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Giving Time: Healing What He broke  // Tawann’s Story

“I don’t like to live in the past because the past can’t do nothing but keep you in the past.
I like looking to the future now, because I can see it. At first, I couldn’t see it. I’ve been shot nine times, stabbed, stole from and left for dead because that’s the lifestyle that I lived on the streets.
I’m not even supposed to be here today. The world counted me out, but there was a different plan for my life.”
And what a difference that was. From growing up in the toughest parts of town with a father who was a user and dealer and the house he was living in being the neighborhood “party house” to now being clean and sober for five years, Tawann’s life is worlds apart from the one he came from.
Tawann grew up in Indiana and came to Minnesota more than two decades ago. But leaving his hometown didn’t help him escape his past. It found him here too. Tawann said it’s because that sometimes feels like the easiest route, the one that’s most familiar.
When his marriage fell apart, Tawann allowed the rest of his life to do the same. He started using drugs again and he started dealing again too.
At the beginning of 2014, Tawann realized his life had spiraled completely out of control and decided it was time to make a change.
After spending two months at Turning Point, Tawann came to House of Charity. He lived in our residence hall and attended Day by Day treatment with us for about seven months.
The separation from his previous life he was able to achieve here helped Tawann succeed in being sober and clean.
“By me being in the House of Charity program, it helped me to not only just abstain from drugs but it helped me to get my life together because it helped me to get away from my circle of friends that encouraged that lifestyle I was trying to leave. I had to get away from people, places and things and this was like an escape and at the same time I was able to get tools to use in my day to day life from the treatment.”
Five years sober and clean and he’s giving back to the community he “freely helped destroy.”
Tawann is in his own apartment through Housing Supports, our Housing First program and is giving his time through volunteering with Neighborhood for Change, One Family One Community and MAD DADS. Being a part of these organizations and out in the community helps keep him grounded.
“Now I’m out there talking with folks about bettering the community and reaching them because in our community, folks are stuck and we don’t see the way out. We want the easy way out and the easy way out is a trap. I was able to see that there was a bigger and better way through these organizations and they kept me grounded as well.”
Tawann is going back to school this summer. His daughter just bought her first home and he’s about to become a grandpa. Because he saw that it was time to make a change, he turned his life around and now he gets be a part of his family’s lives.
And he’s giving back through MAD DADS. He is changing lives and giving back to the community he hurt with his addiction and dealing.
“What better than to have some guys who have been through this, that have changed their life around that can go out and talk with some other brothers and try to help them change their life around. Even if it’s been two years, you can’t save the world, but you can talk and be present and just uplift people no matter who it is. That’s the best thing they can be given.”
Tawann is changing the world through strengthening his community. What can you do today to do the same?

How Do We Help End Homelessness?

written by Greg Owen, HoC Board Member

I remember one of my first interviews with a homeless man in Minneapolis. He had been on the streets for a long time and his face told the story of the hard life he had lived. He did not smile much, gave one or two word answers to the survey questions, and reported a long list of health problems. But he wanted people to know his story and was eager to get the $5 in cash offered to survey participants so that he could buy some hot food when we were done. I remember feeling helpless to do much for this man at the time, but I hoped the survey information we were gathering as part of Wilder’s Statewide Homeless Study would raise awareness and lead to some solutions.
House of Charity works to address many of the problems faced by those trapped in a world of homelessness by providing food, housing and an opportunity to access addiction treatment. And one of the most powerful tools we have is the housing we provide. We know that safe and supportive housing makes a difference.
In a three-year follow-up study of 581 adults in 51 supportive housing programs across Minnesota, Wilder researchers found that:

  • Supportive housing serves residents with serious disabilities and other barriers to self-sufficiency including long-term and chronic homelessness.
    The supportive housing service models help connect residents to mainstream benefits that can help provide long-term stability.
  • Program participants make measurable gains in their ability to respond to challenges, budget money, receive support from others, stay focused, and remain hopeful about the future.
  • Half of all participants report that their mental health status improved after entering supportive housing.
  • More than three-quarters of all participants who left supportive housing programs during the study period exited to some form of permanent housing.

