Towering well over 6 feet tall makes Kurt an imposing figure, but it doesn’t take long to realize he is a “gentle giant”. Diagnosed with autism at a young age, he has worked hard to overcome some of the mannerisms he exhibited as a child, such as lashing out in anger at unpredictable times. It caused him to be removed from almost every school he attended and babysitters refused to care for him. Mom finally home-schooled him in an effort to moderate his environment. It was a full-time job which meant actually losing the career that paid their bills. It also meant downsizing and reducing their costs wherever possible. His disability money covered the rent of their little apartment, but as costs rose over the years, their disability payments did not.
Forced to give up their apartment, they moved into their car and put all they owned in storage. Kurt needed routine and Mom did everything she could to keep things as normal as possible. She made sure he got to his job of collecting shopping carts a couple of hours a day and rented motel rooms when Kurt’s anxiety seemed to be elevating. A warm shower and watching sports on TV always had a calming affect, especially when his Dallas Cowboys won.
A year ago, Kurt and his mom moved into the Grace House, HART’s house for homeless adults. At that time, their car had broken down and mom was losing her vision, recently diagnosed with irreparable and painful retinal degeneration. They settled into the master bedroom where they were able to recuperate from months of the mounting stress from being homeless.
HART helped mom to navigate getting disability for her vision disorder and she and Kurt now have their own place. Kurt’s room is decorated with sports memorabilia and he especially likes his exercise bike. He has even learned the bus route to get himself to work. Mom’s dedication to her son has paid off, he is charming and loved by many. She can now rest and know he is thriving.
On May 2nd is the Big Day of Giving. Please give generously and be a part of helping the homeless of Elk Grove get off the streets and into permanent housing.
Her car was her safety net. Homeless, it’s where she kept all she owned. Where she stayed out of the rain after HART’s Winter Sanctuary and where she could find rest from her disabling pain.
Running the heater periodically to stay warm during the cold winter storms proved to be too much for her old car. The radiator overheated, blew a hose and the battery finally gave up. Unable to move her car surely meant it would be towed and the end of her safety net. She didn’t dare cry for fear the tears wouldn’t stop.
Thanks to Linda and Ken Strom and HART, who came to her rescue, with the help of our generous mechanic, Steve Kuhs. Not only was her car fixed, but it also passed the smog check provided by Smog ‘N Go of Elk Grove.
Now the dark clouds of winter have passed and her spring looks so much brighter. She is now sharing a house and looking for an apartment of her own. Gratitude exudes her.
No one likes car problems, but for a homeless person it can be devastating. Not only is it a safe place to stay, keeping them out of the weather, but it also helps them to keep or find employment.
The Big Day of Giving is an opportunity for you to help a homeless person keep their ‘safety net’ running. Please give generously on May 2nd.
Attending one of the best private schools in Sacramento didn’t prevent her from falling short of so many expectations and ultimately becoming homeless. During a rebellious streak while dating a “bad boy”, a pregnancy resulted. She had so many regrets, but not for giving birth to her precious son. He is now her life.
College was out of the question. She needed a job and money to survive. She worked hard at a sandwich shop, rising to a managerial position. She took a second job working nights and weekends at special events, but it just wasn’t enough to keep a roof over their heads. The final blow was her roommate moving out and leaving her to pay all of the rent. It caused her to sink into the “quicksand” of homelessness.She and her son moved into the Meadow House; HART’s house for homeless families. Along with her mentor, Diane Lampe, she set up and worked toward goals that would help her to secure housing, needed car repair and reliable childcare. Diligent with her money, she saved the majority of it. The “quicksand” she was sinking in has now turned into solid, fertile ground that she and her son can thrive on.
They are currently thriving in the Meadow House. She is continuing to save and working on providing a stable environment for her and her son. We are looking forward to her son hearing the many stories of how his amazing mom overcame the adversity of being homeless and be as proud of her as we are.
You have the opportunity to be a part of helping the homeless of Elk Grove climb out of the “quicksand” of homelessness and get their lives back onto solid ground. Please give generously to Elk Grove HART during the Big Day of Giving on May 2nd.
A belligerent teenage girl can bring almost anyone to their knees, especially a single mom. The girl had caused so much destruction, extended family wanted no part of this hurricane that had left only debris in its path. Eventually, Mom lost her job, having to leave work one too many times to respond to urgent calls from either her daughter’s school or law enforcement.
