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Advocacy: Homeless Day on the Hill 2018

On March 6, a team of 18 people from House of Charity joined over 1000 other individuals at the state Capitol to advocate for affordable housing. Staff, clients (a first for us), and board members met with their legislators to talk about the importance of supporting Minnesota’s
housing continuum by emphasizing the
importance of funds that will provide:
1.  Matching fund for communities to create and resource a Local Housing Trust Fund
2.  Funding for Homework Starts at Home to support students of homeless and highly mobile families
3.  Investments to prevent homelessness through rental assistance
4.  Preservation and building of over 3,000 units of housing for the lowest income Minnesotans
5.  Housing Infrastruture Bonds that will promote homeownership through community land trusts
And so much more

 

It is so important that we raise our voices to advocate for those who cannot.

A New Start

Phillip, a devoted father and husband, moved with his wife and children from Chicago to Minneapolis on November 12, 2013, to try and provide a better life for all of them. Unfortunately, the move did not provide the opportunity, on its own, to change the family’s circumstances. While initially Phillip and his wife had a goal of moving to Duluth, financial circumstances forced them to stay in Minneapolis. Though he was committed to seeking out a better life for his family, alcohol and drug use interfered with Phillip’s efforts and eventually led to a domestic assault charge.

 

Following that charge, Phillip was required to attend treatment beginning in January of 2014. He was initially skeptical about the Day by Day program, but eventually became committed to the program.  When asked about the change, he explained, “Counselors and case workers will help you the first few times, after that, you have to help yourself.” He realized the importance of changing his habits in order to better himself and his family. While he was attending the program, he also lived in House of Charity’s transitional housing facility.

 

By mid-2014, Phillip had completed the court ordered treatment through the Day by Day program. When reflecting on his treatment, Phillip gives credit to his case worker and counselor for their genuine care and support, commenting that the staff at House of Charity, “really put things together to help support you,” and that support had previously been absent from his life since his parents had passed away. Following his completion of the Day by Day program, Phillip and his family were able to move back together into a permanent housing solution.

 

Since completing the program, Phillip has completed two programs through Urban Ventures. The eight-week programs focused on areas of Responsible Parenting and Healthy Relationships and Marriage.  Phillip received certification for these programs on June 18th and July 3rd, respectively. Additionally, he has voluntarily continued ongoing support through the Continuing Care program at House of Charity, which he completed on August 6th.

 

Since moving to Minneapolis, he has also become very actively involved in the Inner City Church of Minneapolis. Phillip was recently baptized and in addition to attending service with his family every Sunday, he also has begun volunteering with the church. In such a short time, Phillip has accomplished many things which show his determination; not only that, but he has also shown a greater commitment to raising his growing family.

 

When asked about how this journey affected his family, Phillip said “I had to get better for myself, and my kids can look up to me now.” Phillip’s counselor shared that during the time he was attending his continuing care program at House of Charity, he would sit at his kitchen table, and while his children completed their homework, he would complete his assignments, as well. He is grateful for the ability to spend more time with his family; prior to his treatment, he was often absent from the home.

 

Phillip is seeking the opportunity to work towards completing his GED and eventually a Culinary Arts degree. The family is also a current candidate for a new home with Habitat for Humanity. Phillip remains grateful for the support of House of Charity and its staff. He is an advocate of programs at House of Charity because, in his words, “It works!”  He gives recognition to his case manager and counselor for their commitment to him and the other clients. He explains: “They didn’t need me, I needed them” in order to succeed in positive life change.

At the Capitol—Spring 2014

In addition to our internal efforts to provide more permanent supportive housing, House of Charity is actively involved in legislative advocacy to address solutions for homelessness. The year 2014 marks the second session of Homes for All, an alliance that works to advance policy initiatives that lead to housing stability in Minnesota. This year, the Prosperity for All alliance was created out of the state’s dire need for policy reform of the Minnesota Family Investment Program’s (MFIP) participation restrictions. Each alliance has its own legislative agenda and accompanying bill proposal.

Home is the foundation for stable families, strong communities, and a competitive state.

 

The “Homes for All” Bill requests $100 million in bonds for investments in affordable housing. Statewide funding would be awarded through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and used for:

1. Building and rehabilitating supportive housing.

    * Creating affordable housing options for extremely low-income Minnesotans including families with children, homeless youth, veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities.

* Leveraging private funding to build supportive housing – a proven strategy to reduce long-term homelessness by combing affordable housing with supportive services. (Like House of Charity)

2. Preserving and rehabilitating federally assisted affordable housing.

    * Preserving rural units at risk of losing federal subsidy due to disrepair.

* Rehabilitating aging public housing, operated in over 200 communities across the state.

3. Stabilizing communities impacted by the foreclosure crisis.

    * Rehabilitating deteriorating buildings and foreclosed homes.

