Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life as a Case Management Intern

My name is Amy Gillespie and I have been working as a case management intern for the past nine months. I am finishing up my first year of studies for social work and I am extremely grateful that folks at LPCS welcomed a student intern to grow and learn alongside the guests, volunteers, staff, and graduates of LCPS.  Reflecting on my time at Lincoln Park Community Shelter is a challenging and exciting task. I learned so much this year about myself, homelessness, substance abuse and addiction, fundraising, advocacy, and much more. 

Over the past year I have grown immensely in my professional identity, in my confidence, and in my ability to serve men and women who happen to be homeless. I have gone on an emotional journey with the people on my case load and I think I have helped them in some small ways, even if it was simply believing in them and helping them believe more in themselves.  I have grown fond of the people I have worked with--staff, volunteers and guests alike--and I am invested in their successes and struggles.

As I finish up my last couple of weeks at LPCS, I have thought about the things I will miss and the things I will carry with me from LPCS.  I will miss walking into the shelter and saying good morning to the guests and smells of cinnamon rolls wafting from the kitchen from the amazing volunteers who just cooked breakfast. I will miss hearing everyone’s stories that come to LPCS and being blown away and humbled by their incredible resilience in the face of rough times. 

I will also miss working with men and women living on the streets or in emergency shelters through the Community Engagement Program. That is where I felt I could do something immediately helpful for clients that were first hearing about LPCS. They may have come to do laundry, take a shower, have a hot meal, and escape the trials of their lives, but many simply needed to tell their story to a compassionate person. 

The vast majority of the people who happen to be homeless that I have met through my time at LPCS have been older men who are often highly motivated to improve their situation, but stuck in a system that is broken and usually does not give them the time of day. That is why it has also added a layer of reflection and perspective to my experience seeing how passionate and involved the staff, volunteers, graduates, board members and guests are in advocating for larger changes at the systemic level.

I will miss our staff meetings and potluck lunches. I will miss Linda, the Interim Housing Manager’s sassiness, and Betsy and Erin’s banter in staff meetings. I have grown to love everyone I work with and have felt totally embraced and respected as a growing and emerging professional. I will carry with me so many memories of working with guests at LPCS and how their stories have impacted me as a person and as a clinician. I have learned more from them than they probably have learned from me.   

Before I leave, I have been given the task to present recommendations to the staff on changes to one of the programs that serve our guests. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute in this way. It shows trust and support from them that I have been given a leadership role and it is simply consistent with how I have been treated from the day I stepped inside the door of LPCS. Everyone operates out of a lens of respect for each person’s strengths, gifts and perspectives. There is enormous diversity within the population of the guests at LPCS but it is made most clear that all are welcome and that is a true blessing that LPCS offers those that become involved with the organization. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for welcoming me into such an amazing, textured, and life changing experience and allowing me to work with all of you at LPCS. I won’t forget it and I hope to be back some day in one capacity or another.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ramona's Story

In October, supporters received a letter in the mail that told the story of Ramona, a guest at LPCS.  Romona had been homeless for four years, bouncing between drug treatment programs, family members, and overnight emergency shelters. Like many guests, Romona had seen her descent into homelessness as a wake-up call about her drug addiction. In her time on the streets she had worked hard to get - and remain - sober; no easy task when one's living arrangements are so unstable. When she came to LPCS, Romona was sober, but stuck - and ready to make a change.  Her story was one of perseverance and hope. During her seven months at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, Romona was able to face her fears and insecurities, and gain the confidence and skills she needed to be successful. Just before the letter mailed, Romona moved into her own apartment.

But our work with Romona did not stop once she was no longer homeless. Since moving out, Romona has stayed in touch with her case manager and continued working toward her long-term goals with the support of the LPCS community. The housing program in which she lives offers fully subsidized rent, but she has been determined to take over the lease on her own. Since leaving LPCS, she enrolled in GED classes, was able to have her minor criminal record sealed, and continued attending extra classes and groups offered by her job training program.

Romona’s hard work has paid off! We’re proud to report that Romona is now working in housekeeping at a local nursing home near where she lives. We were honored to be one of her first calls with the good news, and will continue to support her as she works toward other life goals. Romona will forever be a part of the LPCS “family.”

Over the years, LPCS has worked hard to earn its reputation as a program where people who are at the end of their ropes – materially and emotionally – come to regain control of their lives. This is not simply a place to stay, but a place to change. Our approach is designed to empower and elevate guests during a time of crisis and desperation, when even they may not be capable of seeing their own potential.

Our programs rely on the generous financial and volunteer support of friends like you. We are constantly awed by the deep commitment of this community to our work and our guests. Thanks to a generous donor, any new or increased donations will be matched, up to $10,000!  Thank you for making a gift to the Lincoln Park Community Shelter today.

Many thanks,

Erin Ryan 

Executive Director

Thursday, May 3, 2012

GIVE-ing back

Graduates volunteering at LPCS

One unique part of our programs at LPCS is the GIVE program.  GIVE, which stands for Guests in Volunteer Experience, was created several years ago.  The idea for the program came from guests who were staying at LPCS at the time.  They were inspired by all of the volunteers who gave their time to LPCS, they wanted to find a way to give back, and thus GIVE was born.  Each guest spends a part of their time at LPCS doing volunteer service for a non-profit in the area.  The experience allows them to develop/expand their skills and experiences, as well as their networks.  Some have even gotten jobs as a result of their volunteer work!

We recently got a very nice note from one of our Graduates Jane* about GIVE, and her continued involvement with volunteering:

"I want to thank LPCS for getting me involved with volunteering.  Since I left I have continued volunteering on occasion at the Catholic charities building on behalf of Fourth Presbyterian church serving meals to people of various communities and stations of life.

I have done a few stints at the Chicago Food depository, I am a frequent volunteer with Little Brothers friends of the elderly, I served at the Breakthrough Food Pantry 20 hours per week for an entire year.

Currently, I am a Foster Grandparent volunteer with the city of Chicago.

So, Just wanted to say that LPCS introduced me to something that has given me tremendous joy and a sense of giving back by helping various organizations that are trying to make this world a better place."

We are grateful to all of the volunteers who inspired this wonderful program--thank you! 

*name changed to protect identity