This study tell us that we are on the right track with our work at House of Charity and that stable housing is the bedrock required for a more stable and healthy future. It also tells us that we can make a difference if we are persistent in our goal to increase the availability of this kind of housing as we are now doing with the Park 7 Project. Let us all commit to continuing this work together to help define a better future for those who come to our doors.
Wilder’s next Statewide Homeless Study happens on October 25 this year. If you are interested in being a volunteer survey interviewer, call Karen Ulstad at 651-280-2690 or Chris Lindberg at 651-280-2728

The Power of Empowerment: Tika’s Story

How many times have you been homeless? For most of us, that answer would be never. We have never experienced the fear of not knowing where we’ll sleep at night. We’ll never understand the shame of experiencing something that is surrounded by stigma.
Tika has experienced that three times. Three times she has found herself with no place to call home.
Tika could choose to be bitter because of what life continues to throw at her. Instead, she has chosen empowerment. By raising her voice, and the voices of those in similar situations, through the written word, Tika has created change. She started with a simple letter, which turned into a newsletter, which will, hopefully, someday turn into a newspaper. She wants this newspaper to be a resource for all individuals experiencing homelessness. Tika understands how hard it is to find the right resources when you don’t know where to look. She understands the fear of not knowing what kind of help will be available to her. She wants to take that fear away. By publishing a newspaper, Tika would provide something for men and women that would help them know that they are not alone, that what they are experiencing is not permanent or wrong.
The first time Tika found herself without a home, she had two young boys. She described that experience as far more frightening and embarrassing. First, because she had two children who were forced to experience homelessness with her. Second, because she didn’t know what her options were. Having never been homeless before, Tika did not know anything about the programs or resources available to her. She didn’t know where to go and she had no connections to other people in her new, if unwanted, community.
That’s why she cares so much about spreading knowledge. If she can help just a few people be less afraid of their situation, Tika will be happy. Her mission is just to provide the resource.
“Maybe they’ll just use it as a blanket. It doesn’t matter.”
What matters is that Tika is using her voice, her skills, her passion to create change. And because she has experienced, and is still experiencing, homelessness right along with them, people are willing to listen.
“We can speak for ourselves and we can let people know that ‘I’m not a number, I’m a person.’ We don’t want this to be our life, we don’t want to be stuck here, we don’t want to feel like we’re stuck here, we’re going to make it the best we can while we’re here.
Tika is in the midst of her third struggle with homelessness. As is it with so many individuals, homelessness doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you have a car. It doesn’t even always matter if you have a job. Sometimes, the cost of living is just too high. You lose your home.
Recently, Tika was denied SSI and disability support, something she had been counting on despite always believing a person should have a ‘plan B’. But she refuses to wallow in her disappointment. That is why she started the newsletter for other clients, and that’s why she will eventually start a newspaper.
The work we do, every moment spent providing food and housing and treatment for our neighbors, it all means so much less if we don’t also empower the men and women we work with. Tika saw a need, she realized that the people in her community, while being cared for, weren’t being empowered. By starting her newsletter and hopefully a streets newspaper, Tika is giving the power back to those from whom it has been taken. She is giving the voices back to the silent sufferers. Will you help us empower people like Tika, who is making far more change in the community that we could even dream up?

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.

House of Charity Heart, to give, contribute, feed, house, empower with a heart of charity

House of Charity is Expanding!

With more permanent supportive housing with case management services to address each person’s barriers to maintaining housing, the more people will be independent and no longer homeless,” said Bert Winkel.

When a person is placed into permanent supportive housing it opens up a bed in transitional housing, which opens up a bed at a homeless shelter, which then takes one more person off street.”

House of Charity Purchases Finance and Commerce Property

Minneapolis, Minnesota (April 22, 2015) – House of Charity is pleased to announce the purchase of the Finance and Commerce property at 615 South 7th Street, Minneapolis. The property is adjacent to the House of Charity Food Centre located at 714 Park Avenue South. The partners in this purchase include the Twin Cities Community Land Bank and Community Housing Development Corporation.

The purchase is the springboard for much needed expansion of House of Charity. “The lack of affordable, permanent supportive housing continues to be a barrier for the homeless population we serve at House of Charity,” said Bert Winkel, Executive Director. “In order for our organization to continue to meet the needs of people experiencing long-term homelessness in the community, we must expand.”

