PEOPLE OF PRIDE

By Rev. Robert Parrish

What is pride?  Sometimes it looks like appreciating the clothes that you have to ware in spite the fact that they are out of style or even torn.  Maybe it looks like a basket ball team playing hard even though they are down by thirty  points.  Pride then, is having respect for yourself or a group of people.

Part of my growing up years were spent in Bryson City, NC, which is located near the Tennessee boarder.  My family, and the African American community we were in, were very poor, but, that did not stop the matter of having pride drilled into me.  In fact my mother would say “Son, you may not have the best clothes, but at least they are clean”.

This kind of pride spilled over to older relatives who looked after my brothers and I.  I recall very vividly, a relative that was referred to as “Uncle Doc”.  You see, in the Bryson City adults were often referred to as aunts and uncles as a matter of respect.  UncleDoc expected a lot from the people in our community; this was especially so for the kids.  One day, while two of my brothers and I were setting outside of a community café, Uncle Doc approached and noticed that our hair was not combed.  He asked us why our hair was in such a state.  We could not give him a satisfactory answer.  He then turned around and left us.  However, it was not long before he returned with three combs.  As he gave each of us a comb, I remember him saying “You represent me and this community.  I don’t ever want to see you with your hair uncombed again”.  I never forgot this lesson.

It could be that you are wondering what does this have to do with people who are homeless?  Many homeless people grew up in families and communities just like mine.  In spite of being homeless they hold on to the pride that was instilled in them.  A true illustration of this came to me when one of the staff members at Love Wins named Blu told me about how some homeless people plant flowers outside of their tents.  She went on to say how the space in their tents are often kept neat and clean.  I would imagine that there are those who would wonder how could such a thing be.  What this says to me is that pride shows up wherever you are.

The fact that homeless people indeed take pride in what they have should tell us that they have hope.  Perhaps this pride and hope will lead to a house and yard, or even a job.  This pride and hope helps homeless people take care of those in their tent communities, and to never give up.  I pray  for the day the more of society will see this kind of pride and give them what they deserve.

Pastor Robert Parrish is Chaplain for Love Wins Community Engagement Center, providing spiritual counseling, leadership and Wednesday service.

The Lesson of Small Gifts

*This blog was written by Pastor Robert Parrish, Chaplain of Love Wins Community Engagement Center.  

As pastor, or chaplain, of Love Wins Community Engagement Center, I often give out Bibles to those who request them.  Like many people, homeless people see the need for spiritual nourishment in their lives. 

On one such occasion, a person named G asked me if she could have a Bible.  I gladly got her one.  Upon opening its pages, she stated that the print seemed a little small, but that she might be able to read it in brighter light.  Upon hearing this, I mentioned that I just might have a magnifying glass that she could have.  As a person who is legally blind, I seem to have several magnifiers laying around, and do not find it hard to spare one from time to time.  G was happy to hear that I might be giving her this gift.  Indeed, I did find a magnifier that I thought would be just right for her.  It has level two power and has an (led) light in it.

 When she arrived back a Love Wins a couple of weeks later, I gave her the magnifier.  Now, even though I could not clearly see her face, I could feel the beams of happiness and gratefulness coming from her.  As she tested its visual capability, G found that the magnifier was perfect for her. 

No, I did not give her a million dollars.  Yet, some how, I feel like I gave her something more.  Who knows how being able to read the Bible more easily might make a difference on how G will be guided in her life.  Can one really say how the wisdom that she might gain from reading the Bible might help her guide some one else?  

Gratefulness in receiving things that most might consider as small or even trivial, is something I see from the people at this engagement center.  Items like a canvas bag or a shirt or blouse are received as gold.  What this seems to say is that nothing is taken for granted.  Gifts or blessings, no matter how great or small, are really appreciated.  Although the clients of Love Wins Community Engagement Center don’t have a lot, they  teach the lessons of appreciation and gratefulness. 

