been increased conversations about mental health online. But we need to consider how the battle to reduce stigma has led to more nuanced problems in society. Moving forward, we need to call for more accurate portrayals in TV shows and movies that are grounded in research and lived experience.
When releasing stories involving mental illness and suicide, news outlets should be held accountable to follow guidelines such as the ones set by the American Psychological Association and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And it’s important to raise awareness that focuses on how people can get help. Mental illness is like any other illness—you should want to get better, and you need to actively work towards it. That’s what people should be hearing online.
Jessie Yu is a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Virginia Tech. She has written several articles for her university’s newspaper and is passionate about raising mental health awareness.
4-16-19: Is monthly donation really that important?
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because a million words aren’t always necessary.
I’m sure you’ve seen in our various mailings, emails and social media posts us asking you to become a monthly recurring donor.
We don’t do that only because we need your support (which we do); it’s more than that.
When you become a recurring donor, we can count on you. Being able to count on you means that we can plan bigger, grow better and inspire more.
When we know what we can count on every month, we are able to give better opportunities to our clients.
That is so important.
Plus, when you become a recurring online donor, you don’t have to worry about forgetting. Win-Win!
We hope you’ll join the club of our most dependable supporters. We really like you (spoiler: we like all of the people who care about House of Charity).
To become a recurring donor, you can sign up here: www.houseofcharity.org/recurring-donation
4-19-19: What Housing First Really Means
No two people experience homelessness the same way. Some have a mental health diagnosis, some do not. Some are living with addiction, others are not. Some spend each night in shelter, while others sleep in doorways, cars, or encampments.
Yet, everyone experiencing homelessness shares one thing in common: they do not have a safe or appropriate place to live.
Similarly, it is unlikely that any two people have the same path out of homelessness. Some will find long term stability by reconnecting with family or friends. Others will find new housing, get a new job, or connect with benefits that quickly allow them to exit homelessness on their own. Some will need more intensive supports like rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing to help them find housing, pay for it, and maintain it.
Yet, there is one thing that can resolve anyone’s homelessness crisis: reconnecting with permanent housing.
Housing First (Not Housing Only)
This is what we mean by Housing First: that homelessness is a problem with a solution, and that the solution is housing. For everyone. Whether you follow the rules or not. Whether you are “compliant” with treatment or not. Whether you have a criminal record or not. Whether you have been on the streets for one day or ten years. Permanent housing is what ends homelessness. It is the platform from which people can continue to grow and thrive in their communities.
Housing First is a philosophy that values flexibility, individualized supports, client choice, and autonomy. It never has been housing only, and it never should be.
Supportive services are part of the Housing First model. That might include formal support services, like a doctor, therapist, or social worker. It might involve informal supports, like connecting with family, friends, or faith groups.
But, in Housing First, these supports are not prescribed; people have the agency to select the supportive services they need and want, tailoring their supports to their own unique situation.
One Size Does Not Fit All
However, in communities across the country, many service providers, politicians and concerned citizens continue to dismiss Housing First as a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Oddly enough, the alternatives recommended frequently include approaches like transitional housing, or drug and alcohol treatment programs. By their very nature, these approaches assume people experiencing homelessness have a predictable set of needs and must complete a prescribed process in order to be “ready” for housing.
The Housing First approach is the polar opposite of a one-size-fits-all approach. Nothing in the Housing First philosophy precludes someone from pursuing the services, supports and housing that they need and want. If those services include mental health or addiction treatment, they are connected to it. If the housing they want is sober living, they are free to select it. Nobody is required to participate in a service that they do not want in order to receive or retain housing. In fact, requirements like these would assume a singular, “one-size-fits-all” path from homelessness to housing.
The Leaders Agree
In his plenary speech at the 2019 Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults National Conference in San Diego, Matthew Doherty, Executive Director for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) provided a passionate defense of the model:
“We have the opportunity to not waste precious time on endless debates regarding whether Housing First works for ‘this population’ or ‘in this community’ and to resist bogus arguments that a focus on Housing First imposes a one-size-fits-all solution on people or programs. We can speak the real truth that Housing First approaches are the opposite of one-size-fits-all and help ensure that we don’t leave anyone behind.”
