Monday, March 31, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Sarah Leight

We’re very excited to have Sarah represent LPCS as the Volunteer of the Month. Sarah is originally from the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, but is back in Illinois after spending the last 7 years in Boston, and is excited to be living in this great city. She is currently a part time student in preparation for an MSW program that will begin in the fall of this year. In her free time, she likes to go to new restaurants, watch foreign movies, walking around the city, and getting to know all of the different neighborhoods.

How did you get involved with LPCS?
As a resident of Lincoln Park, I thought it would be a great way to get to know my community by volunteering in my own neighborhood.  After attending a fun and motivating orientation session at LPCS, I became interested in working at the front desk and participating in CEP.  The staff trained me thoroughly and encouraged my progress and I am so happy to be part of the amazing volunteer team at LPCS.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I always look forward to the welcoming and positive atmosphere at LPCS.  The guests and staff constantly emit an energy that promotes patience, understanding, and growth.   I enjoy getting to know my fellow volunteers, staff members, and guests, by learning about their unique and interesting personal stories and backgrounds. 

Watching IHC Manager, Linda Gibson, organize and run her Sunday community outreach program CEP, is astonishing!  She is a powerful and respected presence and I aspire to emulate her strength, sensibility, and compassion.

What I have learned from volunteering here:  
We are all the same! We may look different and act different from each other, but we all have something in common and we can all learn from each other.  Practicing being an open and communicative person in a safe and non judgmental place like LPCS helps you learn compassion and empathy and how to never treat a book by its cover.  Meeting new people and interacting with other volunteers and the community on a daily basis, has increased my self confidence and has given me experience in the field that I am excited to bring to my upcoming MSW program.

Advice for anyone volunteering/looking to volunteer:  
Volunteering in your own neighborhood gives you great perspective about the history of your town and how you can play a role in its future.  Choosing an organization that has diverse staff and guests gives you a well rounded view of social issues and the difficulties facing those in need.  Volunteering at least 4 hrs a week allows you to get to know the people at your organization and lets them get to know you! This way the relationships you make while volunteering can become more meaningful and fulfilling for you and for those you are devoting your time to.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Fourth Presbyterian Church

We are very excited to have chosen members from Fourth Presbyterian Church to represent our volunteer spotlight of the month! This group purchases, prepares, and serves breakfast each month at the shelter. The individuals that regularly come on rotation are: Larry Nicholson, Maggie McGuire, Cindy Winland, Robert Doak, Brenda Mauldin, Karen Philip, Peg Griffiths, Liz Kurman, and Joe Aguanno. One volunteer says, “Although we began volunteering as a collection of individuals, many of us keep returning, thus getting to know each other and coalescing into a group.  Our work is made so much easier by the fact that Larry delivers all the ingredients right to the very counter where we will work with them”.

This group of individuals responded to the call in their church bulletin to come cook breakfast and pack sack lunches. They began in October 2013, and we are lucky to see them each month and enjoy a tasty breakfast that they prepare. Bob's scrambled eggs have received rave reviews from the Guests.  Typically, the eggs are accompanied by sausage, bagels, condiments, orange juice, and fair trade coffee.

An individual from the group says that their favorite part of volunteering is that “an LPCS resident or staff person welcomes us each month with a fresh pot of coffee and a friendly smile.  Our group leader is especially grateful that staff is always available for questions, should we need to know procedures or the whereabouts of any item”.  

One of Maggie's most memorable moments at LPCS thus far was seeing a knitting loom on the table at a Guest’s place setting.  “She (the Guest) and I struck up a conversation about the things she was knitting for her family, and I was touched by her overwhelming spirit of generosity.  She crochets as well, and I have even flirted with the idea that perhaps one day she can teach me how to crochet”. 

“All of the volunteers have been touched by the openness and appreciation of the Guest’s” says Larry. We truly appreciate all you do! Thank you for starting the day off bright and early with us at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter.  

By: Lauren Kirby, Volunteer Coordinator

Monday, February 24, 2014

Debunking the Myth about Homelessness

A few weeks ago, I was checking in on the world via Facebook, when I saw that there was a comic posted in my newsfeed from The Oatmeal. Now, if you aren’t familiar with The Oatmeal, he is a comic writer whose work frequently has to do with the true nature of cats and dogs (like this one:  He’s also a HUGE fan of Sriracha. His humor can be a bit crass and sometimes borders on the offensive, but is frequently laugh-out-loud funny.  For the most part I find him entertaining.  So when I saw that he had posted something, instead of skimming by, I actually took the time to read it.  And then I started fuming. 

