“I would have to honestly say that of all the homeless programs and missions and emergency shelters that I’ve been in, CFH has actually been the best. It’s not easy being in a shelter, especially when you’re with 30-35 other men who are in the same situation. But overall, I think everybody does a fantastic job at CFH. I’m glad that I found CFH. I think if I hadn’t, right now I probably wouldn’t be working, and I probably wouldn’t be in housing.” – Cameron
Cameron has been with CFH since March, when he visited the Eastside Winter Shelter and then moved into the Year-Round Shelter program. Being homeless was not a new experience for Cameron; he explained, “Back in the early 80’s, I became homeless. I had two jobs, an apartment I couldn’t afford, and basically ended up being broke. I spent some time out on the streets of Seattle. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in a dumpster looking for dinner.” The product of a broken family, Cameron shared that his record for moving was 19 times in two years within the foster care system. He was also quick to note, “I got myself into these situations where I didn’t know what to do, so I ended up becoming homeless. I was young, so I didn’t know quite how the world worked yet.”
Though Cameron has managed to support himself for many years, he found himself homeless again after problems with a landlord. He spent two months earlier this year in several Seattle shelters, but he struggled during this time: “I think during the time that I was at those shelters, before coming to CFH, I was in shock. But fortunately I found CFH, and to be quite honest they’ve done quite a lot for me.”
Thankfully, Cameron’s history of having worked and lived on the Eastside qualified him for CFH, and he found himself partnered with Josh as his case manager. Through his work with Josh, Cameron soon became employed with a temp agency: “I think I found the perfect job. I work for a maintenance department, and I paint vacant apartments; I get to listen to music, which I love to do despite my hearing problems, and paint.” Cameron recently moved into one of the CFH shared houses; with a smile, he mentioned that “the house actually stays clean despite having 10 men living there!”
And as for Cameron’s future? Cameron shared that he’d like “to find a more permanent job, instead of one through a temporary agency, to continue having stability.” When he’s not working toward the future, Cameron, who considers himself to be a bit of a “lone wolf,” enjoys watching movies and visiting local museums.
Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
For over 9 years, one of my responsibilities has been writing letters; thank you letters, warning letters, letters of agreement, recommendations, congratulation letters, exit letters and condolence letters, so I have been perplexed as to why writing this letter has been so challenging.
I realize now that when you do what you are passionate about with people that you care deeply about it is only natural that it would be difficult to say good-bye.
It has been honor of working with an extraordinary group of men and women, staff, volunteers, congregations, and community members that have true compassion and heart for helping others. I thank each of you for being part of my dream of giving hope to men experiencing homelessness over the years.
Perhaps the greatest thank you goes to the men themselves as they have shared theirs stories and their lives with me. I have learned the true meaning of courage, determination, patience, acceptance and grace from the men I have met; their stories will hold a special place in my heart forever.
I will be leaving CFH at the end of 2015, to move closer to our children in Central Oregon. For those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised that the only thing that would draw me away from CFH and all of you is my own family. As our children are getting older, they are settling down in the Oregon area and my husband and I have always known that we want to be near them as they begin their own families. Although it will be impossible to replace my CFH family, I will continue to work with men experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon.
You will all be left in very capable hands. CFH has a strong staff and they will continue to live out the values of respect, dignity and empowerment. The growth of the organization has been monumental over the past 9 years; what an honor to be a part of this journey. I will deeply miss not being part of the incredible future plans; but, I know that CFH will continue to be a pillar in the community offering hope and independence for so many people. I can’t imagine finding a finer organization to work with.
Thank you for the privilege of working with each of you. What a gift it has been to live out my purpose in the most passionate way, each day has truly been well spent.
With the warmest of regards,
The holiday season is a particular reminder of our solidarity with those struggling with poverty and homelessness. The Eastside community has generously joined together in an effort to offer lifesaving overnight shelter during the coldest winter months, by opening the Eastside Winter Shelter (EWS). Through our shared effort and commitment, CFH is able to provide care to hundreds of men who are currently experiencing homelessness.
