Saturday, November 30, 2013

Welcome New Staff! Renee Pigott

Renee has been an IHC at Lincoln Park Community Shelter since November, 2013 where she was previously a volunteer. Renee worked in various positions at Sears Holdings for over 33 years and was the manager of the Service Contracts Call Center immediately prior to her retirement from Sears. She hails from Spokane, Washington where she lived until moving to Chicago in 2010 and is a graduate of DePaul University. Renee and her husband enjoy traveling and often visit her son in Spokane, daughter in Seattle, and step-daughters in New York and Washington D.C.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Andrew is Awesome!

On November 14, several volunteers were honored at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Event for going above and beyond the call of duty in their roles at LPCS. We have thousands of dedicated volunteers each year, but these have earned special recognition. Over the next several weeks we will profile these special volunteers on this blog as a way of publicly showing our appreciation for all that they have given, and continue to give, to LPCS and our Guests!

The Vision Award is given to a volunteer who has demonstrated a deep commitment to furthering the vision of LPCS through behind the scenes work, and this year the award goes to Andrew Hogue.

Andrew has been volunteering with LPCS for almost 3 years, and in that time has developed a very strong relationship with LPCS. He serves on the Associate Board and the Taste of Fall committee. He is an overnight volunteer and serves meals at LPCS regularly. What makes Andrew the clear recipient of this award is not only his commitment to the organization through these various volunteer opportunities, but his connection to our programs and Guests on a deeper level.  

Guests frequently note their excitement when they see on the dry erase board that it will be Andrew staying over. Our Guests know that they will not only have their basic needs met and that their safety is ensured, but they will also be able to stay up later than normal and watch a football game. They feel a comfort going to Andrew for advice about a job search and value his opinions. He genuinely listens, and offers real-world advice.

My fondest memories with Andrew have been his time with the Taste of Fall committee. He joined this already tight group for the 2012 event, the same year that I was also first joining the team. Everyone knew that Andrew would fit right in, when during our first meeting of the year he came up with what would become a very fruitful aspect of the event, the Ultimate Tasting Raffle. Andrew is always willing to run out hours before the event help with whatever is needed with the final preparations. No matter how big or small, I know that I can count on Andrew to take on any task and get it done.

This past year LPCS developed an Associate Board, and Andrew was on the top of the list of people that we wanted to join the group. The Associate Board largely is responsible for finding methods of implementing the strategic plan and goals that the Board develops. Andrew has been a great asset because of his ability to look strategically at a problem, and find the most fiscal and effective solution.

I am incredibly honored to be giving Andrew this award today. I genuinely think of this as awarding him not only for the amazing work he has done with LPCS and the clear passion he has for this organization so far, but also as a representation of the brilliant work he will bring to LPCS over the course of the next few years. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

Thank you, Andrew!

--  Meghan Freebeck, Community Relations Manager

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hank is our Hero!

Last week, several volunteers were honored at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Event for going above and beyond the call of duty in their roles at LPCS. We have thousands of dedicated volunteers each year, but these have earned special recognition. Over the next several weeks we will profile these special volunteers on this blog as a way of publicly showing our appreciation for all that they have given, and continue to give, to LPCS and our Guests!

The Mission Award is an award in recognition of a “hands on” volunteer who has demonstrated a commitment to furthering the mission of LPCS by their direct volunteer service with Guests. This year the award is given to Hank Trenkle. An important and special aspect of this award is that not only does the staff have a say in the recipient, but the Guests make the final decision of who will be receiving this award.

Hank has been volunteering with us for several years, beginning with his Park Ridge church group. He started out with overnights and meals, leading into his weekly support group. Not only does he generously donate Sox tickets, but he gladly attends the games with the Guests. This entire time he has been consistent, and going above and beyond each time. 

I asked some staff and fellow volunteers to tell me a little bit about him. I caught all interest once I mentioned the name “Hank” and I got an overwhelming response of how fabulous he is, his passion for the organization, genuine care for the Guests, eagerness to help, his open attitude and motivation, how he would help in any way, and if I were to say all of the things people said about how outstanding he is, I’d be talking for far too long.

Along the same line, the Guests had only good things to say about him. They have such an appreciation for his honesty with them, and the trust they have during the support group.

