To OIC. Got ya! You thought we were already moving to State Pier Road didn't you? In all seriousness, this lovely office of 6 (Alyssa, Jessica, Tony, Michelle, Gabi, and myself) are moving south (by about a quarter of a mile) for the winter. The adventure begins tomorrow, we'll probably even put off our packing until tomorrow morning so that we get the real feeling of the excursion...or because it wouldn't hurt us to be more organized.
In more seriousness...to make our move to State Pier Road possible we NEED you. This weekend, this Saturday, for as many hours as you can contribute. We need gutters cleaned out, old paint scraped away, and new paint on. This needs to happen before winter for us to move in a timely manner, pleasepleaseplease help us! Be our local superheroes, come to the rescue of your neighbors, and if you jump on this opportunity fast there will be an reward. IF I GET 4 PEOPLE TO EMAIL ME DEDICATING SOME TIME TO HELPING US ON SATURDAY BY TOMORROW MORNING, I WILL BRING A BOX OF JOE. I know it doesn't seem like much, but I'm a VISTA, that's like gold to me.
That is a fraction of what you, as volunteers, donors, supporters, neighbors, and friends are worth to the Hospitality Center. A giant pile of gold can barely even begin to tell you how much your dedication means, not only to our organization, but to each life you touch with our guests when you help them make resumes, put out job applications, help them get the medications they need, even when you show them where they can find their towels and sheets and smile at them when they come into the shelter after a long day. We never know how their days have gone, the best we can do is offer them a smile and a fairly unlimited supply of coffee, but with your help we are able to offer a friend to listen when the day has felt like it will never end.
With your help, our guests have inspiration and someone who can honestly tell them that there is hope, and then show them where that hope lies. With your help, our guests have role models of a healthy lifestyle and people helping people, which they tend to mimic in their own lives.
The impact you have on the lives of your homeless neighbors is boundless, and though some days I know you'll question if you're really doing anything and some days you'll think that you aren't helping anyone, but TRUST ME, you are. Sometimes all people need is someone else to be there with them, not even necessarily for them, but with them. Sometimes people just need to know or at least temporarily feel like they aren't alone, and you provide that feeling.
Have I flattered you enough yet? I hope your Wednesday is a little brighter now and that you can take that and share it with someone else. Flatter someone today because everyone deserves to be recognized and thanked for the incredible things they do!
Hello to my following base of...15? And to all of you who tell me you read the blog, but aren't subscribed (you should subscribe, because that's how you get updates, I don't send them). This should be short and sweet today because I don't have any deep thought provoking messages to convey.
This coming Sunday at 2pm at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation (the Huntington Street building), a benefit concert titled Virtuoso Music for Viola daGamba and Harpsichord is being held by John and Barbara Metz. Last year they performed a benefit concert as well, and though I wasn't here at the time, I have heard wonderful reviews! I also can safely assume that it is going to be beautiful because of the email responses I have received after sending our the flier stating "we will be there! can't wait!" and "count on me for at least 2 tickets!". Donations are requested; $15 for adults, $5 for students. To see them on Youtube follow this link: (click me! click me!). To view the full flier and to learn more about John and Barbara Metz before you come to the concert, follow this link: (now click me! I have great info!).
Before the concert, I'm hoping I can get some of you lovely people to help with a MAINTENANCE DAY!! With No Freeze on our hands and about 65 people in the shelter each night, we are in need of some serious cleaning; sanitizing, mopping, dusting, leaving the windows open to air it out for a couple hours...the typical maintenance.
We also need about 8 able bodied (and not afraid of heights!) volunteers to help us out at our new site on State Pier Rd. Before winter comes our way, we need to clean out the gutters of the new building and scrape the old paint off from around the window frames...both tasks involve using ladders. WE NEED YOUR HELP! Seriously, we do.
I now have a laptop with a dying battery, but I posted what needed to be said. So enjoy your Tuesday and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help or are just really excited about the concert.