* Increasing rental and home-ownership opportunities for low and middle-income Minnesotans.

The return on investment is impressive. Every public dollar invested in supportive housing returns $1.44 to taxpayers.

The “Prosperity for All” MFIP Workforce Education Bill works for the advancement of public policies that better serve striving families while helping Minnesota’s economy and requests the reduction of barriers to Adult Basic Education, higher education, and English Language Learning (ELL).
The passage of this bill would accomplish:

    • Allowing MFIP participants to earn a GED/diploma as an approved work activity;

• Allowing MFIP participants to enroll in 4-year, post-secondary-education programs;

• Giving new graduates the flexibility to job search for 12 weeks, rather than 6 weeks;

• Removing barriers to enrolling in ELL classes for those who are learning English as a second language.

The “Prosperity for All” Bill is good for education, employers, and the economy:

Increased education leads to increased earnings– Between 1975 and 2005, wages for those with college and advanced degrees rose by 22% and 29%. Wages for high school graduates stagnated and those without high school degrees fell by 16% (Baum & Ma, “Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society,” 2007)

House of Charity is proud to be among the organizations across Minnesota that have signed on in support of these alliances. Additionally, our staff and clients advocated for these bills with their Senators and Representatives at the State Capitol on March 6th during Homeless Day on the Hill which was organized by Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. For more information on these bills, go to: http://www.mnhomelesscoalition.org/2014-legislative-agenda/

Moving Forward with Determination and Gratitude: Jennifer’s Story

I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for House of Charity.  My family would have buried me two years ago—I would have frozen to death in my car.”

Jennifer had been living in her car for two years before finally asking for help from her primary care physician who referred her to House of Charity. About eight years ago, Jennifer suffered a horrible accident. She was out shopping for last-minute stocking stuffers for Christmas when a drunk driver sped through the Walgreens’ parking lot, striking her as she was walking to her car. She was crushed up against another car. After suffering severe trauma to her body, especially her back, Jennifer was released from the hospital after a few days and returned to work.

Jennifer worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at two assisted-living facilities for the elderly, a field she loved and had been working in for 18 years. She continued to work her regular schedules at both jobs and ignored the constant pain she continued to experience since the accident.

A few years later, Jennifer slipped and fell on concrete, landing on her back. This new injury compounded with her previous injury that never healed forced Jennifer to have necessary back surgery. Jennifer was now disabled and could not work. With her limited disability income, she lost her home. She moved what furniture she could in to storage and began living in her car.

In the winter of 2012, Jennifer knew she needed help. Jennifer admits to being hesitant at first to ask for help and then even more so when it came time to actually set foot in House of Charity. She drove by and suddenly felt compelled to come in. She said that right off the bat, she was welcomed and treated with compassion and respect from House of Charity staff . There were not any openings for Jennifer right away, but a month later, the Intake Coordinator called her and notified her that there was a place for her if she still needed a place to stay. The next day, Jennifer moved in to House of Charity. She quickly moved from our transitional housing residence to her own apartment in our Housing First program. Jennifer began working with her Case Manager in our Transitional Housing Program and began taking Housing First classes right away. In the five-course series, she learned about rental leases and landlord/renter relations, budgeting, how to be a good neighbor, and the challenges of living alone. She was determined to get on her feet, get her own place, and start living life again. She appreciated her Case Manager’s open door policy and how she went to bat for her when it came time to find Jennifer an apartment. Jennifer was in our Transitional Housing Program for five months before moving on to our Housing First Program.

Jennifer has a great relationship with her Housing First Advocate. They meet weekly and since Jennifer can no longer drive, her Advocate also goes above and beyond by taking her to regular doctor’s appointments. Jennifer said that if she didn’t have the support of her Advocate along with her housing, she would not have been able to make it. Her Advocate also helps Jennifer deal with her mental health and self-esteem issues; she helps her find resources, with activities of daily living, and with goal-setting. Currently, Jennifer, with the support of her Housing First Advocate, is exploring where to go from here and how to change professions. Jennifer is devastated by the fact that she cannot physically perform the work that she enjoyed doing for so many years as a Certified Nursing Assistant. It has been difficult to figure out employment as Jennifer can neither sit nor stand for long periods of time and has to walk with a cane. Jennifer would like to continue to work in healthcare and is looking in to relative education and training options. She is currently coming up on her one year anniversary of being in her own apartment.

Jennifer remains grateful to House of Charity and optimistic for the future. The advice she gives to those in similar situations that she was in is to ask for help and remember that House of Charity doesn’t want you to fail.

“It can be so simple,” she says, “take the classes that they offer, meet with your Case Manager/Advocate, do the paperwork, and just follow the rules…you’ll be on your feet in no time.”