Monday, September 15, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Fawn

This month we want to honor Fawn as our Volunteer Spotlight for August. For over a year and a half, Fawn has been volunteering at LPCS in a number of roles including overnights, track instructor, and front desk. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions about her volunteer experience at LPCS and some other fun facts, here's what she had to say:

Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan.

Occupation: self-employed.

How I got involved with LPCS: A friend had recommended LPCS to me after I moved and was struggling to find a place to volunteer at that I enjoyed. After looking over the website and attending the volunteer orientation, I fell in love with LPCS and what it does for the community.

Length of time LPCS volunteer: around a year and a half I believe.

What I like best about volunteering at LPCS: Easily the people. From the guests who always have a smile on their face and take the time out of their days to talk with me, to the staff members whose passion for LPCS is so contagious, I can't help but want to do more for the shelter. 

Most memorable experience at LPCS: My first time volunteering at the community engagement program on Sunday's. I walked in having no idea what to expect and came away with not only wanting to get more involved with LPCS, but with a greater appreciation for what Linda (and the rest of the staff) do on a daily basis. 

Hobbies/favorite past times: hanging out with friends, craft/DIY projects, watching baseball and college football, having dance parties, and exploring Chicago.

Personal heroes: My dad. He is one of the smartest and kindest people I know, incredibly strong and he pushes me every day to be a better person than I was the day before.

Last good movie I saw: I am horrible at watching movies, but I just finished binge watching True Detective and it was AMAZING. I am keeping my fingers crossed there will be a second season.

If I could do it over again, I would: Move to Chicago. The city is absolutely gorgeous, I've met so many great people, and have had more experiences than I could have ever dreamed of.

ICLP Spotlight: Susan

Five years ago, Susan became extremely ill and found herself in the hospital with a diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver.  It was this wake-up call that led to changing her lifestyle, including going to substance abuse treatment to stop drinking alcohol.  Susan has successfully followed a program of recovery, which was vital to her livelihood.

Susan worked for many years in customer service and has always been a hard worker.  Due to her disease, she became very ill in 2012, leaving her unable to work after hospital treatment.  Illness led to job loss, which then led to losing her apartment and becoming homeless.   Susan stayed at an emergency shelter and eventually a social service provider assisted her with placing her name on the Chicago Central Referral System (CRS). Independent Community Living Programs (ICLP) and other permanent supportive housing programs use the CRS as a central waiting list to provide housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
Susan moved into her sunny apartment in Roger’s Park last autumn, through the Independent Community Living Program.   She keeps her space clean and organized, with beautifully polished hardwood floors.  Her condition often leaves her tired and easily susceptible to illness.  Additionally it causes brittleness of bones, which led to breaking her ankle while polishing her floor last winter, just as Susan was settling into her new home.  

Susan’s broken ankle left her homebound and in a cast throughout the winter, after having two surgeries.  She has close friends who visited, helped with laundry, picked up her mail and medications, and would drive her to the CTA train station to get to appointments.  ICLP also provided support. Susan’s case manager visited her at home, bringing additional groceries, toiletries, bus passes, and emotional support.  During the visits, staff were able to get to know Susan better, sharing life stories, laughter, and learning about her neighbors.

In July, Susan’s cast finally came off.  She was beaming as she came to visit LPCS offices for her case management appointment, able to walk with without a walker.  She chooses her preferences from the LPCS pantry and household items from the Graduate/ICLP closet.  Each time we meet, she smiles as she shares her improvements.

Today, Susan has been in her home for almost a year, and looks forward to signing another leaser, continuing with the Independent Community Living Program.  She joyfully shares about her walks to Lake Michigan.  She goes to the library a block from home to use the computer, attends AA meetings in her neighborhood, and knows her neighbors. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Farewell Lauren: Looking back at one year

It is hard for me to believe how much I have grown and learned during the past 11.5 months.  I can't say I didn't have a skewed perception of what homelessness "looks like". It has absolutely been an eye-opening year; both in my job and in living with my housemates who were also Lutheran Volunteers. 

It would take just too long to talk about my appreciation of the altruism I have seen from the community; the dozens of emails and phone calls each week from people wanting to donate their time. I am impressed daily by the fact that volunteers stay here every night, cook a delicious meal each night, and sincerely want to do good. I will fondly remember the volunteers that would make time in their busy schedule to give back.
I am thankful for getting to know the Guests. I'll always remember the joking around, coming into my office just to chat, hearing about their new apartment, or the unexpected "thank you" note at my desk in the morning for no reason.  

There are many, many things they just don't teach you in college; I've just scratched the surface of learning more about these important and prevalent issues and look forward to constantly learn more.

I can't talk more highly about the incredible group of staff members that keep LPCS going every day. I've never seen such hardworking, talented and dedicated folks. Each day the Interim Housing Coordinators would be running around all over the shelter, and the Case Managers would be running around all over Chicago; all of this with great passion, empathy, and enthusiasm. Despite their lists of endless tasks, they are willing to help out when in need. I was so impressed with how the staff welcomed me and helped me grow, when knowing I would only be here for a year. 

I think it's fair to say that LPCS and LVC has guided me into the next step of my life. I've learned to love (and stay in) the beautiful city of Chicago, I've gained a passion and ongoing yearning to learn about social issues, and have decided to attend UIC for the Social Work Program. 

I couldn't think of a better way to spend my year. Thank you to everyone that has been a part of it.