I just wrote this whole post then my internet shut down and it deleted it, Happy Monday! First task for you is to read the article above. Ok, done? Good. In case you didn't really read it, it essentially addresses the human rights violations that would occur if homelessness were made criminal. The top 4 they bring forth are:
Control of behavior of people in public spaces. For example, the criminalization of panhandling, eating, and sleeping.
Discriminatory urban planning and zoning regulations. For example, there is an increasing trend of moving homeless and poor people to the outskirts of cities.
Excessive and arbitrary restrictions on qualifying for public benefits. The U.S. has implemented a severe public benefits screening process, with the stated goal of avoiding fraud.
The use of detention in punishing homeless and poor people. The criminal justice system has a disproportionate effect on certain communities.
The one that stands out to me the most is point #2, driving homeless people to the outskirts of cities. New London is actually a perfect example of why this is unrealistic and does not solve any problems for society. All of the services one could need are generally in the same vicinity here. Shaw's Cove has Adult Education, CT Works for workshops on employment and resumes, Community Health Care has a walk-in clinic, Oral Care Dental Group is a short trip up on Montauk Ave and they accept ANY form of insurance (they also offered our guests vouchers for free check ups), the VA has an outpatient clinic at Shaw's Cove as well, and just up on Jay Street you will find 3 shelters. One serves women, one serves families and single adults, and one serves solely single adults. One that is struggling can easily find 3 meals each day and then some in New London. How is all this relevant, you ask? Everything our guests need is within walking distance and their needs are recognized and addressed by many community partners. This is possible because we are in a city, if our shelter was in Uncasville we would be so far from practical services that our guests would likely not even bother going to a clinic when they get sick or injured.
We do have a city bus service, but we have a limited amount of vouchers to hand out to our guests as it is and we reserve them mostly for employment. Let's consider employment now. Most of our guests who have jobs are able to walk to their jobs, even if that means leaving an hour before the shift. Again, if we were in Uncasville or Niantic, less jobs would be available at entry level (which are the most abundant as we have found), therefore obtaining employment in New London would be the most logical option, but there would be no way of getting there. The bus you say, yes the bus. However, if we have 10 guests that are employed right now, say 8 are in New London/Groton and 2 are in Norwich or at Mohegan Sun. It isn't really an issue to make sure those 2 people outside the New London/Groton area have bus tickets, since it is so few, but if we were in a location 10-15 miles away and those same 8 people worked in New London we would have an extremely difficult time funding transportation for all of them. So being in a city allows employment for more of our guests, and more consistent employment at that. The more they are able to work, the more money they can put into their Housing Savings Account (we require 30% from those with income), and the easier it will be for them to find housing...and the closer we are as a society to eliminating homelessness.
Let's also look at our country's spending; would it cost less to incarcerate everyone without a home or to support our local services and shelters so that the issue of homelessness can eventually come to an end? How long do you incarcerate someone for something that they can't control? Once they've served the time, they will still be homeless unless the criminal justice system would like to release everyone into subsidized housing and extended unemployment funds. In which case, why bother using any funding to incarcerate them in the first place? If we take steps to END homelessness, none of this is even a question. According to National Public Radio and a source I have at the East Hartford Police Department (hey, Dad!), incarceration for a single person is an average of $75,000 per year. First of all, that is OUTRAGEOUS, but that includes corrections and programs that must be completed before release (the only useful programs they could provide as a result of being homeless would be the services offered at CT Works, however those already exist). A single person living in New London can find a decent 1 bedroom apartment for about $750 a month, and a studio for around $600 a month, this is no more than $9000 per year. I'll even go the next step and include cost of living; assume a single adult can feed themselves for $200 per month, utilities cost about $100, if they really want cable and internet service they're looking at another $150 a month. This still comes to around $14,400significantly lower costs.
Jackie, do you realize that your whole post argued on the SAME point as the article? Yes. I do realize that, but since most of you reading this are residents of New London County or at least Connecticut, I wanted to paint a very realistic picture for you detailing the actual services that are offered in the community. You know how many people could be housed at the same cost of incarcerating ONE person? That would be 8 people. I know some of you get bored and aggravated by numbers, so I'll stop there instead of telling you that as an alternative to incarcerating 60 people, we could house 500.
