In June of this year, Robinson Memorial was asked to make some cookie bags for the street outreach program. 80 cookies were made, bagged and included a hand written note of encouragement. This was a great effort of the congregation. “The cookies hopefully tagged a memory of home, family, feeling loved”, said Kathy Salsbury, a member of the congregation and one of the bakers.
Pastor Tracie Martin reflected “I was in the kitchen baking cookies because my friend asked me for some. My husband kept sneaking in for a taste. Generally my cookies look very chocolate whether I intended that or not; I am not a great baker. These, however, were perfect because I was not distracted.
Distractions come from many sources in my day, as in everyone’s life. This day I needed to fix something in the kitchen, write something for work, and deal with several more concerns. The cookies provided a welcome break. I found myself wondering just what kind of impact receiving my cookies might have for someone whose stresses and concerns are very different from mine. I’ll be honest. The needs of a homeless person were not on my front burner until Dan began raising the subject. As I baked and thought, I realized that I truly hope to be asked to bake again. I truly hope to keep the needs of people who lack the basics openly in my mind. It is all too easy to be consumed by my own life and its inconveniences and lose sight of a larger picture. Entering into a partnership with IMFK has become important to me. I will help me remain mindful.”
The outcome that we are striving for, not only to be a strong partner with In My Father’s Kitchen and the individuals they serve, but also to engage the entire congregation in some way. The idea became very clear when a congregation member was overheard stating that she made five-dozen cookies. This was a project that everyone could participate in. When we begin designing this project, we kept in mind that there are some folks who are home bound; and some who just obtained their new driver’s license. What a great combination we thought, we can ask members to write simple cards of encouragement; some to bake and ask the new drivers to make their rounds and collect all the items.
Our partnership is continuing to expand. We have begun collecting clothing and home items for the organization, along with asking congregation members to bring home the soaps and other travel items from hotels during their vacations.
The congregation has a big and welcoming heart. We simply are not as young as we were, and with many having limited mobility, at best, many other hands-on mission projects are unobtainable. This is a project for all ages, and all talents.
Dan DeBrucker-Cota is a Ruling Elder, worshiping at Robinson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, also a current Board Member to The Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness and full-time student at SUNY Empire State College pursuing a BA in Community and Human Services.
By Rev. Norman Fong
The Presbyterian Church in Chinatown, San Francisco, helped my family when my family was evicted & facing homelessness when I was about 18 years old. The church worked together with the community to build the first redevelopment housing project in Chinatown. I decided then that I wanted to be a minister to help the poor and help people facing homelessness and in need of permanent affordable housing.
Currently, I work as the Executive Director of the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) which continues the housing work begun by our church and I get to see so many other families facing homelessness move into new homes. In San Francisco, housing is so expensive, people just need affordable rental housing as most can’t afford single family homes. In Chinatown, 40% of our housing are actually SROs (Single Room Occupancies) where people live in really small rooms without a private bathroom, kitchen or living room. In other words, imagine living in a closet-sized room.
Last month, I was filled with so much “Joy to the world” when Homeless families and SRO Families like Lidia Flores & her 2 children got to move into our newest affordable housing project – Broadway Sansome Apartments. (See Pictures). Lidia and her kids were living in an SRO in the Mission District of San Francisco where there is so much gentrification (displacement) going on. Her life story is heart-breaking as she tried to house her family alone… When I welcomed them into their new apartment the kids Fatima (12) and Christian (16) were dancing with joy!
Andrea and her family lived on the streets (homeless) spoke at our recent grand opening saying “Thank God, I have a second chance at life!” In another housing project CCDC built, we got to house “Homeless Veterans”… I am so proud of the work we do and proud of being a part of a larger movement to help the homeless and those in need of housing. I’d like to hear what other churches and communities are doing to bring more “Joy to the World”.
By Marc Greenberg
The Interfaith Assembly in New York City – Helping rebuild lives after homelessness and helping to build a more equitable City.
The Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing is a coalition of over 60 congregations of many faiths working in the heart of New York City which addresses the issue of homelessness in two ways:
1- With a broad network of faith and community partners, the Assembly sponsors programs that help those who are homeless to help them find personal support and access the resources such as housing, benefits and employment that they need to rebuild their lives, and;
2- The Assembly works to establish public policies that will help those who are homeless and at risk of homelessness to be secure in their homes so that they can be full participants in our society.
