This past weekend was the annual Lincoln Park neighborhood “pulpit exchange,” where area pastors celebrated the Week of Christian Unity by exchanging pulpits for the day and guest-preaching at a neighboring church. One of the best examples of ecumenical spirit is the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, in which four of these neighborhood churches – St. Clement Catholic Church, Lincoln Park Presbyterian, Church of Our Saviour, and St. Pauls United Church of Christ – collaborated to form our organization nearly 29 years ago. These four churches, along with Church of the Three Crosses, participate in the pulpit exchange each year to continue to celebrate their continued collaboration and shared mission to serve the homeless. Across these five churches and nine services, nine LPCS Board members and volunteer spoke, and five LPCS Graduates shared their personal stories of how LPCS helped them turn their lives around. Below is one of those stories.
My name is Steven, and I want to say what a joy it is to be here this morning. I am one of five Graduate of the Lincoln Park Community Shelter who are speaking at neighborhood churches today, whose vision some 29 years ago brought about the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. I want to say on behalf of myself as well as the other Graduates of LPCS a heartfelt thank you! The vision the founding churches collaborated on back then is working, and has helped to change our lives for the better. So again, thank you!
You see, back in 2008, I believed I had everything in order. I was working, making the most money of any previous job I had ever had, doing what I enjoyed. I surely believed I was on a firm foundation to build upon, but when the economy took a downward turn, that foundation I was building upon turned out to be sand. The storms of adversity followed and destroyed the work I had started, and I became overwhelmed. I quickly found out how unprepared I was to face a collapsed economy. I lost my job. Next was my apartment and all of my belongings, except what I had on my back. And rightfully so. The bad economy magnified my shortcomings. I didn’t have order in my life. I didn’t have a real structure to build upon and my interviewing skills were dismal at best. I needed help in these areas because employers were becoming very, very selective about who they hired and the interview process was monumental to obtaining a job. I couldn’t see a way out unless I bettered myself.
The only option I had at that point was to seek shelter. So that’s what I did. And by word of mouth I got news of the great work LPCS was doing to rehabilitate those who were homeless. So I called LPCS and eventually was placed on a waiting list. Finally, I got the call to become a Guest of LPCS and was assigned a case manager who informed me of the conditions I must meet to remain a guest, such as:
- Be courteous to others
- Attend daily living skills classes - such as conflict resolution, anger management, and developing communication skills
- Attend substance abuse meetings (for I chose to self-medicate as a way of coping)
- Give back to the community through volunteer service
- Job training classes to improve interviewing skills
- Seek housing opportunities
Well, I agreed to those terms, and I was very impressed and thankful the staff were truly interested in all the Guests finding a life again, free from homelessness. This was a complete 100 degree difference from the other shelters I resided at. Those shelters’ agenda for the residents was “3 hots and a cot” and a five a.m. wake up only to be thrown out into the streets until sundown. No attempt to rehabilitate, no training, just revolving door policies that made a hopeless situation more hopeless.
But thank God for LPCS, and for a real chance to become self sufficient in life again. All the classes are taught by volunteers from the private sector, giving of themselves to help someone get out of homelessness to self sufficiency. Needless to say there was a lot of knowledge coming from these individuals and their mentoring, along with working with my case manager developed discipline and a confidence in the fact that if I stuck to the process, I would graduate with housing and a new job. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t all rosy. I’d go for housing opportunities but wasn’t called. I’d go for employment but was only shown the door out. But my case manager Brianne continued to say “stick with the agenda and things will work out.” And she was right. After 6 months of working the process, I obtained a job which lad to getting my own residence.
And I once again say thank you to this church, and the other churches responsible for starting LPCS, the staff and LPCS for making it work, and the endless list of volunteers who give of themselves to help someone else. I am a better person for it and will now dedicate my life to giving back to help others also.