Maybe the saddest part was the collateral damage it caused the girl’s 10-year-old brother. Not only had he witnessed his sister’s unbridled anger, but he was often the brunt of it. Sweet by nature, he started to act out.
HART recognized the desperate situation this family was in and moved them into the Meadow House, a transitional house for homeless families. A team then worked to help support Mom in untangling her struggling family. With their amazing mentor, Dana Dill and Mom’s perseverance, life is now good. This precious family is stable and the 10 year old boy is once again optimistic and smiling. So is Mom!
Mom has worked tirelessly to start her own cleaning business. She even obtained a business license which she will proudly show you! And, her daughter finally realized that Mom wasn’t going to give up or let up on her and she settled down. The girl found relief at a special school that has helped her to stay away from her past bad influences, and she is now in consistent counseling and relieved to be done with that chapter of her life.
Be a part of this amazing movement to help the homeless in Elk Grove get back on their feet. The Big Day of Giving on May 2nd is just that opportunity. Please join us in making Elk Grove a better place for all of our residents.
"You’re garbage, worthless, a burden to society and you will never make anything of yourself.” Abuse is scarring, especially when it starts at a young age, as Kyle’s did. He was abused both physically and verbally by the endless trail of his mom’s “boyfriends.” One night, Kyle’s Mom decided to leave the state and escape her current abuser. She woke Kyle up in the middle of the night and told him she was leaving with the little ones. Kyle and his 15-year-old brother would have to fend for themselves. Being abandoned made sense to Kyle. Who would want someone that was worthless?
Kyle and his brother eventually found a place to crash in the apartment of a 21-year-old man, along with several other teens. Things got ugly fast. The 21- year-old ruled the house with weapons and drugs and alcohol was served for breakfast. This meant more physical and verbal abuse as well as having to witness vulnerable girls being demeaned. It shriveled his heart with helplessness, a familiar feeling he had experienced his entire life as he watched his mother beaten repeatedly, like a disobedient dog.
Kyle finally reached out to his teachers at high school for help. It wasn’t a surprise to them as his attendance had been spotty and his grades were suffering. Several teachers and counselors rallied around him by encouraging him with his studies, arranging for counseling, and even bringing him food and clothes. He was a sweet kid and they cared about him. One of his school counselors called HART.
Kyle’s saving grace was that he had just turned 18, and now as an adult, HART could help him. He moved into the Grace House and found safety, peace and a good environment to finish high school. Because he responded to the consistent care and direction of his mentor, Sebastian Lampe, the “whisper” voice he used to speak in has now grown louder.
Kyle is enrolled in junior college for this Fall and is excited about learning to drive. His sails have caught a fresh wind of hope and the horizon looks bright. His past no longer defines him.
The Big Day of Giving on May 2nd is an opportunity for you to join us in being the wind in the sails of Kyle and others like him.
Sometimes you just need an ally.
Mentorship is one of Elk Grove HART’s core values. Guests in HART’s Grace House and Meadows House transitional homes are each paired with a mentor from the Elk Grove community who supports them through the challenges of finding work and housing.
Frank Lucia, a co-founder of HART, worked in the Elk Grove Unified School District for 36 years including 16 as a high school principal. Lucia assists his fellow co-founder, Debbie Schoeneshoefer who coordinates HART’s mentorship program. He says the mentoring partnerships are essential. “We’re not just interested in sheltering people and then moving them on. The mentoring program helps us bring people to a self-sufficient behavior or attitude.” HART’s mentors make a major difference in the lives of our guests.
From the very beginning, these partnerships have enabled guests in HART’s transitional housing to gain confidence and life skills. Lucia explains that each person who moves into Grace or Meadows House must agree to participate in a mentorship. “The reason for that is you’ll be transitioned out of the house and when that happens, our goal is that you’ll be in a better place and that you’ll be able to start making wise decisions without a lot of handholding.”
Since its inception, the mentorship program has worked well. “The very first person that we took into the program was an individual that was in his early 40s. He had hearing issues. He was living in his car that had broken down, and he wasn’t working,” Lucia says. “I spent some time with Gary. Through some interview coaching, he obtained a job in town.” Lucia still sees him on a regular basis. “Gary has gone from a broken down car with no money to paying his own rent. He has his own apartment. He pays his own bills and he’s working full time, and he has a car that functions. He may not have even survived without HART.” Gary is just one of many HART success stories.