The comic he posted was a Venn diagram featuring a cat and a homeless man, entitled “Homeless man vs your cat.” According to his comparison, the homeless are like cats because they don’t pay rent, have excess body hair, live in cardboard boxes, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they “wash their nards in public.” Now as someone who has actually worked with the homeless, you can guess how livid I was at seeing this.  I was so mad that I literally couldn’t come up with a coherent way to respond in a professional or useful manner (I didn’t think calling him a “nardhead” would do much good.)  It’s taken me this long to be able to put my thoughts to page in a way that might actually have some impact.

Not only does this comic dehumanize being homeless, but plays into all of the stereotypes about the homeless.  I know that I’m probably preaching to the choir, but let me address some of these:

People are homeless because they are lazy, crazy, or an addict:  People are homeless because they cannot afford housing. There are a variety of reasons why this might be the case. Some people do struggle with drug/alcohol addiction. Others suffer from mental illness. The largest growing segment of the homeless population are actually people with physical health issues. Many people who are homeless are employed (15% of LPCS Guests are); however, they aren’t making enough money to be able to afford market-rate rent. Current estimates are that 12 million renter/homeowner households pay more than 50% of their income for housing. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States, let alone expensive cities like Chicago or San Francisco.

You can always tell who is homeless by looking at them: Um, no. Homelessness can happen to anyone. All it takes is one major event for someone to find themselves without a permanent roof over their head (illness, job loss, etc.). Being homeless doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have access to professional looking clothes or a shower.  

Homeless people who aren’t in a shelter live on the streets: This just isn’t true.  When most people think about the homeless they picture someone living on the streets or at a shelter, what they don’t picture are people sleeping on someone’s couch, living in a motel, or fleeing from domestic violence. Also, most people don’t tend to think about kids being homeless but there is a growing number of homeless youth.  Homeless youth (those under age 18) make up approximately 22% of the homeless population (about 40% of these are not with a family unit).

I was discussing this comic with a friend of mine while trying to come up with some way to articulately respond. I thought her response to me was well stated.  She said: “Thing is, there's a pretty big difference between homeless and those living on the street. That is, many homeless people have jobs and families, take showers, sleep on their friends’ couches, and try hard to keep it all together. So it's not a fair comparison-- but even if it was, I think it's in bad taste. But some lines I feel, not that you can't cross them but that a) you should be extremely careful of your audience and b) it has to actually BE funny. Still the approach is what really matters. I think this guy saw some comparisons he thought might have been cute (as in, aww my kitty is such an adorable little freeloader), but unfortunately the often tragic reality of homelessness makes it just not funny.”

Based on the comments other Facebook users made, many of them didn’t find this comic funny either. Despite how awful I think it is, I hope that some good will come out of it by inspiring people to take action to help end homelessness.

To learn more about what homeless is checkout our video "Homeless Is".

-Heather Pressman - Heather is the former Community Relations Manager for LPCS. She is still connect to the LPCS family and currently guest blogs for Voices from the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Balance is the Key to Success for LPCS Graduate

Ray moved to LPCS around Thanksgiving in 2012.  This was his 5th stay here, and from the beginning he was focused on his goals and determined to move out successfully, into safe, affordable housing that he could maintain.

During his stay at the LPCS, Ray focused on his sobriety and health by attending peer support meetings.  He worked with his case manager to develop a manageable schedule, including what Ray calls his “me time,” in which he took walks, meditated, and budgeted his income to go to movies at the theater.  When faced with adversity, including the death of a close family member, Ray turned to his support network rather than using drugs or alcohol.  As part of the LPCS family, Ray had staff and fellow guests with whom he could share his feelings.

While stabilizing chronic physical health conditions, Ray attended school at Loyola for certification as a Spiritual Advisor.  He already has an advanced degree in psychology and began looking for employment.  Ray learned to balance his priorities for school, recovery, housing search, and employment preparation.  The same week he was moving into his new apartment, which was located in his “ideal” neighborhood, Ray was offered a master’s level job.  His new job, which he reports loving, is just a two block walk from his new home.

Ray shows us through his success story, that even though it may sometimes take a few tries,  patience, endurance, and relying on your support network can lead to you to become an LPCS Graduate. 

--Brianne Spresser, Case Manager

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Judi

We would like to congratulate Judi Cole, our Volunteer Spotlight for the month of January. Judi is a Corporate Claims Manager with K2 Industrial Services. She began volunteering in October after learning about the shelter through her daughter’s friend, a current Guest. She says she enjoys “the opportunity to give back.  A lot of people have been kind to me and helped me in my lifetime.  Through volunteering at LPCS, I am able to give back.  And – of course, I love the guests – I think we all love the guests!” Outside of volunteering, she says “I love to read, and I love the beach.  And shopping – I love my shopping”.

