Last year during Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary, one of our guests asked me, "So what's the minimum number of people you need to have the shelter each night?" My answer? "One."
When you hope to have shelter from the cold, a hearty meal and some companionship, you don't need to worry that what's been promised will actually be there for you. Life on the streets is a daily struggle. If we can provide some respite, some sense of normalcy for even a short time, our effort is worthwhile. No matter our faith, we are called to help those in need, and I'm grateful to have an opportunity to touch a few lives with kindness. — Mark Hedlund
"The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Albert Schweitzer.
This quote hits to the core of why Elk Grove HART continues to improve the lives of those less fortunate in our community. Through our volunteers’ compassion, dedication and commitment to improve the human condition we make positive change in individual lives, one person at a time.
In 2010, John, (not real name) a 40-year-old homeless man with severe hearing loss was living in his broken-down car in Elk Grove. Donations were used to get his car operating. A HART mentor coached him on how to interview successfully. John has had a steady job for the past 6 years, pays his own rent, and no longer needs government assistance—this is why HART matters!" — Frank Lucia
Can I recommend a good read to both inspire and challenge your view of homelessness? Welcome Homeless, by Alan Graham, is just 200 pages, but it packs a punch. Mr. Graham introduces 10 homeless folks from Austin, TX who forever changed him from real estate entrepreneur to a friend of the homeless.
One quote from the book keeps resonating with me: “If you can ingrain one thing in your head, it’s this: The single greatest cause of homelessness is catastrophic loss of family.”
Without being preachy, Mr. Graham shares his journey from “clueless rich white guy,” to deeper understanding, which led to the creation of Mobile Loaves and Fishes (MLF). MLF is the family, and home, that many don’t have. Last year MLF opened a 27-acre community that houses 250 chronically homeless individuals. You’ll appreciate the steps, and missteps, Mr. Graham shares.
I learned of MLF from my pastor. He was so inspired that a group of us are taking a “journey of discovery” to Austin, TX on October 8-11. I’m anticipating some great new ideas to share with you so that together we can better serve the Elk Grove homeless community.
Welcome Homeless is worth the read. Look for me to ask you about the stories within. The MLF story is presented well in this 3 minute YouTube video:
"At any given moment, I still have the power to say 'this is not how the story is going to end.'" I remember sitting at a table at La Bou Cafe in Elk Grove and hearing my homeless mentee confidently enunciate these words as we discussed a recent setback in her plans to gain employment and save money toward her own apartment. Despite a significant automobile repair estimate and several failing grades on her recent medical coding certification exams, she continued to remain optimistic and grateful for the help of HART volunteers. When asked why I find working with the homeless rewarding, it is stories like these that come to mind. Those of us who walk alongside our homeless brothers and sisters are impacted in many ways, both large and small. The greatest impact for me has been to be there (sometimes years later) to finally celebrate how their story really does end." — Linda Strom
"Why should we care about the homeless? For me it’s pretty simple, “there but for the grace of God go I.” Those who are homeless didn’t start out that way; there have been recurring events in their lives that have led them to this point. Too many traffic tickets. Layed off from work. A screwed up childhood. Mental Illness. Drug dependencies. On and On. I’ve been fortunate enough to slip past these tragedies and live a fairly successful life. Now I’m in a position to help those who got stuck, and it makes me happy to help. That’s why I care." — Chuck McClelland
Some days this job is discouraging. Monday was one of those days. We interviewed a family for the Meadow House and a man for the Grace House. It was hard to listen to their struggles, especially when the solutions were not clear.
Afterwards, I had lunch with a counselor who has been instrumental in the success of our program. We talked about what success looked like for the people in our houses, and what were realistic outcomes.
I loved what she said. "Often, we don't see positive results for years, but each person is changed forever because of the growth they experienced at the houses."
While we would like to see immediate, positive results, that is often not the case. Sometimes it's three giant steps forward and a couple of baby steps backwards. Other times it feels like 23 giant steps backwards, but that is simply not true.
In the Meadow House, the children have a stable environment to grow in for nine months. The parents have the opportunity to go to counseling and work through past and present issues. They are often able to overcome many of the obstacles they are facing, and are even able to experience a special Christmas.
After lunch, I returned a call to a client who had recently moved out of the Meadow House. She is doing so good and thankful for the opportunity to get back on her feet. She is setting an example for her daughters that hard work and dedication pays off. I have no doubt that those two little girls’ lives will be different as adults because of their experience with HART.
Later that day I got a call from another former client, who had not only been homeless but was severely burned in a fire and spent 10 days in the hospital. He went from transitional housing to marriage and now lives in an apartment with his wife and is very stable. He spent most of the phone call choking back tears as he told me how he had gotten to see his sister the day before for the first time in many years. He had lost contact with his family due to his actions, but now was reunited with them. He was so thankful for HART and the life changes it had given him the opportunity to make.