In general, our American society is bombarded with the false notion that you’ve got to have this material thing, or that material thing.  Some how, if an item is more than a year old it is “out of style”.  Also, there is this thought that says “you are entitled to the very best”.  Thank God, or if you prefer, the Universe, that many homeless people teach the lesson of being satisfied with simple things. These marginalized people teach us the value of making items last as long as they can.   They teach us the lesson of being thankful and grateful, even for the small gift of a simple magnifier. 

We Will Sit With You in the Dark

Written by: Blu Honeycutt, our Peer Support Specialist

It has been a little over year since I got certified as a Peer Support Specialist. I’d like to think that I’ve been able to help some people within this time. I’ve sat with many people through the darkest moments and been able to celebrate with them during their wins.

My first client was young woman named Candi. She and I had known each other from the Healing Transitions, and from being homeless on the streets together. Her mother had passed away and she hadn’t seen her kids in quite a while. She had been carrying around her mother’s ashes, but finally decided to let us hold them for her at the center so nothing would happen to them while she was roofless.

She came to the office one day and said that it was her mother’s birthday, and she wanted to get her mother’s ashes so she could spend some time with her. She took the ashes and made her way down the hall. I gave it about 10 minutes, went to go find her and didn’t see her in the building.
I stepped out the door and saw her lying in the parking lot, with her mother’s ashes in front of her. She was crying harder than I have ever seen someone cry. I knew there was nothing I could say to her to comfort her. So I just laid down in the parking lot with her. I didn’t say a word. I just laid there with her. And that is what we do, we sit in the dark with people when they need us.

I eventually convinced her to get up off the ground, and that we could do something today to change the outcome of tomorrow. She had been fighting with her addiction for a while and I told her I would stand by her to help her do whatever she wanted to do to get clean. We started by getting her to Wakebrook.

While she was there I got phone calls from her every day, and I encouraged her to find a place for treatment before she left there. She wanted to get out of Raleigh because she needed a real change. 2 days before she was to be discharged from Wakebrook, she had decided where she wanted to go. She found a place in Florida that had beds available. She got in contact with the lady that was caring for her kids and let her know what was going on.

The day she was discharged I met her at the Greyhound Station. She was nervous, excited, scared and sad all in one. I was just simply proud. She was making big changes. I hugged her a million times and squeezed as hard as I could. I told her to get there, settled and we would mail her mother’s ashes to her. I stood inside and watched her walk out the door towards the buses. She was standing with her children’s guardian talking to her and I was thinking to myself, “She’s good. You can go ahead and go.” But the second I was about to walk away, she turned and looked over her shoulder and waved at me one last time and blew me a kiss. I had stayed just long enough.

She contacted me a when she got there and was overjoyed with everything. She asked us to go ahead and send her mother’s ashes so we got them safely packed up and mailed to her. Then I lost track of her for a few months.
As I was scrolling thru Facebook one day I came across her profile. I was beaming! She looked so good! So healthy!!! She was not the same Candi that gotten on that bus. I friend requested her and have stayed in contact with her ever since. She’s been through ups and downs but still holds strong. That’s what I love about her.

March 13th made a year clean for her! I couldn’t be more proud of her. Every time I gave her a suggestion she went for it. Head first. She doesn’t give up and she works really hard every day. Just knowing that I was able to help her along this journey, and to see all the wonderful things she has done, tells me that I’m doing something right.

Love Always Wins!

Growing in Nonjudgemental Love

*Written by Pastor Robert Parrish, provider of services and counseling for Love Wins Community Engagement Center.

I find that most people, when asked, would tell you that they love and accept everyone.  They will say that they don’t pass any judgement. However, study after study shows that human beings do this on a subconscious level.  To confirm this fact, one only has to take a racial bias test. It could be that human beings think that if it is said, acceptance of all people is true.  But, all one really has to do is take a good look at society, or listen to the news, and see that this is not the case. Walking and living in nonjudgmental love takes practice and work.  It is not only what we say about accepting human beings, it is what we do in relationship to them.

