Thursday, April 18, 2013

Get Healthy! Challenge

LPCS is undergoing a health initiative; we are spending the next two months trying to get everyone healthy! This includes Guests, Graduates, and even staff. In an effort to lose weight, improve BMI, increase mobility, and develop better eating habits – LPCS will increase the overall health and wellness of our entire program.

We are having a Walking Club, led by staff, at least 4 times each week. Rain or shine (or mostly rain), we will walk for at least 30 minutes or 2 miles around Chicago.

LPCS is also holding a significant amount of health classes on site for Guests, Grads, and staff to attend. These will be taught on different subjects, ranging from basic nutrition 101 to diets on diabetes, heart health, vitamins and minerals, and so forth. These classes will teach cooking skills and portion control, while giving helpful information so that we can develop better long term lifestyle habits.

LPCS is asking for weight donations to have classes indoors for those with less mobility. We will also offer Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises to improve wellness.

There will be awards for Guests and Graduates that attend the most walking clubs and classes, that have the greatest improvement in their BMI, and one for the person with the greatest attitude, perseverance, and encouragement.

Here are some ways you can help!
  • Cook healthy meals to serve at LPCS
  • Teach a Class on Health, nutrition, exercise, or otherwise
  • Lead a group fitness class (Yoga, jogging, weights, etc)
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle with LPCS
  • Donate weights or other items to help with classes
The Get Healthy! Challenge will end on June 9th, the day of Run Home Chicago, a 5K/10K race aimed at raising awareness to end homelessness. Join us on this day by participating in our charity team! (more info to come). 

By: Meghan Freebeck

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dwindling SRO Housing

Before anyone tries to catch me on my ignorance or inexperience, I will go ahead and save you the trouble – I will be the first to admit that just two years ago I was completely naive to the housing struggles in Chicago. Of course, I knew that there was a strong homeless population; I walked passed people in need on a daily basis. What I didn’t know was that majority of the people experiencing homelessness were not the people on the street asking for money, but were people that resided in interim housing facilities (similar to LPCS), on friend’s couches, or in their cars. People who experience homelessness often have jobs that are not sustainable or also have college degrees. It also took the last few years to show me that not everyone I hesitated to give money to was actually going to spend it on alcohol or drugs.

Being a volunteer with LPCS taught me what the real face of homelessness looks like and that there are solutions to homelessness if people are given the opportunities to overcome barriers. Being a staff member with LPCS taught me that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

A true testament to LPCS is how strongly they believe in the mission, which states that we will bring our community together to empower homeless men and women to make life changes. People here do not just fight to end homelessness for the Guests that are staying with us, but they fight for individuals all across the city.

I could spend all day singing the praises of LPCS, but instead I just want to share some of the things that are going on in Chicago that you may not be aware of (I certainly would not have been aware of these things two years ago).

SRO, Single Room Occupant, housing is intended for people threatened with homelessness as a vital low-income housing resource. It is because of the existence of SRO housing that many people are able to avoid falling into homelessness, that people can make money while living in a stable home, and people are also often offered life changing services that can help those in need. SRO housing is currently being threatened by city leaders, by the owners of the buildings, and by people in the neighborhoods.

The Abbot Hotel in Wrigleyville is one such place. There are some laws that attempt to protect tenants; however, people are finding ways around these regulations. “They have shut off the heat and water, disabled the fire sprinklers, tore out the shared bathrooms and generally left the entire interior of the building in rubble — without waiting for the evictions to run their course” (Brown, Suntimes).

The Chateau Hotel on the north-side of Chicago is facing a similar fate. “…now that the Chateau has been sold and will be gutted and rehabbed, residents fear it will be reopened as higher-end studio apartments like other former SROs in the neighborhood” (Cottrell, ChicagoNow). Residents of the Chateau state that they do not mind the state of the amenities because they are in a safe location with a diverse neighborhood; remove the Chateau, you will subsequently remove their safety and their housing options as well.

In 2008 there were 106 licensed SROs. Today, there are 81. How many will be remaining in the next few years? And where will the people, with already limited income or other barriers keeping them from housing elsewhere, go when they are put out?

I have been given an entirely new appreciation of homelessness in the last two years. I also have a new appreciation for the steps that lead to homelessness, and more often than I once knew, it can be entirely prevented by people like me taking a stand. It is not a cliché to fight against building owners selling out or city officials making decisions for the wrong reasons, it is entirely our reality.

Want to get involved? Visit the Lakeview Action Coalition’s website and see what you can do to help.

By: Meghan Freebeck

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Volunteer Spotlight - Tyler Lewis

Tyler Lewis has not been a volunteer with LPCS as long as many other people, however in the brief time that he has been volunteering, he has demonstrated such dedication that we would be foolish not to feature him as a Volunteer Spotlight!
When Tyler first came to us, he was seeking volunteer opportunities that would help the homeless population. I was astounded to hear about the respect he has for our Guests and Program before he even knew too much about it, clearly he had a passion for helping people. After learning about what we do at LPCS, working one on one with several Guests, and helping out in a number of other administrative ways, Tyler has developed into the kind of volunteer that I would be proud to send out into the community and have speak on our behalf.
In the past year, Tyler has volunteered by teaching Daily Living Skills classes to Guests (they have many times commented that he is a rock star instructor and they look forward to his class) and also acted as a dedicated Peer Mentor. Tyler has developed relationships with our Guests that offer them emotional support and also encourages them to better themselves. Since Tyler has become a Peer Mentor, his mentee has progressed in his track stages, increased his self esteem, and become more engaged in classes and with other Guests.
Not only has he done these more traditional volunteer activities, he has also become my go-to person for any added volunteer help. In the past few months, we have needed volunteers to help with the mundane tasks of stuffing and sealing over 2,000 envelopes in a day or assisting with videotaping/photographing around the facilities. Each time this came up, a simple Facebook post would have Tyler calling within minutes to offer assistance. Now, he does not even mind that we will call him personally and ask for added last minute help – he has been incredibly reliable and eager to give an extra hand, no matter the task.
It is truly because of volunteers like Tyler that LPCS is able to remain a small and focused staff because he helps out in any way that is needed. He is a huge part of our Guests’ successes and we are so thrilled that he sought us out a year ago and joined our team!