Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy Anniversary LPCS!

On Sunday, February 12th, the Lincoln Park Community Shelter celebrated its 27th anniversary.  The idea for a neighborhood shelter was first formed when a group of Lincoln Park neighbors got together to discuss a way they could help the homeless in their community.  On a cold February night in 1985, the Lincoln Park Community Shelter opened the doors to its first homeless guests.  With the help of four neighborhood churches, the Lincoln Park Community Shelter was born and we have been serving the greater Chicago area ever since.  The LPCS is not religiously affiliated and continues to be completely privately funded.  Truly a community based organization, the LPCS is volunteer-driven with over 1,500 volunteers helping to serve as meals, providing overnight supervision, delivering programs, and more each year. 

While we wish that there were no need for LPCS to exist anymore, we are grateful for all of the support we have received from the community over the past 27 years.  Without your support we wouldn’t be the successful organization that we are today.  So thanks, and here’s hoping that we won’t have to celebrate another 27 years!

To learn more about the history of LPCS, click here. Read about our 25th anniversary celebration here

Want to learn more about volunteering?  See what opportunities are available here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More than just Biscuits & Gravy

"Voices of the Lincoln Park Community Shelter" is a place where staff, guests, grads, volunteers, and community members can share their thoughts about homelessness, LPCS, and its programs through blog posts.  This week, the following post was written by one of our wonderful volunteers after making breakfast last week. 

I’ve been helping prepare a monthly hot breakfast at LPCS for a little over a year now.  Our group is made up of members and staff of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce.  It is always an enjoyable experience between the camaraderie of my Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce cohorts and visiting with the guests over breakfast. Today was especially rewarding--one of the guests that I have gotten to know fairly well over the last year told me she is moving out of LPCS!  We shared a hug and some happy tears.

After a delicious breakfast of Biscuits & Gravy, scrambled eggs, fruit salad, veggie salad, caramelized bacon (heavenly), and sausages, the clean up began. We had decorated for Valentines Day, and I noticed one of the guests removing the decorated tablecloths and folding them up.  When I asked her what she was going to do with them, she told me that she was going to take them to LPCS' Community Engagement Program where she volunteers her time on Saturday mornings.  The Community Engagement Program, or CEP, is where individuals who are currently homeless or tenuously housed can come for a meal, hot shower and laundry facilities. The guest who was saving the tablecloths wanted to make things special for the CEP participants for Valentine’s Day.  In addition to recycling the tablecloths, she also took some of the extra decorations to make Saturday's CEP a bit more festive. Talk about Pay It Forward!

I always leave LPCS with a wonderful, warm feeling. Today those feelings were boiling over.
--Elizabeth Rossdeutscher, LPCS Board Member

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Living Below the Line

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was going to take a "SNAP challenge," spending a week buying and consuming only what he would be able to afford on an average food stamp budget.  For many of LPCS' clients, that would be just under $50/week, since if you are homeless and have no income, you are eligible for as much as $200/month.  With sample menus and shopping lists provided, I jumped on board, too.

My husband was convinced of the plan, but bargained not to participate during the nation-wide challenge the week before Thanksgiving, since he had a birthday to celebrate in there.  So, we decided to try to live out the challenge in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, figuring we could reasonably survive a week of challenge, but nearly a month would be more hard core, right?

I began to review the sample menus.  They had a weekly menu for vegetarians, for quick cooking, for cooking from scratch and a menu from Walgreen's.  Since we were planning on a month-long challenge, we decided to use each of the weekly menus provided, one for each week.  Although we did not follow the exact menus outlined, we found that with careful planning and spending, taking the time to cook from scratch, and increasing the number of vegetarian meals we were eating, we were able to nearly average a food stamp budget for ourselves.  Homemade dishes featuring beans were common; some days, my husband Mike cut out his glass of OJ; snacks were non-existent; a glass of wine with dinner was rare.  Then we got to the week of Walgreen's meals and I found I could not myself nor ask my spouse to willingly follow that menu plan: each day, lunch was a package of ramen noodles or a single peanut butter sandwich.  These items also featured prominently in dinners.  A week short of meeting our challenge, we stopped.  Because we have the ability to make other choices. 

Although living on a tight food budget was a challenge for us that left us ravenous for the next meal, my husband and I were able to meet the SNAP challenge most weeks (with the occasional help of gifted holiday cookies!) because we live in a neighborhood that has bountiful choices for us to shop.  I picked up produce at the fruit market, staples at Aldi, "specialty" items at Jewel and even stopped at Trader Joe's on my way in to work once.  For many people on Chicago's south and west sides, areas known to be food deserts, living on a food stamp budget is a much greater challenge than for us.  If you are in a food desert, you may spend many weeks buying ramen at Walgreen's because the nearest Jewel is too far away.  If you are in a food desert, you may spend many weeks buying higher-fat, higher-sodium, lower-nutrient foods at Walgreen's because there isn't a fruit market nearby.  If you are in a food desert, you may spend many weeks buying processed and frozen foods because fresh foods aren't available at Walgreen's.  (More information on Chicago's food deserts can be found here.)

On a personal level, I am so thankful for my own opportunity to choose where and what foods I buy, cook and eat; and also for the economic ability to keep snacks on hand for when hunger strikes. On a professional level, I am so thankful for the volunteers who provide abundant and healthy dinners for LPCS' guests; and also for the work of anti-hunger organizations and advocates like Michelle Obama and the Greater Chicago Food Depository who are working to provide the opportunities and choices I have to everyone living in Chicago.  Food security is a human right for all of us.

Want to try your own SNAP Challenge?  Sign up to participate in the national "Live Below the Line" challenge taking place this May.  You can sign up by visiting the Live Below the Line website.  

If you want to read others reactions to their SNAP challenges, check out the post-challenge blog from the sponsoring nonprofit.
--Betsy Carlson, Program Director

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meet an LPCS Graduate!

We love to share to good news when someone graduates from LPCS.  Here is the story of one individual who graduated recently:

Lisa*, in her mid-60’s, came to the United States almost three years ago. After looking for work on East Coast, she moved to Chicago where she thought her employment opportunities would be greater.  However, she was not able to obtain employment here and became homeless, entering LPCS.  Lisa worked diligently in job training programs and in computer classes to increase her employment skills but was never able successfully land a job.  In addition to working towards her goals, Lisa became very involved in doing volunteer work at two local churches.  This summer, Lisa became very ill and spent several weeks in the hospital.  After her release she needed frequent treatments on an outpatient basis.  Since she still needed an intensive level of medical intervention while she recovered, which could not be provided at LPCS, Lisa initially went from the hospital directly to Interfaith House, a shelter for people with substantial medical needs and who are homeless.  Her case manager at LPCS kept in close contact with the social workers at Interfaith to make sure that her transition back to LPCS went as smoothly as possible.  Shortly after her return to LPCS this fall, she was informed that an apartment was available for her in a permanent supported housing program.  She now has her own apartment in Edgewater and has maintained many contacts through her church activities, as well at LPCS.  She has gotten a clean bill of health from her physicians and is very happily living in the community once again.

*name changed to protect identity