Love Wins Community Engagement Center is a place that offers and gives nonjudgmental love.  But admittedly, it is at times not easy. As the pastor of this engagement center I talk with and sit with people from various backgrounds.  It ranges from being thrown out of a home from an early age, to spending significant time in the prison system. Struggles with drug addiction, to living with mental illness is also a part of the above.  How does a person like me who has not experienced these kinds of life experiences give acceptance and love?

The first thing I do, along with other staff at Love Wins, is to be aware of my biases.  This awareness helps me to step away from my prejudice and better enables me to listen to the homeless people more clearly.  I also find a way to recall my own experience when I have been judged, and not accepted as a person who is blind. Being around people in society who have low expectations of me is something that I have to live with every day.  This connection helps me to better understand how people blame homeless people in making their own problems, or how they ” won’t amount to anything”. Thus both of us are accepted for who we are.

A second way that enables me to accept and love homeless people at Love Wins is to walk with them in where they are in this journey called “life”.  In writing this I mean that they don’t have to meet some expectation of what I think they should be. In doing so, a kind of trust develops. It is when trust develops that I, along with other staff, may have the opportunity to help people experience areas of growth or different life choices.  

Nonjudgmental love then seeks to be with people where they are.  This opens the avenue for all of us to grow in relationships and experience growth in ways that we never knew.

Community Garden: Community Market

Our budding Horticulture club is taking the Community Garden very seriously this year.  We started by planning a mixed color heirloom cherry tomato garden, in order to be able to provide an attractive product to bring this summer to the Rebus Works Saturday Market.

 

Our baby tomato plants.

We’ve planted red cherry, brown cherry, orange grape, white grape and red heart tomatoes. When they get larger, we’re going to transplant them, and I’ve purchased a small grow lamp so that they can get up to a viable size. Then we plan to plant what we need, and offer up the rest of the seedlings at the Saturday Market at Rebus Works, so that you can plant your own garden too!

Our folks are getting really creative. One community member even came up with the idea of taking some of these cans that we use, and planting tomatoes in tomato soup cans, corn in corn cans, green beans in the green bean cans, and calling the booth “The Food Pantry”, which I think is brilliant, but we’re gonna have to drill a lot of holes in those cans, and no one can figure out what to do with the spam cans (hahahahahaha).

In the meantime, our first crop will be a beautiful selection of greens to braise, planted last fall by one of our awesome volunteers. We’re excited about the new hot pepper we just seeded, and the spring garden of radishes and carrots that should be available soon. When the community comes together, we can fight food insecurity and learn how to sustain our neighborhoods!

Family of 4 in Desperate Need

Every once in a while, a family finds us that is slipping through all of the cracks. Last year, at this time, it was Janelle and Rodger with their two sets of twins and a toddler. I’m so happy and proud to say that they have been in housing now for over 8 months, and if it wasn’t for this amazing safety net of concerned citizens, they would have slid right through the cracks.

Our family has found us this year. *Shana is a single mom, living in a hotel with a sweet 11 year old boy, *Issac, a funny little 4 year old, *Coy, and the most adorable little 1 1/2 year old baby girl, *Allison. I got a frantic call from one of our community members last Sunday that the hotel owners had put them out on the street with nowhere to go because they couldn’t come up with $30 more to pay for their night. It was FREEZING cold outside, and these 3 children and their mother were sitting, outside of the hotel, hiding in the elements.

Shana and I talked for a while. I got her case manager’s name and phone number, who she hasn’t heard from in a month, and gave her every “coordinated entry” location and number that I could. Unfortunately, they had already been turned away at the local rescue mission and “an army that saves people” due to lack of available beds, but she was on the list for CASA and Raleigh Housing Authority, just nothing had come through yet. We paid for her room for the night and decided to reconvene in the morning.

I’ve tried calling her social worker. Not only have I not succeeded in getting an answer, I get directed to a voicemail box that is perpetually full- I’ve never even been able to leave her or anyone in the office a message. I called all of the same numbers that I gave Shana, and got exactly the same thing she got, recording after recording of different phone numbers to call, followed by full voicemail boxes. I haven’t been able to leave a single message for a single agency that this family even exists. The only folks who have been regularly in contact with me is Haven House, and they typically only serve people under 24 as part of their mission, but because this is such a desperate situation, they’ve been very helpful. They too have found nothing but recordings, and full voicemails.