The new development project includes a five story building with a new Food Centre space, expanded Day by Day Outpatient Recovery Program, and administrative offices on the first and second floors. Floors three through five will have 65 new Permanent Supportive Housing studio apartments for long-term homeless single adults. The building will include a large private deck on the 5th floor for the residents and off-sidewalk queueing space for Food Centre guests.

House of Charity will be seeking tax credit funding through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) with construction optimally set to begin in spring 2016.

Affordable housing paired with supportive services is a proven strategy that increases housing stability. In Minneapolis and around the state, there is a shortage of permanent supportive housing options for people ready to make the next step toward self-sufficiency and independence.

 

A combination of low vacancy rates, low wages, and a lack of funding in Minneapolis has created one of the worst affordable rental shortages in more than a decade for low-income renters.”
(MinnPost: “Minneapolis renters face huge affordable-housing shortage,” 01/14/14)

Increased unemployment, stagnated wages and home foreclosures from the Great Recession added more people to the growing homeless population and added to the waiting lists for permanent supportive and affordable housing, while rental prices increased.”
(MinnPost: “Minneapolis renters face huge affordable-housing shortage,” 01/14/14)

In Hennepin County, for every 100 extremely low-income renters there are now 34 units that are affordable and available.”
(National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) 
analysis of CHAS data, 2006-10)

House of Charity Heart, to give, contribute, feed, house, empower with a heart of charity

Edmund’s Story: Life and Lessons

“I got to see and learn a lot during my travels.” From Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and finally to Minnesota; Edmund has been many places and seen many things. Still his vivaciousness for life is infectious. Edmund’s story starts in 1988.

My mom passed away when I was 17 years old, and I guess that’s really when my homelessness started. I was in the house alone and without guidance I turned to partying.”

Bills started to pile up and finally his sister took over the house. The next ten years Edmund describes as “wild”. Even during this time Edmund knew this was not the life he wanted to lead and that addiction did not define him.

“It was like, man, this is not me. Nobody knows who I am now; I don’t even know who I am now. An addict, no, I’m not an addict. I’m better than this.”

Edmund decided to go home and two years later took a job with the lumber yard that brought him to Minnesota. Unfortunately the lumber yard closed its doors and Edmund found himself back on the streets.

This time was different for Edmund. His first winter here he noticed how clean Minneapolis was and appreciated the helping hand Minnesota offered.

“I took the opportunity to say, I’m going to stay here, I’m going to do better here.”

A change of heart and willingness to better his life unfortunately was not enough. For a few more years Edmund struggled in and out of overnight shelters and treatment centers. From 2008 to 2012 Edmund tried four to five different treatment centers.

[quote]In 2012 Edmund came to House of Charity. He credits House of Charity with helping him get back on his feet.[/quote]

“I finally settled down my heart when I got into the House of Charity.”

Edmund stayed at House of Charity for 18 months and in March of 2014 entered the Housing First program. He now has a one bedroom apartment and in 2013 started school at a local community technical college. Edmund says,

“House of Charity really was the turning point, when I came here. I made it through, and really life is just beginning.”

Edmund is working toward an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts and plans to transfer to a state university to pursue a Bachelor Degree in Social Work.

“I think about all the counseling I have received over the years, and I just want to make a difference. Hopefully I can reach one person at a time.”

Edmund’s experience at House of Charity has given him the tools to think about the decisions he makes and navigate hardships when they occur.

“Even though I may not create the hardships I have to learn how to deal with them as they come. If I can deal with them wholesomely, I’ll make it through.”

Edmund’s Housing First Advocate is a believer in taking stock of small accomplishments to realize your full potential. Edmund exemplifies this motto. Since Edmund’s time with House of Charity he takes on life one step at a time.

“I believe that I am still at a certain level of “homelessness”. I’m not self-sustained; until I’m there I will always feel a little bit “homeless”. I have a stepping stone and some breathing room and I’m moving in a wholesome direction. The day is coming to where I can call up the State and say “wow, I’m okay”.”

Edmund wants to encourage House of Charity to stand by their mission statement. He believes in what House of Charity does. He believes House of Charity is here to encourage people and wants to let House of Charity know how much that means to him and to other people he knows.

“Your life doesn’t have to end because you’re homeless. There is a way back. I understand hardships are going to continue to come. Because of House of Charity, I now have the tools to say this is a hardship, I can get through this. I got through the gutter, I can get through this.”

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.”