He was echoed later in the conference by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson who stated that “the evidence then and now supports Housing First.”
USICH recently issued a “resource roundup” of some of the best articles, videos and tools to help communities understand and implement the Housing First model. It is a great place for anyone to start to gain an understanding of the principles and practice of the approach.
Simple, but Not Easy
Housing First is not easy. Recruiting landlords is not easy – especially when applicants have limited income or credit, or a history of evictions. Helping someone re-learn the intricacies of tenancy is not easy. Navigating a bureaucracy to secure mental and physical health care is not easy.
But, Housing First is simple. Nothing in any person’s history or present precludes them from being able to be housed.
While the challenges to getting into that housing and maintaining it may be many, the goal is the same: housing is the solution to homelessness.
You a view the original post here: https://endhomelessness.org/what-housing-first-really-means/
4-12-19: Our Volunteers are THE BEST
This past week has been National Volunteer Week and we have had so much fun celebrating our volunteers.
We’re obviously not biased at all when we say that we have the best volunteers in the world. No competition, it’s just a fact.
Throughout this week, we asked volunteers why they volunteer and the majority of them said because they want to give back to their community.
How lucky are we? The individuals who serve in our Food Centre take time from their busy lives to take care of their neighbors.
We’ve had some well known people like Mayor Frey, Caleb Truax and the Timberwolves serve in our Food Centre, and we are so glad when they come.
But it is YOU, the people who showed up on Christmas Day, during the polar vortex in February, yesterday when winter decided it wasn’t done yet. You’re the ones that we’re so excited to celebrate.
It is YOU, the people who don your aprons and hairnets and serve scoop after scoop of chili with a smile and a hello. You are the ones we are so grateful for.
It is YOU, the families and coworkers and church groups that remind us that serving saves lives.
We are so lucky that you chose us. We’ll see you for lunch!
4-5-19: The Diversity of Gentrification
written by Nicole Laumer, HoC’s community engagement coordinator
THE DIVERSITY OF GENTRIFICATION:
“What makes a city?”
This was the question asked by teachers in a local Twin Cities school this past year. What teachers expected to hear from the elementary students in attendance was words like “buildings” “cars” or “roads”. What they heard shocked them.
When asked, “What makes a city?” The first answer from a student was “Community”.
This comment is simple- yet hits on an important point in the argument about gentrification (a process of renovating deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the influx of more affluent residents.) And that is, how valued the people of the city are in the larger conversation about “development.”
As a grown professional adult, my answers to the question “what makes a city” would probably have revolved around things such as public facilities, highways, transit and infrastructure. However, in studying, witnessing and having conversations about gentrification and homelessness, I’ve come to realize that community is at the heart.
One argument I hear is that development of communities via an influx of investment is a positive thing because it significantly increases the wealth, attention and investment in a community. What you see is new development, shops, increased maintenance of public areas. However, as the student hit on rather eloquently, a city is not the bones (buildings, roads, cars etc.) It is the community that uses these bones to support each other, share cultures, invest in themselves, and run their own businesses that makes a city.
And what people don’t realize, is that when you invest in new luxury apartments, coffee shops and other businesses that are designed to be attractive to NEW people moving in (Increasing land value, property taxes and overall cost of living), you ignore the talents and potential of those that have lived in that area for generations. And in some cases you even displace them by pricing current residents out of the neighborhood their great-grandparents lived in.
According to the recent study The Diversity of Gentrification: Multiple forms of gentrification in Minneapolis and St. Paul, “At the core of the debate over gentrification are the issue of displacement and the question of who benefits and who is harmed by the neighborhood changes induced by it. Even low-income households that worry about gentrification are frequently in favor of neighborhood improvement. What concerns them is their ability to remain within the community and benefit from the improvements; that is, their ability to avoid physical displacement. If they do remain in the neighborhood, their concerns focus on issues of cultural and political displacement and the changes in the neighborhood that marginalize them.”
So, I believe the conversation needs to shift to people first. WHO lives in the neighborhood? What are their stories? What are their needs? How can they use THEIR talents to create the change they want to see in their community? How can they be the primary visionaries, drivers and recipients of the development in their community?
