So, while spinning a lotta' plates, I've been a little behind on my blog. Staff has been nudging me to write something, even coming up with suggestions - Larry, it's cold out! Why don't you write something about the winter and how life really changes with the Seasons for people facing struggles and hardship. Well, after today, I don't have to look any further. A client made it easy, and in his own words... "Before entering the St Vincent de Paul Men’s Shelter in late 2019, I struggled with addiction, mental health issues, and chronic homelessness. With my disabilities, I was also struggling to maintain employment. I entered the men’s shelter January of 2019 and after my homeless connect screening, I was placed on the waitlist for the Angel Arms program. After a little over three months, I was accepted into the Angel Arms program. I was given an apartment and the ability to save money while paying my rent. After arriving in the program in early 2020, Covid hit our community and I was laid off work. Engaging in case management assisted me with applying for unemployment benefits while continuing to look for other employment. Case management with Annie also provided me with budgeting, cleaning and organizational skills that I did not have before entering the program. Finally, I was offered my position back at my place of employment in late 2020, and I have been there full-time since. I have been given three separate raises since being back to work and received bonuses. Then, in late 2022, I received a notice on my door stating that the apartment complex was being sold to another company and the tenants were to move asap. Annie & Aly had faith in my ability to finally move on my own and assisted me with finding my own place to live. Annie searched for available apartments and helped me apply to each one. I finally found a place and recently moved in. Due to the program assisting me with saving my money, I was able to fund my deposit and first month’s rent, with money left over to hire people to help me move. I saved nearly $8,000 during my stay in the Angel Arms program and was able to use those funds to move and have funds left over in my savings account. I am now living in my own stable housing, with stable employment. I am now confident in my ability to maintain my housing thanks to the Angel Arms program, Aly & Annie. In addition, I will be getting six months of case management after my release, in case I need anything, which I am super grateful for! Many programs cut off assistance once the client is out of their program but Angel Arms does not. I am glad to have the continued support. Thank you St Vincent de Paul! I would not be where I am today without your help."
In acknowledgment of May being “Mental Health Awareness Month,” we are proud to recognize our very own, Donna Brundage. She was honored by Idaho’s Region 1 Behavioral Health Board as the 2022 Mental Health Advocate award recipient! The Empower Idaho team put it into words best by saying, “Hard work and commitment describe her along with having a persistence for helping people seeking mental health.” Donna’s reach is far and wide – ALICE Taskforce, NAMI, Region 1 Housing and Behavioral Health Representative, Civic Engagement Alliance, Region 1 PIT (homeless census leader), CDAIDE, St. Luke’s Community Outreach Committee, etc. Her, “empathy for those serviced is unparalleled” and “advocacy for those who struggle with mental health in the community” is highly appreciated. So what did Donna have to say by this surprise announcement? “I want to be one of the people who listen to the story, not the label. I'm honored, humbled and thank you. The message about stigma is powerful.” From your St. Vinny's family, Donna, you make us proud!
“When I was told I had a dishwasher, I was shocked. This is the first place I’ve ever lived with my very own dishwasher!” Meet Cooper (Coop) and his best friend, Snow White. Coop and Snow White have been homeless or couch surfing the last three years. As of a couple weeks ago, no more! Now thirty-three, Coop hasn’t really had a place to call home since he was six. You see, at a very young age he has been in and out of foster care and living in group homes. At nineteen, he was pretty much on his own. “I never knew my dad. He left before I was born. I really don’t have much contact with my mom and don’t have a relationship with my siblings. Snow White is my best friend, my companion and a very well behaved dog. And you know what, while homeless and dragging her everywhere I go, Snow White is really loving the apartment!” Not having a home at an early age is a frightening situation, yet you won’t hear about it from Coop. Why? After just a few minutes, you’ll glean that he’s a pretty appreciative and upbeat guy. “I would rather focus on the future,” he said. While being shown his new apartment, Coop said, “What? I even have my own dishwasher! Hookups for a clothes washer and dryer, too! Ima try and figure out how to get one of those stackable units, but in the meantime, I’ll just go downstairs and use my coins.” So what else do you like about your new home, Coop? “It’s a good location. I can ride my bike to the grocery store and pharmacy. It’s a secure building, so nobody can hassle anyone. It’s clean, well manage and everything works! And most of all, it’s close to the water.” Why’s that important? “I like to go swimming and I’m not too far from the lake. I love to swim, even during the winter time, but I don’t like to jump in the lake in the winter, so I’m trying to come up with sixteen dollars a month so I can go swimming at the Kroc Center.” Somehow, I think we can make that happen. In his spare time, Coop says he’s a “gamer” and loves working on computers. “I’m an outgoing person and like helping people. I have a learning disability and got bullied a lot. Before my truck burned, I would see someone broken down on the road and I’d stop and help them out. Everyone needs help. Now I’m getting help and I feel good!” Housing Director, Kelli Lunceford, talked about how other tenants are taking a liking to Coop. “One gave him a loveseat. Another gave him a dresser. With the help of a Kootenai Electric Co-Op grant, we got him a bed, bathroom and kitchenware, plus a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. Coop is over the top thankful and this just shows the power of resources and a team working together. It’s what you do when they’re coming in with just a backpack. Little things can make a difference.”
