Thursday, January 22, 2009

After working in homeless services for many years, I’ve come to see that homelessness is truly cyclical. Too many of our guests are trapped in a cycle of underemployment and precarious housing – 40% of guests last year had been homeless several times in their adult lives. Our programs are designed to break that cycle for good, by providing access to the resources that help overcome the barriers of poor health, low-paying jobs, and costly housing. In fact, more than 80% of those who graduate our programs – after connecting with health care and job training – remain stable in housing they can afford for more than six months.

We’re so encouraged by this statistic that this year we will start to measure the success of our graduates past the six-month mark, ensuring that they are able to maintain employment and housing for a year or more. Many LPCS graduates stay in contact with our staff for years after leaving our facility, maintaining some level of case management with our staff, attending groups or classes, or just stopping by for dinner; some even become volunteers. In fact, we’re able to stay in contact with 94% of graduates, a task made easier because of the strength of the relationships that are built while they are here. Each month, we make an effort to keep in touch with graduates through a printed newsletter, and simple phone calls or emails to check in. In doing this, we maintain a strong connection that continues to support people as they strike out on their own.

This outreach creates a new, positive “cycle” – one that gives back to current LPCS guests. You may remember the story of Dan, who was profiled in this newsletter about four years ago. At the time, he was working hard to stay sober, addressing some health concerns, and fighting for custody of his baby daughter, Jennifer. Skilled in the construction trades, he was unable to do heavy work until he received knee surgery, but couldn’t wait to pay the legal bills. He humbled himself and took a cash-paying job passing out flyers at intersections and around neighborhoods. Once healthy enough, Dan took off running, contracting himself out for small renovation jobs and building a base of customers. When he moved out of the LPCS into his own apartment, he had a room waiting for Jennifer.

Today, Dan owns his own booming construction business, and has done several jobs at LPCS! He helped to paint the entire facility during our renovation, donating his time and many supplies. He was married in 2007, and shortly thereafter he and his wife Tracy bought a house in Orland Park. Jennifer will turn five in June, and they are even expecting a new addition to their family soon!

Dan’s success is inspirational, of course, but even more so is his desire to give back to LPCS. He leads bi-weekly recovery groups for current guests. His hard work and good fortune have truly come full circle – as he is now in a position to hire our guests – to pass out flyers for his business, or as skilled laborers.

At LPCS, it is our goal to change the cycle of homelessness – from the hopeless cycle of poverty to the hopeful cycle of receiving and giving back, continuing to strengthen our community and the network of support that our guests and graduates need to become – and stay – successful.

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