According to the same study, there are three areas to focus on to fight against gentrification: changing policy, redirecting resources and shifting the narrative.
However, my first question starts with YOU. What community do you live in?
What is the history of your neighborhood? Who lives close to you and what are their stories? Do you notice a change around you? If so, how is it affecting you or those you know?
Let’s start there. By looking around, noticing and connecting. Then, we can take the next step forward, together.
3-29-19: The homeless aren’t dangerous
“The homeless in our city are dangerous and violent and should be avoided.”
This statement is a pervasive stigma that surrounds our neighbors who have lost their homes, particularly the individuals we see holding signs on free-way off ramps or on a downtown street corner. By and large, individuals experiencing homelessness are considered dangerous, when, in fact, they encounter far more danger than most people do in the entire lives.
Individuals experiencing homelessness are the victims of abuse with shocking frequency. Approximately half of these vulnerable people have been threatened or verbally abused and one third of them have been physically attacked. All because they had the misfortune of losing their home and are doing all they know to get by.
But physical abuse isn’t the only danger our homeless neighbors have to face. The weather in dangerous too. All weather.
This February we got a particularly harsh reminder that living in the outdoors is dangerous. As temps plummeted, our eyes were opened to just how dire the situation was. Even in temps like today, 40 degrees, hypothermia can take hold in just an hour.
As summer approaches, we might be tempted to relax, assuming that our homeless neighbors are safe from dangerous weather. But warm weather is dangerous too. Dehydration, heat stroke and extreme weather pose new dangers for those without a home to keep them safe.
By reading just one of the stories of our clients, you will see that those who have experienced homelessness are resilient, inspiring people with amazing stories to tell.
Just because someone has lost their home doesn’t make them dangerous. Take some time to listen to someone’s story today. And even if you don’t have time for that, offer a smile. It’ll make all the difference in the world.
Spend an afternoon in our Food Centre. People of all ages will come in from the danger and the weather, just looking for a warm meal. We give them that.
Join our team. We’re helping our homeless neighbors feel a little less alone.
3-22-19: Why Volunteerism Matters
Written by Nicole Laumer, HoC’s Community Engagement Coordinator
There are many moments in my life when I contemplate if I am making a difference. I see news reports that make my skin crawl about sexual assault, global warming, school shootings, police brutality, and horrific injustices. I read books on gentrification and the prison industrial complex, and watch documentaries highlighting the racial wealth gap. I go to work and interact with people with no idea where they’re going to sleep tonight.
Everyone has moments where they get overwhelmed by these issues.. However, some of us have the privilege of disconnecting from them. If I know I won’t be going hungry tonight, then I can disengage, pretend, self-soothe. If I make the problem big enough, I can convince myself that there’s nothing I can do about it, and I’m off the hook.
I’ve done it before.
But is it fair to put the work to solve these challenges on the backs of those who have experienced the trauma, who are fighting to stay alive? Is it the job of the man experiencing homelessness to lobby for tenant rights and subsidized housing, battle housing discrimination and rent control while looking for a meal and a hot shower? It is the job of a trans woman, who was just assaulted, to fight for stricter protections and culture change?
I believe the answer is no.
Because this could be us. We could have been the student in the school when the gunman pulled the trigger. We could have been born the wrong gender and assaulted for it. We could have grown up in the cycle of poverty, or a person of color born on the wrong side of the wealth gap.
The only way for us to change the world is for each of us to recognize that the problems might be large, but embrace what we CAN do about it.
For instance, those that volunteer to serve meals in House of Charity’s Food Centre are not going to solve global hunger in one day, but they are supporting an organization that serves 250 meals to those that could use one. That is 84,000 meals a year! And this is ONLY possible because volunteers take a few hours out of their day to serve meals, chop onions and help us in general.
That onion might have seemed small to them, but it is not to us.
So my question to you is, if you had no idea if you would wake up tomorrow homeless, or a victim of an assault, or a person of color, what would you want the world to be like? What would you want to be available to you? Then ask yourself- how can I create this world?
