Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Resolutions



The Lincoln Park Community Shelter is a unique place, fulfilling our mission and engendering community among our Guests, Graduates, and even our neighborhood community.  But, we are also a participant in a much larger process, working with city and national partners to create programs that work to resolve homelessness for individuals, but also within our society.  I was heartened to read the new year’s resolutions from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, three of which are closely in line with LPCS’ success and priorities at this mid-point in our fiscal year.

1.       We will be a little less patient.
LPCS and other agencies have been addressing homelessness for a many years (nearly 28, for us).  As a result, we have come to know many of the steps that work to end homelessness for individuals.  Here at LPCS, we know that connecting our Guests to the community and the community’s resources is a cost-effective way to end homelessness one by one.  Our Guests are connected to healthcare agencies, but also have opportunity to meet with Nurse Mary as often as twice a week.  They are connected to employment programs (82%), but also work with volunteers on-site to improve their resume, participate in mock interviews and can post their resumes to our website for volunteers to peruse when their companies are hiring.  Guests can even request being paired with a volunteer job coach or peer coach: people who can support and connect them to ideas and resources beyond those at our agency. With an upturned economy and our bevy of wrap-around support, we plan to nudge down the length of time a person spends homeless. 
And, we will continue to work with our advocacy partners to ensure that adequate funding is available for healthcare options, employment training and other services that help individuals to regain stability so that a delay or limited access to these resources does not create a barrier to regaining housing.

2.    We will keep saying, and saying it louder, “Homeless people, and programs that end homelessness, are worth the money.”
Located in one of Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods, we are often overwhelmed by the generosity of the community around us that shows us that you agree that our programs--programs that DO end homelessness—are worth the money.  We follow a housing first approach to assisting people to achieve housing, understanding that a person who is on the street or in an emergency shelter is vulnerable and frequently using emergency services, incurring costs to society as they are hospitalized.  In joining our program, individuals stay as long as needed as they progress toward goals—often 6-9 months—to find appropriate housing and to stabilize themselves to maintain housing.  We are successful at this: approximately 70% of Guests move into permanent housing and we know that two years later nearly 80% of these retain that housing.

3.       We will identify who’s likely to be left behind and refuse to let it happen.
We don’t screen applicants for shelter to find the individuals who seem most likely to succeed.  We are working to engage individuals living on the street or in emergency shelter through offering our weekend Community Engagement Program.  We have set new goals for ourselves to more deeply engage our Community Clients (57% set and make progress toward goals with the help of a case manager) and are participating in the city’s Common Referral System.  Our Community Clients and Guests are registered to eventually access permanent supportive housing (appropriate for homeless individuals with a disabling condition) or permanent housing with short-term supports (appropriate for homeless individuals looking for work).  And, the Independent Community Living Program, our permanent housing program that will be starting in spring 2013, will offer housing to the most vulnerable in the Common Referral System. 

Offering a continuum of programs serving homeless individuals and working within city-wide and nation-wide plans to end homelessness, LPCS, too, is resolved to end homelessness.  Thank you for your resolve as volunteers, advocates and donors at LPCS, helping us to end homelessness one person at a time.

By: Betsy Carlson, Program Director 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In Honor of American Heart Health Month… and Dark Leafy Greens



I admit that I did not intend these thoughts for the LPCS blog, or for any blog really, but for my own personal thought cabin (my metaphorical cabin where I store any writing that only Thoreau would come across during a retreat close to Walden Pond). Yet as often happens in my world, I found that these thoughts are especially related to the goals and Mission of LPCS, and so I am sharing them with you today

Most people who know me also know how important I consider a healthy diet. I have been a strong-willed vegetarian for over 12 years, I preach about organic diets and a fear of MSG, and my vitamin regimen would loom on the side of obsessive. I confess to even sneaking ground flax seed into dishes made for others without their knowledge, out of love. A friend is frequently joking that I “hate flavor”. We go out to eat and he will say to the waiter, “my friend here does not like to enjoy her food, but do you have any kale?” The truth is, like any other sensible human, I love food. I love to eat and try new dishes and take photographs when something looks especially decorative to post to miscellaneous social media (see below).


It is especially tough for me to go past a McDonald's (ever heard of it?) and see a long line of people, and then walk directly up to the front of an all salad cafĂ© with no wait and a realization that it will probably be out of business in months. I know why this is, of course, and it is not the fault of a lack of flavors. A well made salad can blow any person’s palate away. There are two simple, yet significant, differences between McDonald's and SaladBowl. The obvious one is health - I don’t need to convince anyone that McDonald's is not real food, and we all know from our mothers forcing broccoli onto our plates that fresh veggies are what we should be eating. The second difference is cost (watch Food, Inc. on Netflix immediately!). A BigMac at McDonald's will cost you $3.40. My salad was $9.57! So is it any surprise that so many people choose the BigMac over the lettuce? With the minimum wage being less than $9.00/hour, it is no wonder so many people do not want to work a full day just to afford their family’s dinner that night.  I will not even attempt to unveil how sad this makes me; how disgusted and devastated I am that a family with no health insurance is obligated to become unhealthier still as they cannot afford the groceries that health nuts (such as myself, I admit, at times) continuously advise.

We see Community Clients and Guests come to us on a regular basis with health and nutrition needs that have only deteriorated over the years as they struggled to afford housing. Thanks to our generous donors and volunteers, LPCS is able to provide regular meals to our Guests and classes on Health and Nutrition as well; but what about the people who do not have access to these amenities? What about the people that come to us with health already so bad, it takes more than a sudden change in diet to solve? What can we do?

The simple answer is – I do not have the answer! I appreciate that we cannot change the supply and demand of the food industry overnight, nor can I convince McDonald's Corporate to have a complete overhaul of their menu and practices (have they even been reading my letters?).  I implore you to help me satisfy my neurotic, healthy eating desires and come up with ideas! Any ideas, small or grand, can help. How can we better meet the healthy eating and affordability needs of our Guests and our Community Clients?

I do know one thing (thank goodness, she knows one thing, you may be thinking). Rather than sit idly, we will walk. We will run. We will embarrass ourselves by attempting to do yoga in the parks. We will provide classes on nutrition, health, obesity, diabetes, and so forth. We will encourage healthy eating and provide it as frequently as possible. You can help too! When you come to cook a meal, you can provide heart healthy and balanced foods. You can teach a class on yoga or help lead a walking club. You can make food donations to LPCS on Clark Street for our Have a Heart Drive that are fulfilling and low in sodium. As a team, with new ideas and a reiteration of the old ones, we can have a healthier community yet!

Please comment on this post if you have any ideas, or email me at MFreebeck@lpcsonline, if you would like to get involved in making a healthier LPCS. In the meantime, enjoy this salsa recipe, courtesy of my kitchen.

By: Meghan Freebeck, Community Relations Manager
 
Homemade Salsa Recipe:


3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, and minced
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles with juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine and enjoy!