Think on that, and remember how important it is to exercise your passions. You can start by emailing me and coming in to volunteer with us because we need you. I'm not even going to sugar coat it and make it seem like we're doing you a favor by offering you volunteer opportunities, we need you, come help us.
Let me start today by telling you all exactly what you've been waiting to hear: Lady Gaga is selling her indoor electric turkey fryer for charity and the bid is only at $200 right now. WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?! GO BUY THAT TURKEY FRYER!
Although buying the fryer would bring immense happiness to you Gaga fanatics, let's be honest...there's no real joy in it. As J.D. Salinger said; "The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid." Usually, things that bring us happiness are things we can define; a relationship, an object, money (hence why 'retail therapy' never really fixes anything). Joy is undefinable and because of that, it can really go unrecognized. Joy is much deeper than happiness and something that is in much closer relation to living in fulfillment. Joy is the emotion you feel in connection to yourself and the contentment of those that you value the most.
An example of joy that was once given to me is ordering a pizza. Joy is ordering the pizza that you want when you are not considering the preferences of anyone else. If you LOVE thin crust pizza with mushrooms, black olives, spinach, eggplant, broccoli, and tofu with a pesto base and light cheese, you go for it regardless of what you "should" like (and you also call me, because I think we should be joyful together). The point of this is that joy is what makes you love YOURSELF, not what you think will make others love you. When you wake up in the morning and you know that what you do puts value in your day and your time, you are feeling joy. It lasts and stays with you, for example as volunteers; helping people is what fulfills your heart and makes you value yourself, and that is joy.
Happiness is not permanent, it is fantastic, but happiness is a passing breeze. Finding a $5 bill in the parking lot of the cafe may bring you happiness, and the good cup of coffee you get afterwards produces the same feelings. However, happiness is not something one can really strive for because most of the time the things that bring us happiness happen by chance. Little things that we do for others can bring them happiness, but it is still a momentary feeling.
Joy is something we can strive for, and we can do it by chasing our passions. Sometimes finding what you're passionate about takes some soul searching, but guess what...that soul searching will bring you joy too. When you love and value yourself, you find things that fulfill your heart, and when you do them you are creating joy in your life. Sometimes we can have joy without happiness, and those are the days where we feel like crying and people remind us that we still have people that love us, but as long as we are striving for JOY instead of HAPPINESS, the two will mix together and you will be pouring beauty over the world. Joy is something you can make happen, and happiness tends to be something supplemental that happens by luck and chance.
Some things make me happy, like watching The Office or drinking Bean & Leaf coffee, but each only lasts about 30 minutes at a time. The things that bring me joy are what make me who I am; I find joy in helping someone apply for a job or making sure they can get to their doctor's appointment, I find joy in advocacy for homeless veterans and following Presidential campaigns, I find joy in writing and running. I see joy in other people's lives in the form of keeping our country and community safe, advocating for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, protecting our planet, holding a child's hand as he goes in for an x-ray, designing marketing plans for companies with positive moving missions, helping high school seniors write and edit their college essays, etc. etc.
Where is your joy?What fulfills you?And what kind of pizza would you order if you knew you didn't have to share with anyone?
And are you going to buy Lady Gaga's turkey fryer?
If I did not blog on 11-11-11 I would be un-American. More importantly, if I did not blog on Veteran's Day, I would also be un-American. First, I want to start today with a sincere, deserved, and heartfelt'thank you' to our country's veterans, however and whenever you have served, you have united and liberated each individual with your dedication and commitment. We are honored to have had so many veterans and currently serving military personnel volunteer and work at the Hospitality Center. We are also honored to be able to serve our veterans directly at the VA House on Mountain Ave, and to work with them everyday in an effort to secure employment, government assistance, housing, and relationships within our community.
I'm not a big fan of statistics, but this one is shocking and heartbreaking: there are 23 million homeless veterans in the United States of America. One sixth of adults currently in homeless shelters are veterans, and vets are 50% more likely to become homeless compared with other Americans. (The San Mateo Daily Journal, 11/11/11.)