3-15-19: Jimmie’s Story
We have a special story for you! Several years ago we spoke with Jimmie and we got to talk to him just a few weeks ago! It’s so amazing to have clients come back and share their continued success with us.
Read below to see Jimmie’s story as he told to us several years ago and then read his update at the bottom!
For over 20 years, Jimmie was plagued by his addiction to alcohol and drugs. As a high-functioning addict, he was somehow able to hold the same job during those two decades, but as with most long-term addicts, his drug abuse finally eroded his ability to perform on the job and he was eventually fired as a result of his performance. It was at this low point that Jimmie finally realized that his addiction had overtaken his life and sought help.
An Evolution from Addiction to Awakening
Jimmie’s road to recovery was not a straight one. He went through treatment twice before finally coming to House of Charity. And it was here that he was finally able to take his life back.
Now Jimmie is a full-time student at MCTC and is studying addiction counseling. He is determined to complete his education with straight A’s. He knows firsthand that drug and alcohol addiction is common among people experiencing homelessness, and after seeing the impact his counselor had on his life, Jimmie realized that he could play a significant role in perpetuating the circle of recovery for others like him.
Another result of his newfound sobriety, he rediscovered his enjoyment for acting, one of the many hobbies he had in high school which were lost amidst his addiction. In fact, he recently auditioned for an MCTC school production and got the part!
A Future that’s Bright with Hope
By taking back his life from his addiction, Jimmie has been able to not only change his life, but to channel his life in a way that has the potential to save others. His goal is to have a direct and positive impact on people whose situations he understands. House of Charity stood alongside Jimmie when he needed it and Jimmie is stepping up to do the same.
“I realize now, but I’ve always known, only I have control over what goes on in my life, more than anybody else. Becoming empowered has been both the hardest and the best part of conquering my addiction. I want to cheer on other people and tell them, ‘you can do that! You have the ability within you.’”
Jimmie’s story illustrates how even at your lowest point of addiction, if you are willing to take ownership of your recovery, recognize the need for that structure, and hold yourself accountable to maintaining that structure, you can overcome just about anything. Jimmie’s life is full of promise now, and he says he couldn’t have done it without the consistency and support of House of Charity.
Despite a relapse, Jimmie is better than ever! He is again attending MCTC to obtain his Bachelor’s, and he hopes eventually Master’s, in addiction counseling. He has a nearly perfect GPA and is a part of groups and clubs at school. He is staying focused by attending church and regularly visiting a mental health center.
He has his own home and Jimmie says that independence can either help or hinder recovery. He has chosen to let it help. Jimmie says that being able to go home every night, lock his own door, and cook his own food in his own kitchen has been a good reminder of what he stands to loose if he starts using again.
His home, school and social groups are his foundation and he’s confident of his future where he can use his past experiences and what he’s learning now to help others.
“When I was a kid, people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up and I always answered, ‘I want to help people.’ Well now I’ve found a way to do that.”
3-8-19: Housing is too expensive
Written by Nicole L., community engagement coordinator.
There’s not a single US state where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom rental.
Immediately you might be thinking, why do you need a two-bedroom? What about a one- bedroom?
As highlighted in the article linked below, on average, workers still need to earn $17.90 an hour to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment (current minimum wage is $7.25). In only 22 out of 3,000 counties nationwide could workers earning minimum wage afford to rent a one-bedroom, the NLIHC says.
But why do we even ask those questions? Why does someone working full time need to answer questions like that? “Do you really need…”
Instead of looking at the systems keeping affordable housing out of the reach of so many, we blame the decisions of those at the bottom- those already making impossible choices, while working 53 hours a week to afford their rent.
For example, according to the 2017 report on Housing from the Minnesota Housing Partnership, in Minnesota, 546,000 households — more than 1 in 4 Minnesota households — pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, putting them at risk of being unable to afford basic needs like food and medicine. This includes nearly 60% of seniors, who rent, and 84% of renters and 78% of owners who earn less than $20,000 per year.
These are families that, every month, have to make the impossible choice between food, medicine and housing. We can try to convince ourselves that personal choices are the cause of poverty. But we would be wrong.
“Do you really need…” cannot be followed by food, medicine or rent.