Now, please don’t comment a rant about social workers, what this is really about is how completely overwhelmed our social workers are right now. The shelters are all full to max. Every program has a waiting list. The rental housing issue here in Wake County is DIRE, and this is proof. If I, the Executive Director of an agency for people experiencing homelessness can’t get a single human being on the phone or a working voicemail box, we have a problem, and it’s a big one.

We learned that the best way to keep people in a hotel who are in between programs is to go ahead and pay for a whole week. It’s far cheaper than going day by day, and then to ask the Universe for forgiveness instead of permission. Until I can manage to find some case worker, some program manager, who will answer and talk to me, we’ve paid for 1 week of their hotel room. It’s $370 for 7 days, verses the $75 a day it would be paying a day at the time.

If you would like to help us keep these children out of the freezing temperatures, please click here to donate, and feel free to leave us a note about what your donation is for. If you would like to pay the hotel directly, please email me at maranda@lovewinscec.org , for the location and account, and know that payments to this hotel must be done in person, not over the phone (a policy I’ve tried to get them to change, at least for us, but they won’t). We don’t really have the funds to pay for a week in a hotel, but I can’t live with the idea of this woman huddled with her kids in the stairwell of the hotel either. We’re going to get her some help, we just need a little time to figure out what is going on with our system.

If you would like to help with something that she needs, right now she really needs size 3 diapers for her baby. As Mommas know, diapers are expensive, and not covered by food stamps or WIC. We have gotten her a voucher to Catholic Parrish Outreach which gives food and whatever diapers they have once a month. Diapers would be a solid good.

Her oldest son could use rides to and from school. The hotel isn’t on his bus route. If this is something that would interest you, please email me personally, because this is sensitive information.

Thank you all, and let’s try to create another success story this year!

The Story of the Miracle Pants

Once upon a time, there was a young man named Jonah who worked 2 jobs and had just gotten into a boarding house.  One of Jonah’s jobs was in a kitchen, but the other job was as a sales person.  He worked hard to be able to afford his rent, and pay his phone bill, which he always answered very professionally because he also used it for work.  He kept gas in his moped and paid off his loan.  He was making ends meet and was proud of himself.

One day, Jonah came to work, and his big, corporate bosses were there to check on the store.  They got to know Jonah, they liked him, but they sent him home early because his pants were too faded to look professional anymore and told him not to come back to work in those pants.  Jonah only had 2 pairs of pants.

I got a phone call because he didn’t know what to do.  His check was going to just cover his rent, and if he bought pants, he couldn’t pay his loan.  He wore a very difficult size to find, so we came up with a plan.  We would go get some black dye, and we would dye his pants!  What a great idea!  For only $5, Jonah could have 2 pairs of pants that looked brand new!

We went searching for black dye and dyed both pairs of pants in my sink.  Jonah loves dogs and cats, so he had a great time playing with my pets and having coffee with my neighborhood friends.  When the pants were done, we put them in the dryer and noticed, they were better, but definitely not professional looking yet.  It was still an improvement.

Then we both got texts messages at the SAME TIME!  Mine was my friend Dory at Walgreens, telling me that our donation bin was full, and Jonah’s was his corporate bosses asking him if he accidentally took the store keys home.  We made a plan to drop off the store keys and then pick up the donations.  Jonah’s bosses asked him, “What are you doing right now?”  He said “Dying my pants for work tomorrow”.

When we arrived at his workplace, both of his big, corporate bosses were standing outside waiting for us.  The world is a small place because I knew one of them!  He used to live in North Carolina before getting this huge promotion!  I told him that the pants came out much better, definitely not perfect, but we could try to dye them again.  His bosses were named Larry and Joe, and Larry said, “Come with me”.