The Guests have a personal and trusting connection with him; one Guest mentioned Hank introduced himself while making dinner, realizing she was new, and he remembered her name the next week he saw her. This made a difference in her first night staying here, and was encouraging to know he took an interest in really knowing the Guests.

           Hank is a fantastic representative of LPCS and is absolutely furthering our mission with a smile and ear to listen. I think I can speak for many to say that Hank has made a difference in LPCS, and brought so much joy. We truly appreciate all Hank does being involved, and I am so thrilled to be able to give Hank this award, and can’t wait to see all he offers for LPCS.

-  By Lauren Kirby, Volunteer Coordinator

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Farewell to LPCS

Over the course of the past few months, I have greatly struggled with pronouns. I find that I continue to say “we”, when I should be saying “you” or “they”. For example, I might say that “we need to get ready for the influx of holiday volunteers”, but in actuality, I should be saying “all of you need to get ready for the influx of holiday volunteers”. Preparing to leave any job is not an easy one, and it is made even more difficult when you feel so connected to a place that even your grammar cannot seem to accept the departure.

I first came to LPCS as a volunteer, helping Guests edit resumes and cover letters, serving meals, and making sack lunches. I always left LPCS feeling wonderful, like I had genuinely helped someone, even on the more difficult days I knew I was a part of something important. That is when I had an epiphany – what if I could feel like this every day? It was that simple thought which has brought me to where I am today. I cannot imagine working in any other way than helping people after being a part of the LPCS team.

The staff truly cares about the organization, the Guests, and each other. I have been proud to call my coworkers my friends as well. What I will miss the most are the people of LPCS. I will miss taking walks with Brianne around the neighborhood to help each other talk through frustrations. I will miss how every week I learned something new from Erin, and I hope that one day I can lead a team as powerfully and genuinely as she does. I will miss talking from our doorways to Betsy and hearing stories about Bobbie’s kids. I will miss Murray’s crazy and thoughtful gifts, the one liners that Linda says and should be recorded, and how Erika can always make me laugh in the morning. I will miss the dynamic volunteer duo with Lauren and watching her grow as a coordinator. Dick, Julie, Ebbie, and Denise are amazing interim housing coordinators that garner the respect of every Guest that stays here and are always helpful to all staff, William is a kind and dedicated employee, and the first time my car breaks down I will miss how Fernando was always there to help because he could fix anything. Every single person that works at LPCS brings something unique to the team, with one similarity, that we want to see the organization grow and the Guests succeed.

If I had the space, I would talk about all 1500 volunteers we have as well. All of our volunteers keep LPCS running, but more than that, they have become my friends and my teammates. I have so much respect for the volunteers that give their time and their money, every day, sometimes with meetings late into the night, because they care about the mission and want to be a part of the solution.

The mission of LPCS is to bring communities together to empower homeless men and women to make and sustain life changes. We absolutely do just that, and I am truly going to miss watching our Guests achieve their goals and celebrate their successes. We have the most amazing Guests here, so much so that often people do not believe we are not screening individuals. I have loved walking into work in the mornings to be greeted by Guests. I especially enjoy the Creative Writing class I lead where I can see first-hand how truly talented and creative our Guests are. When I first created Kick It Home, Chicago (the inter-homeless shelter kickball tournament), I had no idea that this single event would become one of my favorite days of the year spent with Guests. With the Health Initiative I set up a year ago, as much as I enjoyed our walking clubs and new classes, the greatest part was the end celebration where we participated in a 5K with the stronger and healthier Guests, who made sure every single person crossed the finish line. LPCS does not have one program, LPCS has 35 Individuals, hundreds of Graduates, and I will genuinely miss every one of them.

Thank you to every single one of You for all being a part of my experience at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, for being my friends, my supporters, my teammates, and for making this job an incredibly and painfully difficult one to say goodbye to.

Community Relations Manager (one final time)


Thursday, November 7, 2013

The power of 3 – Will, hard work, and a bit of help

Andrea’s story is not an unusual one for the homeless population, I have not chosen an anomaly to trick anyone into leaning a particular political direction, but rather I chose a strong representative of the homeless population to help people understand the reality of people struggling with housing.