3-1-19: Our work is everyone’s work
At a recent House of Charity event, Dan Collison, director of Downtown Partnerships, spoke. The following was part of what he said and we think it’s important to be reminded of this once in a while:
Poverty is everyone’s work. Recovery is everyone’s work. Housing is everyone’s work. Removing barriers to long term sustainability is everyone’s work. And, yet not everyone is willing to participate in the work and some just wish that someone else will attend to the needs of our world. It was comedian Lily Tomlin who once said “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized that I was somebody.” It was author and television producer Shonda Rhimes who said “You can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.”
The work we do isn’t just for the licensed. It isn’t just for the nonprofits. Generosity is for everyone. Compassion is for everyone. Advocacy is for everyone.
You voice and experience and philanthropy is just as important as the work we do every day. Without you, our work means less.
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together!”
Those words, spoken by Australian activist Lila Watson, capture why it is that we need you. There is no us and them, only us. When we take care of those around us, everyone benefits. Property values increase when affordable housing is available in every community, children do better in school when they have a stable home and a full belly, adults experience more success in work and education when their mental health needs are met.
When services like those we provide are available to all, everyone benefits.
2-22-19: What does affordable housing mean?
We talk a lot about affordable housing at House of Charity. And we mention it a lot when we talk to you. Affordable housing is a vital part of the work we do because it enables individuals to find, and keep, a home.
Every year, the Metropolitan Council surveys the state to find out about projects and efforts made to improve the availability of affordable housing. Below is that report.
Merriam Webster defines altruism as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others or charitable acts motivated purely by altruism.”
Many of us learned during our basic psychology classes that in many cases, people who appear to be altruistic are actually receiving some type of reward i.e. the good feelings that come with making a difference or even saving a life.
The underlying reasons behind altruism, as well as the question of whether there is truly such a thing as “pure” altruism, are two issues hotly contested by social psychologists. Do we ever engage in helping others for truly altruistic reasons, or are there hidden benefits to ourselves that guide our altruistic behaviors? https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-altruism-2794828
More recent research though has found through the newer technology in brain scans that in fact there are differences in the brains of people who show truly altruistic behaviors, such as jumping in front of trains to save someone or getting between an armed terrorist and their intended victims. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/08/science-good-evil-charlottesville/
This seems to be seen clearly both among those experiencing homelessness and those working to end it. We see often persons who are in the midst of crisis with no permanent home or steady income going out of their way to help others who may not even be as badly off at the moment. People giving up half of their scarce food or assisting someone in getting resources or safety stemming from their lived experiences.
A recent Ted Talk podcast discusses that we can even find altruism within animals with certain animals such as dogs clearly committing acts of altruism without any possibility for a perceived reward. https://www.npr.org/2017/05/26/529957471/abigail-marsh-are-we-wired-to-be-altruistic
Sure, there are many who show up to work and volunteer within the homeless community who are doing so for alternative reasons such as a paycheck or a request from their employer. But they never last long and without that true sense of altruism and empathy never truly receive the rewards they are seeking.
We are truly grateful for our community of altruistic individuals and know that we are all better and safer because of them.
1-31-19: It’s (dangerously) cold out there, folks
In the past two days, we’ve hit almost record low temps. What have you done to stay safe as this polar vortex has barreled its way through the upper Midwest?
Most of us were able to plan ahead, dig out our extra cold-weather gear that wasn’t really needed until now. We started our cars (with fingers crossed) well before we needed to leave. We ran water just so our pipes wouldn’t freeze and parked as close to the front door of the office as possible.
We were safe and warm.
But for the approximately 10,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in Minnesota, that wasn’t necessarily an option. About 80% of those people had some short of shelter, whether in an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program. But almost 2,000 people have struggled to survive this deep-freeze unsheltered.
No matter what time of the year it is, being homeless is dangerous. Losing your home means a lot more than just losing your home. It’s a loss of safety, security and dignity. It means being subject to a whole new world of judgement, stigma and danger. Individuals experiencing homelessness are more likely to be subjected to violence, become mentally ill and become seriously injured or sick.
And the harsh temperatures Minnesota is currently experiencing only increases the dangers.