In just three months she has become an incredibly dedicated and helpful volunteer.  We chose Judi this month for her outstanding work volunteering for overnights.  Judi, who had already completed many shifts in a short amount of time, graciously volunteered for overnights during Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.

Something that Judi has learned through volunteering here is, “people just want to be treated with kindness and understanding.  People have things to say and sometimes just listening is all I have to do”.  The Guests are always very appreciative of her genuine interest, care, and contagious smile; they say that Judi goes above and beyond. One particular Guest said Judi saw her knitting one night; the next overnight, Judi arrived with much needed yarn and supplies to continue. The Guests look forward to an evening of movie watching, and a wonderful addition to breakfast the next morning.

We thank Judi not only for her persistence and dedication as a volunteer, but also for being a friend to many at LPCS!

--Lauren Kirby, Volunteer Coordinator

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Steven shares...

This past weekend was the annual Lincoln Park neighborhood “pulpit exchange,” where area pastors celebrated the Week of Christian Unity by exchanging pulpits for the day and guest-preaching at a neighboring church. One of the best examples of ecumenical spirit is the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, in which four of these neighborhood churches – St. Clement Catholic Church, Lincoln Park Presbyterian, Church of Our Saviour, and St. Pauls United Church of Christ – collaborated to form our organization nearly 29 years ago. These four churches, along with Church of the Three Crosses, participate in the pulpit exchange each year to continue to celebrate their continued collaboration and shared mission to serve the homeless. Across these five churches and nine services, nine LPCS Board members and volunteer spoke, and five LPCS Graduates shared their personal stories of how LPCS helped them turn their lives around. Below is one of those stories.


My name is Steven, and I want to say what a joy it is to be here this morning. I am one of five Graduate of the Lincoln Park Community Shelter who are speaking at neighborhood churches today, whose vision some 29 years ago brought about the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. I want to say on behalf of myself as well as the other Graduates of LPCS a heartfelt thank you! The vision the founding churches collaborated on back then is working, and has helped to change our lives for the better. So again, thank you!

You see, back in 2008, I believed I had everything in order. I was working, making the most money of any previous job I had ever had, doing what I enjoyed. I surely believed I was on a firm foundation to build upon, but when the economy took a downward turn, that foundation I was building upon turned out to be sand. The storms of adversity followed and destroyed the work I had started, and I became overwhelmed. I quickly found out how unprepared I was to face a collapsed economy. I lost my job. Next was my apartment and all of my belongings, except what I had on my back. And rightfully so. The bad economy magnified my shortcomings. I didn’t have order in my life. I didn’t have a real structure to build upon and my interviewing skills were dismal at best. I needed help in these areas because employers were becoming very, very selective about who they hired and the interview process was monumental to obtaining a job. I couldn’t see a way out unless I bettered myself. 

The only option I had at that point was to seek shelter. So that’s what I did. And by word of mouth I got news of the great work LPCS was doing to rehabilitate those who were homeless. So I called LPCS and eventually was placed on a waiting list. Finally, I got the call to become a Guest of LPCS and was assigned a case manager who informed me of the conditions I must meet to remain a guest, such as:

  • Be courteous to others
  • Attend daily living skills classes -  such as conflict resolution, anger management, and developing communication skills
  • Attend substance abuse meetings (for I chose to self-medicate as a way of coping)
  • Give back to the community through volunteer service
  • Job training classes to improve interviewing skills
  • Seek housing opportunities

Well, I agreed to those terms, and I was very impressed and thankful the staff were truly interested in all the Guests finding a life again, free from homelessness. This was a complete 100 degree difference from the other shelters I resided at. Those shelters’ agenda for the residents was “3 hots and a cot” and a five a.m. wake up only to be thrown out into the streets until sundown. No attempt to rehabilitate, no training, just revolving door policies that made a hopeless situation more hopeless. 

But thank God for LPCS, and for a real chance to become self sufficient in life again. All the classes are taught by volunteers from the private sector, giving of themselves to help someone get out of homelessness to self sufficiency. Needless to say there was a lot of knowledge coming from these individuals and their mentoring, along with working with my case manager developed discipline and a confidence in the fact that if I stuck to the process, I would graduate with housing and a new job. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t all rosy. I’d go for housing opportunities but wasn’t called. I’d go for employment but was only shown the door out. But my case manager Brianne continued to say “stick with the agenda and things will work out.” And she was right. After 6 months of working the process, I obtained a job which lad to getting my own residence.

And I once again say thank you to this church, and the other churches responsible for starting LPCS, the staff and LPCS for making it work, and the endless list of volunteers who give of themselves to help someone else. I am a better person for it and will now dedicate my life to giving back to help others also.