Thursday, December 16, 2010

Can you imagine?

I just spent a good amount of time talking with a client who sleeps on the streets. In this weather. Can you imagine?

Of course, the obstacles that homeless people face are forefront in my mind all year, but even I pause when the weather gets to be this brutally cold, wondering how in the world people survive?

Of course, many don’t. Each year, on Dec. 21 (the longest night of the year), we remember those who have passed away as part of Homeless Memorial Day.  Already, news stories have reported several deaths since this unforgiving cold snap.

Our client has been sleeping on the streets for 25 years. He spends most of his time at the library, learning languages (he is currently learning German), is an expert chess player, and has a beautiful singing voice. He sometimes makes money at chess or in karaoke contests. He spends entire days looking for a safe place to hide his personal belongings, including his precious blankets that mean the difference between life and death on the streets. In the time I’ve known him, over the past 8 years or so, he has been attacked and robbed several times.

He is a brilliant man, and also profoundly paranoid. He found LPCS by accident years ago, and for whatever indefinable reason, felt safe here. Despite his undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, he feels a connection with our staff, and continues to visit us regularly, although has never registered to become an overnight guest. He comes for basic services, to pick up his mail, and calls when he can’t make it in person. Although he is largely isolated from the outside world, preferring to stay invisible, he keeps his connection to LPCS.

As he was explaining to me the benefits of various building materials, cardboards, etc. with which to construct a makeshift shelter, and his tips for staying warm by sleeping in port-a-johns, I am both saddened and hopeful. Because lately, he has been talking about coming inside for the night, and applying to housing programs. He is getting tired, and I am waiting. I know we can’t push him to come inside, but when he’s ready, LPCS will be there.

--Erin Ryan, Executive Director

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What a year it's going to be!

There I was, covered in flour, red and green food coloring staining the tips of my fingers, as I kneaded a mound of salt dough in the kitchen of Lincoln Park Community Shelter. An informal assembly line of guests filled the space around me, armed with rolling pins and cookie cutters as we laughed and crooned, rather off-key, along with the Rat Pack playing on the stereo. Our mission: to make fifty ornaments for Sunday’s Holiday Sing-A-Long at St. Paul’s Church.
This was not quite the scenario I’d imagined when I took over the Volunteer Coordinator position here at LPCS. I am, however, quickly coming to realize that these are exactly the kinds of moments that are going to make the next year one of the best I’ve ever had!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have welcomed me into the LPCS community. The few short weeks since I began have flown by faster than I could have imagined! It’s been a whirlwind of information and faces and wonderful stories and the sense that I’ve become part of a pretty incredible group of people--from the volunteers, to staff and, most of all, the guests of LPCS--grows stronger every day!
--Julia Weegar, LPCS Volunteer Coordinator and AmeriCorps*VISTA

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Year of Celebration

Wow!  It's hard to believe that Sunday's "Home for the Holidays" Sing-A-Long is the last of many events celebrating 25 years of the Lincoln Park Community Shelter.  It has been a wonderful year of celebrations in honor of all of the people who have made LPCS what it is today.  Without the support of the community we wouldn't be able to do half of what we do, so thank you for everything you have done for us over the last 25 years!  We hope to see you at our final celebration this Sunday, December 5th at 2pm at St. Pauls United Church of Christ to join us in carols, cookies, cider, and fun!