We didn’t know what to expect, but Larry and Joe took Jonah to store after store to find pants that were professional and fit him well.  Joe and Larry were so impressed with Jonah that they had made a plan, and bought him 3 pairs of pants, which they purchased with their own funds.  Then we were whisked off to a tailor to make the pants fit just right.  Larry said to me, “This is my purpose in life, to help people.  He needs this job, and he’s doing everything he can.”  Joe was equally supportive.  He said, “We like him and he’s doing a good job.  We want him here working with us.”

Then came the BIG SURPRISE, as if we weren’t already vibrating with energy; Larry’s mother is a hair dresser, and had offered to give Jonah an entire professional hair, beard, style make-over!  At this point we separated, Jonah to get his hair done, and I went to pick up the donations at Walgreens.  About an hour later, my truck was full of donations and Jonah was getting his newly cut hair washed.

I picked up some Jamaican food, because no one had eaten since lunch and it was now 8:30 pm.  Jonah emerged from the hairdresser looking like a young, professional salesman and smiled.  He looked absolutely amazing.  We thanked Larry and Joe for all of their help and headed back to my house to take the faded, re-dyed pants out of the dryer and eat dinner because we were famished.  The re-dyed pants are now kitchen pants, and Jonah has 3 pairs of tailored slacks for his sales job.

I cannot tell you how many employment stories I hear that end with “I didn’t have the right shoes/pants/shirt”.  This story could have ended the same way, but these big corporate bosses cared.  They saw something in Jonah, and they knew, all he needed was just a little thing.  Something that about $160 total could solve, which is a fortune when you are just starting out.  He needed “the look”, he was already successful in raw material, friendly, kind, and smart.  I’ve met many corporate bosses in my day, but I’ve never met any like these, and it gave me life and faith in society.  It gave me hope.  For Jonah, it gave him a well earned chance.

*Jonah is a pseudonym

From Homeless to Housed: Billy Goes Shopping For His New Apartment

Chef Billy Garrett started his lease on his apartment on November 1st, but came into the space early to start painting.  Billy has great pride in his place.  He’s painted his bathroom a pretty green and coordinated a shower curtain and accessories with it.  His kitchen is now painted an appetizing orange color that brightens up morning breakfast and evening dinners.  His bedroom in now a bright, sparkling white with a fresh white ceiling.  Today he’s tackling the living-room with a warm, light yellow.  It’s a cheerful, homey space.  

Today, Billy and I went to the Green Chair Project, a non-profit that helps people furnish their homes.  It was LOVELY.  They put so much effort into coordinating displays and creating warm, inviting showroom areas.  All of the furnishing and accessories are in excellent shape, clean and attractive.  The entire space is stunningly decorated by volunteers with an eye for coordinating rooms.  They even have volunteers who create these beautiful gift baskets, and if you’re a person with an eye for making beautiful gift baskets, this would be an EXCELLENT place to volunteer your time!

 

 

 

Beautiful gift baskets created by volunteers and staff at Green Chair.

Look at all of this talent!

The staff a Green Chair really gets to know the tastes of each client.  They know Billy’s color palate, what colors he’s chosen for his walls, and that his favorite interior decorating color is “Wine”, a rich burgundy.  He likes warm golds, deep yellows, jewel tones and surrounds himself with a feeling of warmth.  Billy chose a deep, warm loveseat and ottoman with warm, dark side tables, and a stunning rug to pull the room together.  

Billy’s warm couch with throw pillows, stunning carpet, and framed Van Gogh print.

Billy also chose a perfect little breakfast nook table, complete with table runner and flower arrangement, a whole set of new dishes, a bathroom gift basket with pretty towels to match his colors AND, I really think that they went into the back, after he chose his items, and created a gift basket just for him, because it could not have been more perfect.  All of his colors, a lamp that matched, a cute candle, a big, beautiful vase and another perfect throw pillow.  

Then, a bunch of strapping young men, loaded up a truck and delivered the furniture to Billy’s apartment!  They even helped him get the rug down BEFORE the big couch and tables were brought in!  I was SO IMPRESSED with Green Chair that we have begun the paperwork here at the center to be a partner agency.  Often times, we are the first point of contact when someone becomes housed, and we do everything we can for them, but we don’t have the space or volunteer power to pull off anything close to this beautiful, dignified shopping experience.  Green Chair really believes in agency, and lets everyone choose, exactly what they want for themselves, and that is so huge!