Often, guests from Elk Grove HART’s Winter Sanctuary will transition into Grace or Meadows House. “It’s definitely a pathway,” says Lucia as he describes two women from EG WINS who recently obtained full-time jobs in Elk Grove with the help of their mentors.
“The challenge with the program from day one has been finding the right people to serve as mentors,” he says. HART is always in need of volunteers. What does a good mentor need? “Availability, communication skills, and most importantly, patience. A lot of our guests just need somebody to talk to,” Lucia says, “and so that’s how it begins. We encourage the mentor to let that person talk. Trust is a huge factor.” He explains that it’s important that mentors try to set aside their own feelings, and just say “I’m walking with this person, I’m going to try to get them to a better place.” Mentors meet regularly and receive training from HART in partnership with a local psychologist and Sacramento Self Help Housing.
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Elk Grove HART through our website: elkgrovehart.org/volunteer/volunteer-form.
By Fred Bremerman, EG WINS co-coordinator
The sixth year of Elk Grove HART Winter Sanctuary (EG WINS) has just wrapped up. After 12 weeks caring for our homeless friends, I ask myself: does EG WINS really make a difference?
I see part of the answer in comments from EG WINS guests:
“I’m very appreciative. It keeps me warm, gives me a nice, little place to sleep instead of inside my car, food, occasional socks, free haircuts and gift cards. It also allows me to use the restroom without feeling like an animal.” – William
“Thank you so much. Words cannot express my level of appreciation & I look forward to giving back. These are the things that make it possible for people like me to move forward and have the growth necessary to accomplish stability again.” – Mecca
EG WINS also makes a difference in the lives of our volunteers:
“We get to help people that in your normal course of your day, you might be able to donate some cash, but you can’t really help somebody out and meet them and talk to them. So, it offers that for me that I can actually visit with the people that come in and hear their stories and help as I can. It’s fabulous.” – Phyllis
“I think everybody needs a break every once in a while. It’s our responsibility as people that have a little bit of the upper hand to reach back, to help our brothers and ladies to get back on their feet, so they can feel good about themselves.” - David
I also see the difference EG WINS makes in the unique individuals we serve. This season 64 different guests participated in EG WINS. 46 were men and 18 were women. The youngest was 21 and the oldest 70. Among our guests, we counted a CRC student, a few grandmas, a college professor, a Marine veteran, a cruise ship chef, and an Apple employee. I find myself amazed at each life story and the will power of guests to succeed.
Finally, I see the difference EG WINS makes for the churches which join together to make EG WINS possible. Occasionally things don’t go as planned, as evidenced by the sewer issue this year at Living Water Church. The sewer back-up flooded the church (and surrounding businesses like Mel Dog’s Diner), requiring a new space to host our guests on less than 24 hours of notice. What began as a full-stress-moment turned into a blessing as leaders at Harvest Church, LifePointe Church, and Soaring Oaks Presbyterian Church opened their doors, and hearts, to welcome EG WINS guests on short notice.
I’m smiling as I think back on this season of EG WINS. The guests and volunteers, the laughter and tears, the victories and setbacks. At times it was three steps forward and two steps back. Other times it felt like being stuck in neutral. Through it all, I saw the Elk Grove community fabric being strengthened as we learned to love our neighbors – especially those without a place to call home. It reminds me why I want to do this again next year.
by Debbie Schoeneshoefer
Elk Grove HART Co-Founder and Board Member
I wouldn’t have thought to find humor in a DUI court, but couldn’t help but laugh as Gracie recounted the story: Four cop cars had chased her, and a helicopter tracked her from overhead – yet she was completely unaware. As she pulled her car to a stop at the grocery store, a gentle hand reached out to help her out of the car. Looking up, she realized the hand belonged to an Elk Grove police officer. That gesture had a sobering effect on her.
Not much time has passed since that day in DUI court. I am so proud of Gracie. She is no longer drinking thanks to the help of the doctors at Dignity Health and her own determination to “not be that person.” It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it is one that gives her the hope of being able to see her grandchildren again. She reconciled with her children who had grown weary of her chaotic behavior. She took ownership of her actions.
A successful 6 months at the Grace House and participation in Uplift People of Elk Grove has helped Gracie to see that she is more than just the bottle she crawled into each night. She is sober, living on her own, and confident that she can have a better life.
The hand of that Elk Grove police officer helped to save Gracie’s life, and a stay at the Grace House helped to change her heart. HART is committed to helping those that have given up on life find hope and purpose again. We are so proud of you, Gracie!
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