As I hand off the presidency to Fred Bremerman, I am confident he will not only do a great job but will take HART to higher levels. His organizational skills and forward thinking has made him a success professionally, and greatly respected with the City of Elk Grove. I admittedly don't have inspiration for what our future program looks like. But I know Fred does. That is his specialty—planning. So, hold on, and be confident that HART is in good hands.
2016-2017 HART President
HART welcomes new efforts to help address the cycles of poverty that keep individuals rooted in chronic homelessness.
Uplift People of Elk Grove is a comprehensive, holistic program designed to break the cycle of poverty by building well-being together: rethinking poverty, re-framing solutions, and reshaping our community. Through education and intentional relationships, we can restore abundance for families and individuals and bridge the cultural and socioeconomic class lines that often divide us. One of our primary goals is to provide a framework in which people can move off public assistance and build abundant lives.
Weekly Meetings are the core of Uplift People of Elk Grove. They include shared meals, time for relationship-building, mutual accountability, goal setting, tutoring and child care and celebration of success. The series of classes cover topics such as self-awareness, assessment of resources, budgeting, resolving conflict, the role of trauma in one’s life and community change. At the end of the series, graduates are matched with allies (trained volunteers) for support to continue the journey of moving towards mutual well-being. We recognize that transition from surviving to thriving takes time; participants are asked to dedicate 18-36 months to training and relationship building.
If this sounds interesting to you, follow our Facebook Page to keep in touch as we start our first classes in the Fall of 2017. We’ll be looking for volunteers to be allies, serve food at weekly meetings, help children with homework, provide childcare, help with fundraising, provide employment or internship opportunities and any number of other supportive activities.
Trajectory is a trendy word defined as the path that is followed by a projected object under the action of a given force.
Last summer, we met Lisa living in desperation out of her car with her two little ones. It was hot and they were beyond exhausted. Exhausted from lack of sleep, fear, and the bleak prospects for the future. Mom's words said it all. What if I lose my job because I haven't showered? What if we are attacked when I finally drift off to sleep? What if my bad credit prevents me from ever finding my own place?
And the worst: What if CPS takes my little ones from me?
The odds against her seemed insurmountable. But with great relief, that proved to be false. Recently, Lisa and her two little girls moved into a precious one bedroom apartment with a pool and a grassy area right in front of their apartment. They even have a fireplace!
Last August, Lisa and her girls entered HART's Meadow House for homeless families. During their time there, Lisa worked hard to stabilize her family. With determination, she accomplished all the goals her mentor and she set up. She got a better job with benefits, saved money, worked to better her credit, found stable childcare for her girls, and went to counseling for her own peace of mind. Ten months of hard work paid off.
Yes, HART helped to stabilize Mom, but more importantly, the trajectory of those two precious girls' lives have been changed forever. They have lived through watching Mom work hard to succeed and it paid off. They will be compassionate, caring women because of the hardship they have been through. You can see it in their hearts. They will help to make our world a better place because of what they have been through.
We are so proud of Lisa, and happy for her family. The future looks so bright for them.
HART is thrilled to announce the addition of two new Board Members. Brian Franks and Debbie Pettenger are quality people that will nicely compliment our current stellar Board.
Brian is the successful co-owner of wholesale retail outlet, Shop Heroic in Elk Grove, one of three in Northern California. Brian and his wife, Natalie, are not new comers to the nonprofit world. They have been heavily involved with nonprofit organizations for the past nine years. Brian has had a heart for the homeless dating back to his high school days when he spent time experiencing life with the homeless in San Francisco. We look forward to Brian bringing his talents and business acumen to HART Board.
Debbie is not only familiar with the Elk Grove area in her professional endeavors as a successful realtor, but has also worked for many years as a parent leader in the Elk Grove school system and currently serves on the Elk Grove Food Bank Board. She has a passion for the homeless, especially homeless veterans. Debbie has dedicated her life to being a strong community leader. We look forward to Debbie bringing her dedication and passion to our HART Board.
We are so deeply appreciative of Debbie and Brian's willingness to join us in our fight to help the homeless in Elk Grove achieve their highest potential. We welcome them to our HART family.
Naturally, our hearts are moved by the thought of helping the homeless during the winter season. None of us want to think about people suffering in the cold, with no access to even basic necessities like food and shelter.
But did you know that homelessness doesn't have a favorite season? In fact, the summer months can exacerbate the struggle with homelessness because it is during this season that children are usually not in school, and reasonably-priced childcare is difficult to find. Parents can find it more challenging to keep regular hours at a job, and work to return to self-sufficiency when concerned about where children can stay during the day.
Then, there's the issue that the heat can bring. We all read about the dangers of excessive sun exposure, dehydration, and poor air quality on the hotter days. These issues can adversely affect those without shelter, because there is "no break" from them.
While our region comes together to provide cooling centers and other resources, there are ways that you as an individual can help the homeless during the summer:
These are just a few ways to make the summer months more bearable for those on the streets. Author Charles Bowden said, "Summertime is always the best of what might be." Let's help make summertime the best of what might be for those less fortunate!
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