If you would like to help, we are still looking for a mattress and box spring for Billy.  I think we can find a bed frame, but the mattress and box spring has been like the holy grail- no one can find it right now.  If you or someone you know has one that they need to donate, please let us know, so that we can get Billy off of the air mattress and in his own bed!  We’re so proud of our Billy and our amazing team here at the center.  If you would like to contribute to Billy’s salary, please click here and leave us a note! Billy works hard for the money, and his hard work has paid off.  

Welcome Stefanie!

We are pleased to introduce everyone to our new Operations Associate, Stefanie Mayes!  Stefanie has a passion for food and helping others.  She and her husband hold a fish fry once a month, where her green beans have become a thing of legend.  She enjoys helping Chef Billy in the kitchen and the community members love everything that she creates back there.

Stefanie was previously a Property Manager for The Magnolias, which is a housing complex for people with disabilities who are approved for Section 8 housing.  She is extremely helpful with helping our folks navigate Section 8 housing once they attain their vouchers, and helping people find rooms for rent that they can afford.  Her focus, here at the center, will be assisting people with finding rental properties.  She’s already hit the ground running by finding a room for one of our housed people who was about to lose his housing.  If we can PREVENT someone from becoming homeless, it truly changes a life.

Her desire to help others makes Stefanie an excellent fit here at the center.  Before being a property manager, her career was managing restaurants and bars, which we’re found to be an excellent background for managing the constant movement here at Love Wins- we have to be fast on our feet, good problem solvers, and have the ability to interact with all different types of personalities.  The community already loves her; I knew that they would.

One year ago, I first interviewed Stefanie for a future position here at the center, but we didn’t have the money to hire anyone else at that time.  This past month, I took a leap of faith, to ask the world for forgiveness instead of permission.  I’m so glad that we did, because looking back, I can’t imagine how we got along without her.

Stefanie needs a laptop of her own to be able to look up rental properties and resources for people.  We, being a non-profit, can buy a refurbished one for $300.  If you would like to donate towards our folks transitioning out of homelessness, and our Homeless Prevention Program, please click here, and feel free to leave us a note about your passion.  Giving Stefanie the tools to help our folks be successful is so important, our ability to do good is only limited by the tools we have.  Come on down and meet Stefanie, take a tour of the Community Center, and see all of the new things that we’re doing here.  We would love to have you!!!

Welcome to the team Nurse Debra!

The Love Wins staff has been blessed with an answered prayer.  Meet Debra Tyson, MSN, RN!  Debra is an Injury and Drug Prevention Nurse with Wake County Human Services, as well as working with their STD/HIV community program.  How did we get so lucky?

Debra’s position is funded through a grant with Wake County, and she spends 20% of her time in her office, and 80% of her time physically in the outreach field working with people experiencing homelessness.  Some of the services Debra provides include nursing assessments, minor wound care, basic first aid and assisting participants with connecting with community-based healthcare and resources.  When she approached us about holding office hours here at the center as part of her outreach, we were overjoyed!

The community has received her with open arms.  She holds office hours daily here at the center to follow up with existing clients, as well as taking new ones as problems arise.  Sometimes our folks have problems and don’t know where to go or what to do about them, so Debra works closely with our Peer Support Specialist, Blu Honeycutt, as well as the Peer Support Specialists with Healing Transitions, to find programs and options for them.  

We can’t tell you how happy we are to have a nurse here at the center.  We are so glad that Wake County has seen the need for medical outreach, and that we can be a home base for her to do her excellent work out of.  It is truly a match made in heaven and we’ll continue to keep you up to date with all of our new programs and services.  

If you would like to help support Love Wins’ work, please help us with our pharmacy bill at Person St. Pharmacy so that we can get what we need to keep our folks well whenever we need it, or click here to donate.

If you would like to drop Debra a note of thanks and encouragement, email her at dtyson@wakegov.com