Andrea became homeless for the first time in 2008. Her job in tech support was not a stable one when the economy fell, and with many companies unsure of their future, she lost her full time position and struggled to make up the lost pay elsewhere. Even with 13+ years of professional experience and a college degree, she was fighting in a market that was dwindling as swiftly as her savings account. Eventually, this led to Andrea no longer being able to pay her rent, and with no family nearby to help support her since she was 19 years old, she found herself on the street with nothing left but her belongings and a college diploma.

Andrea came to LPCS after moving in and out of temporary housing and emergency shelters for several months. She never had to ask for money on the streets, something she describes as would have been more embarrassing and degrading than prostitution, but there were many times when she would aimlessly walk, hoping someone would notice on their own how hungry she was and offer to buy her a meal or better yet, give her a job. Majority of the people experiencing homelessness are not on the street asking for money, nor are they all just looking to feed an abusive addiction, but this has falsely become the assumptions of homelessness.

Andrea eventually learned about the Lincoln Park Community Shelter (LPCS). “I think when you are hopeless, you can sometimes find a lot of people wanting to help you”. Andrea needed help, and this is very difficult to admit, especially when she had been independent for so much of her life. LPCS gave her a place to live safely with dignity without worrying about food or shelter, and she focused on finding work and saving money again.

In her time at LPCS, Andrea was able to practice her mock interview skills, hone her resume, go to interviews, and still work part time or freelance. She also met her fiancé while staying here, another Guest of the program. With a mutual love of Star Trek and technology, they immediately struck a bond. When he moved into his own apartment, they began dating officially. It did not happen quickly, because Andrea wanted to focus on herself, but she says that “after over a year of being homeless, meeting him is the sanest thing that has happened to me. It makes the pain of this experience bearable. I do believe that when you are there for someone—even at their worst moment, you will survive – and that is special.” 

He proposed on one knee, after she had been hinting that if he is going to do it, he should “do it right!” The next day the couple blissfully went downtown to pick out a lovely ring.

At one point Andrea was downtown Chicago, passing the time of the day until the emergency shelters would open. She never imagined that she could one day  be back downtown looking for a beautiful ring.

Andrea eventually found work with the help of her Case Manager at LPCS as the Associate Digital Producer for an international Education and technology company. She struggled to find an apartment still, with her bad credit from struggling to pay student loans no one wanted to rent to her. Eventually, with support of her fiancé and the money she could save while staying at LPCS, Andrea was able to put a strong enough deposit down to get an apartment.

“How can someone get back on their feet after losing everything, especially with no degree or skills? I had a degree and skills, and still I needed some help. In 2009 I lost everything; my savings, my 401k, my family, and my friends. But I am responsible, I can save money, and I wanted to work. One day you may feel that your life will never be the same, but you wake up, you do what you need to do, save any money you have, work on getting better skills, try your best every single day, and one day the tide will turn and it will work. The power of 3 – Will, hard work, and a bit of help”. 

Andrea and her fiancé were homeless for collectively 4+ years. They both now work full time, have a two bedroom apartment, and are looking forward to their wedding in 6 months.

 A July 2013 analysis by CCH shows 116,042 Chicagoans were homeless in the course of the 2012-13 school year. Chicago officials claimed that the total number of homeless people increased 4.7% during the year-long survey period.

For the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2012 Survey on Hunger & Homelessness, the city of Chicago reported that 13% were employed but homeless, 8% were veterans, 6% were HIV positive, 26% were severely mentally ill, and 33% were domestic violence victims

According to the annual Out of Reach study (March 2013) by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Illinois housing wage is $17.02 an hour, 21st among the states (rates range up to $32.14 in Hawaii). In order to afford this level of rent and utilities – without paying more than 30% of income on housing – a household must earn $35,392 annually. With the Illinois minimum wage at $8.25 an hour, a household must have two minimum wage earners working full-time

Where can I call for help for a homeless person in the city of Chicago?
Please phone Chicago City Services at “311″ and ask for “short-term help.”Callers will be transferred to a Homelessness Prevention Call Center. The center is housed and operated by Catholic Charities, with services available in multiple languages.

By: Meghan Freebeck, Community Relations Manager