At the EWS, I see first-hand the impact our presence makes on those struggling to regain solid footing in their lives. Many of the men we serve have suffered great loss – the biggest loss they share is not the loss of material things, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual losses they have experienced. The biggest void in the lives of these men are hope, faith, and love.
Men come to CFH hopeless and hurting. This hopelessness has many root causes that include poverty, abuse, and neglect. Most of the men, who walk through our doors, come to us having experienced considerable trauma; they come physically, mentally, and emotionally spent. Besides not having a safe place to rest and heal, many lack self-confidence, supportive connections, and the resources to overcome their condition. CFH offers hope to the hopeless, just by showing that we care as a collective community. That care lifts spirits and helps a man to believe that is he still has worth and ability.
Men come to CFH having lost faith – faith in themselves, in possibility, in a future; faith has waned with each traumatic blow they have suffered. Faith is reignited as men see positive change in their lives. This can be as simple as having a place to go when it’s cold outside. It also happens as progress is made in addressing issues that have brought them to homelessness. Through our collective compassion and support, men are able to believe in something greater for their lives even when it has not fully materialized yet. Their faith begins to increase, serving them well when future difficulties arise.
Love is the key. Love heals. Love gives these men a fighting chance. Love helps them find worth in themselves. Love is supportive and encouraging. Love is transformative. We are blessed to witness transformations big and small each day because of love. It’s simple, yet powerful.
I thank you for offering these men hope, faith, and love. These provide the basis for lasting change in their lives.
Keep on, keeping on!
Rodney has been a volunteer at our Day Center for the past year through the AtWork! program, a non-profit whose mission is “helping people with disabilities be productive, integrated and contributing members of their communities from a unique 360-degree perspective.” Rodney is extremely enthusiastic about his duties, which include all the cleaning necessary to keep the Day Center in great shape. When he’s not helping out CFH, Rodney loves to bowl, play basketball and volleyball, mow lawns, and take pictures of beautiful flowers.
And, thanks to a grant from the Shoreline Kiwanis, Rodney recently joined our staff and will be a part of CFH at least for the next year. Welcome Rodney!
CFH is truly grateful to receive a steady stream of donations throughout the year. In addition to the thousands of meals provided by our volunteers, we regularly receive donations of dress shirts, towels, socks, computers, non-perishable food items, and much more. Many of these items help us to continue our mission of moving men out of homelessness by ensuring they are properly clothed and fed.
Donating items, however, can be a challenge. A small percentage of what is given to CFH ultimately gets redonated to Goodwill simply because we do not have a proper home for the item. Our needs definitely vary as seasons change, especially since the Emergency Winter Shelter currently only operates six months out of the year.
To help you make sure your donated items meet our needs, here are some points to consider:
Unfortunately, CFH has very little storage space, so items that can be used immediately are given top priority. Food such as cereal, sugar, and coffee are always in demand at the Day Center; our Year-Round Shelter program always needs deodorant, disposable razors, shampoo, and soap; and our Permanent Houses have a regular demand for toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning products.
Larger items, however, get tricky. A chair sounds great in theory for a man moving into a new place, but if we don’t have an immediate need, we ultimately cannot accept the chair.
We don’t want to sound like snobs, but CFH does prefer that items donated be new or gently used. A very worn-out pair of sneakers, for instance, will provide little use to a man long-term, and we’d like to provide our clients with sturdy items that will last. We also love receiving computers to use at our shelters and laptops to provide to our men, but they need to be new enough that we can keep them updated and secure.
Our Emergency Winter Shelter is currently only open for six months each year, so once this shelter closes, the demand for many items greatly decreases. However, the weeks before the emergency shelter closes are a great time to donate items the men might be able to use once they no longer have shelter (tents, backpacks, light sleeping bags, floss, duct tape).
When in doubt
Ask! We love to hear from our potential donors, so if you have something to donate, please feel free to contact us about our current needs.
Ask for a receipt! Your accountant will thank you.
– By Kerry Dirk
A few days ago, I heard someone on a local radio station make a comment about how “almost everyone who is homeless has some form of mental illness” as a way to explain the irrational behavior of someone. There is no way that could be true, I thought. A bit of digging found some very different numbers.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than one-fifth of the homeless people in the United States suffer from a severe mental illness. The Treatment Advocacy Center puts the number of homeless individuals with untreated mental illnesses closer to approximately one-third of the total homeless population. The real number could be much higher, as these statistics only include those individuals who have received a diagnosis.