Shelters, places of worship and government programs are doing everything they can to help our homeless neighbors survive this winter.
Hennepin County has shared a list of emergency shelters with their doors open. United Way and Lyft have partnered to provide free rides through February 1st. Bus drivers have been instructed to allow individuals to stay on board to keep warm if they’re not being disruptive.
Homelessness is always dangerous, but it’s weather like this that makes people take notice of those who can’t get in from the cold.
Want to know how you can help our struggling neighbors? Here are a few ideas:
- Be aware of THIS LIST of locations that individuals can visit to warm up.
- Tell people about Lyft’s generous offer of FREE RIDES.
- DONATE money to organizations that are directly serving those who are struggling.
- KNOW THE SIGNS of frostbite and hypothermia and don’t hesitate to call 911 if you see someone who’s in danger.
- Hand out blankets, cold weather gear and food. Everything helps our neighbors.
With your help, we can help make these frigid temperatures one less thing for our homeless neighbors to worry about.
1-24-19: YOU are an advocate
The voices of the amazing men and women we work with are often silenced. Sometimes because they don’t know where to go or what their rights are. Sometimes because they don’t feel that they have something to say. But most often, it is because they are misunderstood, ostracized and their struggles are covered in negative stigma.
That’s why they need us. That’s why they need you. Every day, we are advocating for the men and women we work with who struggle with homelessness, hunger and substance use disorders. We work every day to help them find a way out of the situation they have found themselves in.
You are an advocate too. Every time that you donate to us. Every time you serve in our Food Centre. Every time you comment on or share a post on our social media. Everything you do for House of Charity, no matter how small it feels, is advocating for us.
The work you do for us is so important. We can’t do this without you. This isn’t us asking you for money. This is us asking you to join us in this fight for support and equality and resources for every single person, no matter their situation.
Mental and chemical health.
What can you fight for? There are events, marches and forums all over the state all the time. Where can you show up?
Even if you don’t feel like you know enough to be an advocate, just showing up means something.
If you want to learn more, we publish advocacy announcements and try to keep up-to-date on events happening that you can attend to learn more or raise your voice for those you can’t.
If you want to get an email every time a new advocacy announcement is published, comment on this post or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your voice is so important. Speak for those who can’t. Become an advocate.
1-10-19: What do you want to know?
Happy Thursday! Happy blog day!
We’re so glad you came back.
Before we get too far and get caught up in telling you about the amazing people we work with and the culture and experiences they live in every day, we want to know what you want to know.
There is so much information surrounding homelessness and housing, substance abuse disorders and treatment, and hunger. We want to give you the important stuff, the details and stories that will help you understand these people and be inspired to step up and advocate for them.
This blog is for you, so we want to talk about the things you want to hear about.
Drop us a comment here or on our Facebook page or send an email (below) to tell us about what you want to learn or read about or who you want to hear from!
We’re so glad you’re here!
1-3-19: Welcome to our blog!
Welcome to our blog! We’re so glad that you’re here. Before you get bored, at least read this post?
At House of Charity we are passionate about far more than furthering our mission. We believe that what we are doing is important, life-saving, world-changing work. But we believe that the people we do that work for are more important. With that in mind, we’ve started this blog.
There is so much stigma surrounding the men and women who seek our services.
If someone is experiencing homelessness, it’s because of laziness.
If someone is struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, it’s because of personal weakness.
If someone doesn’t have enough food to feed their family, it’s because they don’t have enough jobs or have too many kids.
As you read those, do you realize how ludicrous those assumptions sound?
And yet, that is the unspoken opinion many people make about the men and women who walk through our doors.
But we see something different.
We see a man who was willing to give his life for his country and came home with invisible scars.
We see a woman who has been taken advantage of time and again and no longer has the self-esteem to believe that she deserves better.
We see individuals who can’t seem to get ahead, no matter how hard they try.
That’s who we see and that who we want you to see too.
Every Thursday, we will publish a new post. They will be written by different people and from different perspectives.
Knowledge and empathy are the foundation of eradicating stigma and that’s the goal of this blog.
Keep an eye on our social media to know when we add a new post.
Until next week.