Friday, February 28, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Fourth Presbyterian Church

We are very excited to have chosen members from Fourth Presbyterian Church to represent our volunteer spotlight of the month! This group purchases, prepares, and serves breakfast each month at the shelter. The individuals that regularly come on rotation are: Larry Nicholson, Maggie McGuire, Cindy Winland, Robert Doak, Brenda Mauldin, Karen Philip, Peg Griffiths, Liz Kurman, and Joe Aguanno. One volunteer says, “Although we began volunteering as a collection of individuals, many of us keep returning, thus getting to know each other and coalescing into a group.  Our work is made so much easier by the fact that Larry delivers all the ingredients right to the very counter where we will work with them”.

This group of individuals responded to the call in their church bulletin to come cook breakfast and pack sack lunches. They began in October 2013, and we are lucky to see them each month and enjoy a tasty breakfast that they prepare. Bob's scrambled eggs have received rave reviews from the Guests.  Typically, the eggs are accompanied by sausage, bagels, condiments, orange juice, and fair trade coffee.

An individual from the group says that their favorite part of volunteering is that “an LPCS resident or staff person welcomes us each month with a fresh pot of coffee and a friendly smile.  Our group leader is especially grateful that staff is always available for questions, should we need to know procedures or the whereabouts of any item”.  

One of Maggie's most memorable moments at LPCS thus far was seeing a knitting loom on the table at a Guest’s place setting.  “She (the Guest) and I struck up a conversation about the things she was knitting for her family, and I was touched by her overwhelming spirit of generosity.  She crochets as well, and I have even flirted with the idea that perhaps one day she can teach me how to crochet”. 

“All of the volunteers have been touched by the openness and appreciation of the Guest’s” says Larry. We truly appreciate all you do! Thank you for starting the day off bright and early with us at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter.  

By: Lauren Kirby, Volunteer Coordinator

Monday, February 24, 2014

Debunking the Myth about Homelessness

A few weeks ago, I was checking in on the world via Facebook, when I saw that there was a comic posted in my newsfeed from The Oatmeal. Now, if you aren’t familiar with The Oatmeal, he is a comic writer whose work frequently has to do with the true nature of cats and dogs (like this one:  He’s also a HUGE fan of Sriracha. His humor can be a bit crass and sometimes borders on the offensive, but is frequently laugh-out-loud funny.  For the most part I find him entertaining.  So when I saw that he had posted something, instead of skimming by, I actually took the time to read it.  And then I started fuming. 

The comic he posted was a Venn diagram featuring a cat and a homeless man, entitled “Homeless man vs your cat.” According to his comparison, the homeless are like cats because they don’t pay rent, have excess body hair, live in cardboard boxes, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they “wash their nards in public.” Now as someone who has actually worked with the homeless, you can guess how livid I was at seeing this.  I was so mad that I literally couldn’t come up with a coherent way to respond in a professional or useful manner (I didn’t think calling him a “nardhead” would do much good.)  It’s taken me this long to be able to put my thoughts to page in a way that might actually have some impact.

Not only does this comic dehumanize being homeless, but plays into all of the stereotypes about the homeless.  I know that I’m probably preaching to the choir, but let me address some of these:

People are homeless because they are lazy, crazy, or an addict:  People are homeless because they cannot afford housing. There are a variety of reasons why this might be the case. Some people do struggle with drug/alcohol addiction. Others suffer from mental illness. The largest growing segment of the homeless population are actually people with physical health issues. Many people who are homeless are employed (15% of LPCS Guests are); however, they aren’t making enough money to be able to afford market-rate rent. Current estimates are that 12 million renter/homeowner households pay more than 50% of their income for housing. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States, let alone expensive cities like Chicago or San Francisco.

You can always tell who is homeless by looking at them: Um, no. Homelessness can happen to anyone. All it takes is one major event for someone to find themselves without a permanent roof over their head (illness, job loss, etc.). Being homeless doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have access to professional looking clothes or a shower.  

Homeless people who aren’t in a shelter live on the streets: This just isn’t true.  When most people think about the homeless they picture someone living on the streets or at a shelter, what they don’t picture are people sleeping on someone’s couch, living in a motel, or fleeing from domestic violence. Also, most people don’t tend to think about kids being homeless but there is a growing number of homeless youth.  Homeless youth (those under age 18) make up approximately 22% of the homeless population (about 40% of these are not with a family unit).

I was discussing this comic with a friend of mine while trying to come up with some way to articulately respond. I thought her response to me was well stated.  She said: “Thing is, there's a pretty big difference between homeless and those living on the street. That is, many homeless people have jobs and families, take showers, sleep on their friends’ couches, and try hard to keep it all together. So it's not a fair comparison-- but even if it was, I think it's in bad taste. But some lines I feel, not that you can't cross them but that a) you should be extremely careful of your audience and b) it has to actually BE funny. Still the approach is what really matters. I think this guy saw some comparisons he thought might have been cute (as in, aww my kitty is such an adorable little freeloader), but unfortunately the often tragic reality of homelessness makes it just not funny.”

Based on the comments other Facebook users made, many of them didn’t find this comic funny either. Despite how awful I think it is, I hope that some good will come out of it by inspiring people to take action to help end homelessness.

To learn more about what homeless is checkout our video "Homeless Is".

-Heather Pressman - Heather is the former Community Relations Manager for LPCS. She is still connect to the LPCS family and currently guest blogs for Voices from the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Balance is the Key to Success for LPCS Graduate

Ray moved to LPCS around Thanksgiving in 2012.  This was his 5th stay here, and from the beginning he was focused on his goals and determined to move out successfully, into safe, affordable housing that he could maintain.

During his stay at the LPCS, Ray focused on his sobriety and health by attending peer support meetings.  He worked with his case manager to develop a manageable schedule, including what Ray calls his “me time,” in which he took walks, meditated, and budgeted his income to go to movies at the theater.  When faced with adversity, including the death of a close family member, Ray turned to his support network rather than using drugs or alcohol.  As part of the LPCS family, Ray had staff and fellow guests with whom he could share his feelings.

While stabilizing chronic physical health conditions, Ray attended school at Loyola for certification as a Spiritual Advisor.  He already has an advanced degree in psychology and began looking for employment.  Ray learned to balance his priorities for school, recovery, housing search, and employment preparation.  The same week he was moving into his new apartment, which was located in his “ideal” neighborhood, Ray was offered a master’s level job.  His new job, which he reports loving, is just a two block walk from his new home.

Ray shows us through his success story, that even though it may sometimes take a few tries,  patience, endurance, and relying on your support network can lead to you to become an LPCS Graduate. 

--Brianne Spresser, Case Manager