As the weather turns chilly, many folks are cozying up at home. It’s a time of the year to be thankful and celebrate the Holidays. Yet, winter takes a toll. There’s a whole community of people trying to survive harsh weather who are sleeping in cars, abandoned homes, alcoves, construction sites, behind buildings away from the wind or in the woods. Unfortunately, some people don’t survive the experience. Since most emergency shelters don’t open until temp’s dip below freezing, that leaves a lot of time when homeless people are forced to fend for themselves outside. Homeless will say, “Sometimes, when you’re hungry, you don’t worry about the cold. Your feet get cold in a car to the point they’re numb. If I have a big enough coat and some gloves, once you wrap up tight and close your eyes, you stay pretty warm.” Survival mode, layering up. Stories of invisible people, sleeping outside this winter. Not if we can help it! That’s when St. Vinny’s steps-in with our community warming shelter. A shelter that wouldn’t exist without the support of grants, corporate and private donations, thrift store sales and volunteerism! Which leads me to this – while looking into the eyes of many folks at our shelter on Thanksgiving Day, it compelled me to share a story about a local eight-year-old named Connor. He and his dad, Jon, have been donating (a lot of) warm winter clothing to the shelter since Connor was four. Dad instilling care-for-others in our next gen and Connor paying-it-forward. It warms my heart, and others too! Homelessness – it’s a situation no one ever plans for. And many of us are just one paycheck or tragedy away from the streets. Each person comes with a story, someone’s son, someone’s sister, everyone worthy of respect. Thanks for your support Kootenai County. You’re the best!
I was touched by an angel during a road trip encounter while moving west a few years ago. Little did I know then where my career was headed! Here's how the story goes... Road trip VW story - pulled off for lunch. This fellow, Dane, chased me from across the street, came into the restaurant and began to talk about the bus. He was clean, articulate and knew everything about late-model VDubs; used to work on 'em. After a while I said, so what are you doing these days, Dane? He replied, I'm homeless. I learned he was a Vet and was stationed once at El Toro in Tustin, CA - my old OC stomping grounds. He was so happy and thanked me for buying his lunch. All he wanted to do was talk about Volkswagens. I sensed a tear in his eye and said, do you mind if we take a picture with the bus Dane? This man was my angel for the day.
Thanks to IHFA for providing grant funds to purchase our new (new to us) Ford Transit van. St. Vinny’s has gone a year without wheels. Our old van could no longer go the distance. Just in time to help keep people safe and healthy as we shuttle homeless clients from our CdA kitchen to the Post Falls Warming Shelter this winter. Thanks to 2nd Street Disciple Ministries for stepping up in a big way shuttling clients last year!
Did you know June is Fatherhood Awareness Month? I was raised by a single mom from birth in the 60s, so I can say this firsthand. Life would have been a lot easier on my mom if I had a dad, but that’s not how the chips fell. I suppose my friend at the Coeur d’Alene Press, Sholeh Patrick, said it best in a recent column: “With so much emphasis on women’s causes since the revolutionary ‘60s (justified by centuries of the opposite) it’s been easy to forget one thing: When it comes to parenting, dads are just as important. Long overdue has been an emphasis on, and equal treatment of, fatherhood. Kids thrive when both parents are loving, involved and supported.” With that said, and God rest her soul…mom was my dad. Sorry for all the frustration I gave ya’, mom! She did a pretty good job with my brother and me. And now, I continue to be a role model to my now, 28-year old son, Sean. Although he is, they’re never too big to sit on a dad’s shoulders.
Did ya’ know May was Mental Health Awareness Month! On behalf of the mental health and substance use treatment organizations we support in north Idaho, we are proud to recognize them in May and support behavioral healthcare all year long. Mental Health Matters!
When you think about Buck Knives, what comes to mind? Pretty sharp ‘eh! Well, I think of a giving organization that brought a whole lotta food to our kitchen today. A total surprise! Helping feed needy folks among us! Thanks, Buck, Todi (on left) and Emily!
Hey fans of Salvation Army Kroc CDA. Last Saturday we had the thrill of hosting a group of kiddos to shop for new clothes at CDA Target. A BIG THANKS to Kroc’s community of donors who paid for some sweet threads; 19 appreciative families and 37 smiling faces for sure!
Isn’t it so nice to see blossoms all around? That is, unless you suffer from allergies : ). Before we get too far into the spring, we want to thank our winter partners that especially helped with our Winter Warming Shelter – Salvation Army Kroc CDA and Heritage Health…along with some pretty special individual and corporate sponsors too. Thanks guys. You’re awesome!
A shout out to the Avista Corporation Fund at Innovia and Ron, a special business partner from AGP Wealth Advisors. They pooled resources to thank some pretty awesome employees who have given everything they have this last COVID year, by fleecing them with a St. Vinny’s logoed zip-ups. Eighty-five employees strong and none better. Okay, so I’m bias : ). They’re a pretty special crew!