Why does this number matter? Indeed, mental illness is a very serious concern; homeless people who struggle with poor mental health are often at a higher risk of being mistreated, and their illness is often viewed and thus treated as a crime. The nation severely lacks enough resources to effectively help those with mental illnesses, homeless or not.
That said, mental illness is by no means the only or even primary cause of homelessness.
Attributing mental illness to nearly all homeless people only widens the divide between a person with a home and one without. If I’m a healthy, mentally sound person, it’s easy to assume homelessness could not happen to me. It’s called othering. The Homeless Hubs explains this well:
“People who are homeless are not a distinct and separate population. In fact the line between being homeless and not being homeless is quite fluid. In general, the pathways into and out of homelessness are neither linear nor uniform. Individuals and families who wind up homeless may not share much in common with each other, aside from the fact that they are extremely vulnerable, and lack adequate housing and income and the necessary supports to ensure they stay housed.”
It is when we look at all the possible causes of homelessness – a loss of job, inadequate income, unpaid medical expenses, a foreclosure, a personal crisis, domestic violence, an addiction, a lack of affordable housing – that the possibility of becoming homeless ourselves becomes a lot more real.
In fact, according to Market Watch, a study this January found that more than one-half of Americans are one paycheck away from living on the street. And with the lack of affordable housing nationwide, that number is not likely to decrease anytime soon.
Yet no matter the numbers, we are all humans deserving of the same compassion and consideration, regardless of our circumstances.
“Sometimes it’s easy to walk by because we know we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” – Mike Yankoski
– By Kerry Dirk
Last week, 73-year-old client Ben was given a key to his own home at an apartment complex in Kirkland. This moves comes just in the nick of time; Ben is having heart surgery in a few days. A highly motivated individual, Ben’s immediate goal for the future is to rest and recover in his new place, which is still in need of furniture.
Luckily, Ben was able to secure a bed and bedding through a generous donation. Now he needs help furnishing the rest of his apartment. We’re sure Ben would be thrilled to receive items such as a nightstand to place beside his bed or a television to entertain him while he recovers.
Want to help Ben furnish his apartment? Please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any new or gently used items you would like to donate.
Although I work at Congregations for the Homeless, I don’t have much contact with our clients. I’m the IT Guy, so I mostly work with the office staff and case managers. I stop by the various computer labs, but it’s easier to do my work when nobody’s using the computers.
So my impressions of homeless guys tend towards the ones we all see—somebody standing on a corner with a cardboard sign that says “Homeless Anything Helps.”
Last night I got one of the more thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received – from a homeless guy. Let’s call him Jim. I’ve seen him around the office, and we’ve chatted a few times, but I don’t know much about him.
I regularly ride my motorcycle to the offices, because it’s fun and cheap. I ride even when it’s cold and raining. Last night, we were serving dinner at the Emergency Winter Shelter, and Jim came up and said,
Well, I didn’t wrap these because I don’t do things like that. But I worry that your hands get cold when you ride in the winter. I thought you could use these gloves way more than I could.
He handed me a pair of brand new thick Thinsulate gloves worth $40. Nice gloves. They even have a zippered pouch in them that holds a hand warmer.
I know how much they cost because the price tag was still on them. Now, I don’t think for a moment that Jim used his own money to buy these. They were probably a gift from one of our supporters to him. But he could easily have taken them to any store and gotten cash for them—they still had all the tags attached. Instead, he thought of somebody who could use a pair of gloves more than he could and he unhesitatingly gave them away.
I don’t think I would do the same thing in his situation. I would probably cash them out for the 40 bucks.
I hope that someday I will learn to be as thoughtful, kind, and generous as the homeless guy in the shelter.
Thanks, Jim. That makes two gifts you gave me.
P.S. To make sure the karmic scales stayed balanced, I made a $40 donation to CFH. I’m keeping the gloves, though!
CFH IT Guy