Since their inception in 1990, these life-skills programs have assisted over 1,200 men and women to recover from the traumas and losses associated with their homelessness with very positive results – and now many graduates are themselves working with others who have been homeless. The Assembly and its faith partners sponsor programs for domestic violence survivors, homeless Veterans, ex-offenders, homeless youth and many others. The programs take place over 12 weeks and work with a group of between 8 and 12 individuals who, twice a week; share a family meal together; meet with individual mentors who help them identify and work towards achieving their personal goals; participate in group discussions led by community resource people on topics important to their recovery from homelessness; learn to share their personal stories with each other as vehicle for personal healing; and work with a social work intern to help identify resources needed to stabilize their lives. When these participants graduate, they invariably say “This feels like family”.
From the numerous stories of program graduates whose lives have changed for the better --- here is one. Shorne DeBique, is a gulf war combat veteran who became homeless after his employer closed shop and Shorne eventually could no longer pay his bills and lost his apartment. This financial crisis sent Shorne into a very depressed state and his hopes for the future became very dim. Fortunately, through one of the Interfaith Assembly’s partners, Shorne was able to get help through the VA to secure transitional housing and he came to the “Coming Home Life Skills Empowerment Program” down but hoping it would help him turn his life in the right direction. As a result of the support he received from his peers and from his mentor, Shorne began to see possibilities that were not there before. Shorne obtained a special Veteran’s street venders license and began to earn as he enrolled in school to become a substance abuse counselor. He has been vending successfully for the past two years and is close to completing his college courses. Shorne has been serving as a peer facilitator for the program participants who have come after him. Here is a clip of an interview of Shorne and Marc Greenberg, the Interfaith Assembly’s Executive Director. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=583ikeUAkn4
On the advocacy front, the Interfaith Assembly, has been working with a broad network of partners to address a whole set of public policies that led in large part to the presence of over 50,000 people in our shelter system, the highest number of homeless people in New York City’s history! With the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio, many believe that the homeless have the best friend in City Hall that they have had in over 30 years. One of the Mayor’s first appointments was to appoint Steven Banks to head the Human Resources Administration, a man who, for over 3 decades had been the lead attorney suing the city to provide adequate shelter for those who are homeless. The Mayor then re-instituted a rental subsidy program to help working homeless people to rent apartments and get out of the shelter. The cancelation of the previous rental subsidy had contributed to an increase of over ten thousand people in New York’s shelter system. The Mayor then established a plan to produce or preserve 200,000 units of housing in New York City over ten years – 50,000 more than what the advocates had been asking for.
So the Interfaith Assembly and its allies began our advocacy with the new administration in January of 2014 with the best opportunity in decades to truly impact this massive crisis - Working to build on the visionary policies of Mayor de Blasio with the objective of reducing significantly the numbers of homeless people in New York City. The Assembly’s public policy priorities for 2015 and beyond include:
1- Urging the de Blasio administration to set aside at least 10% of all new housing units in the 200,000 unit plan, for those who are homeless. Here is the Mayor’s plan http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/pages/home/index.shtml
2- Establishing the Right to Legal Counsel in eviction proceedings in Housing Court --- which could save as many as 15,000 households a year from losing their homes simply because they don’t know and/or can’t defend their legal rights. (In NYC Housing court, 90% of landlords are represented by an attorney and only 10% of tenants have one). Here is the Right to Counsel Website. http://casapower.org/campaign-to-reform-housing-court-2/
3- Urging Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to commit to the establishment of a plan (known as New York New York 4), over the next ten years, of 35,000 supportive housing units statewide for the most vulnerable New Yorkers – including mentally ill, mentally disabled, physically disabled and frail elderly. The Interfaith Assembly has been joined by nearly 220 faith leaders in calling on the Mayor and Governor to implement a NYNY4 agreement with 35,000 units statewide. Here NYNY4 website http://www.nynycampaign.org/and a link to that faith leader letter and list. http://www.iahh.org/blog/faith-leader-sign-letter-nyny4-housing-most-vulnerable-new-yorkers
The Interfaith Assembly works to engage those who have been homeless, faith leaders, housing and service providers, elected officials and all people of faith and good will in working together to “Build a Blessed City” where homelessness only occurs as a result of a short term emergency and is not a long term reality in a city and nation as generous and as humane as our faith traditions call us to be. The Assembly’s website is www.Iahh.org
Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness
126 S. Terry Rd.,
Syracuse, NY 13219
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