So what is being done to ensure that our veterans are being recognized and heard? We can speak for the efforts of Connecticut with the Errera Community Care Center. Since shelter is one of the 3 basic human needs (food/clothing/shelter), the Errera Center has placed a major focus on subsidized and non-subsidized housing within communities specifically for veterans. Through the Veterans Housing Assistance Fund, veterans are able to receive grants or loans to support their step into housing. Since finding assistance for housing through the VA alone can often times be unsuccessful, as the VA is able to provide limited transitional and permanent housing options, the VHAF helps with the growing need for permanent housing for veterans as well as medical counseling and other social services. The VHAF is continuously building more units to make available to our veterans, for example in Jewett City, the American Legion Post No. 15 is planning to build 18 units of permanent supportive housing with the support and efforts within their community. (www.erreraccc.com).
Looking for some ways to thank a veteran today? I personally love the list posted by The Daily Herald in Illinois:
1. Stand up at 11 a.m., put your hand over your heart and face the East for one minute. Honoring the Armistice signing in France (at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918) in this manner has largely gone out of vogue in the U.S. although Armistice Day remembrances in Europe are coming back into practice. The last surviving U.S. World War I veteran died in February — you can give that whole class of Americans one final salute in a way they would have appreciated.
2. Send a card or note to a hospitalized veteran or one living in a veterans home. Better yet, if it’s possible, take time to visit one. To find a location, visit www.va.gov. Or send a letter for the holidays through the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes' 5th annual Holiday Mail for Heroes program.
3. Attend a Veterans Day ceremony in your community
4. If you own a company, or make employment decisions, consider hiring a veteran. While the national unemployment rate sat at about 9 percent in September, the rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars rose to 12.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5. Leave a message online thanking veterans for their sacrifice. Messages can be left at the Facebook pages for the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force.
6. Research and donate time or money to a local charity that helps homeless veterans. About 13,000 former service members between 18 and 30 were homeless in 2010, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs. Their study showed an estimated 145,000 veterans spent at least one night in a homeless shelter or transitional housing in 2010.
11. Make sure your children understand the significance of Veterans Day and the sacrifice of those who have served. And at the very least, be sure to say “thank you” to a veteran today, be it a friend, family member, co-worker or just someone you see in the community.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Soldier's Angels network. It's a great way to get involved at any age, even if you only have 30 minutes a week to give. Essentially, you"adopt" a soldier and act as their angel. Send them letters, care packages, poems,cartoons, pictures, anything you can think of to let them know that someone back home is thinking of them. Get a group involved by helping to make holiday care packages, have a classroom of students write letters, Boy Scout troops can do a sock drive to contribute to the holiday care packages, Halloween candy is on sale right now which makes it the perfect time to stock up on treats for troops, and check out their project site to find something that fits your talents and their needs: http://soldiersangels.org/teams-programs.html.
We cannot thank our veterans and currently serving military personnel enough, your sacrifices have enabled and continue to enable our freedom. Thank you for all you do, we hope we can provide for you the best of our services as you need them.
You've probably already seen the picture on Facebook of our Conn College group volunteering this past weekend, but I'm going to post it on here anyway because I think they're awesome. We're really getting into cleaning up at the new site, St. Peter and Paul National Polish Catholic Church on State Pier Rd in New London, and luckily we have really amazing volunteers who make it fun for everyone. MAJOR, like EPICthank you to Ted Olynciw, who has been working closely with volunteer groups over there and providing all the supplies we need to get the new site into tip top shape.
Tomorrow, Michelle, Gabi and I are going to the 9th Annual Connecticut Nonprofit Conference in Cromwell. It looks like it's going to be really great, some of the workshops that are being offered that look good to me are: "Leadership in the New Era","The High Performance Nonprofit","Nonprofits and Government: Strengthening an Essential Partnership", and "Conveying the Core Meaning of Your Brand". I'm not sure which workshops I signed up for, mainly because Michelle signed us all up and registered us because she's fabulous and tends to prioritize much better than I do. I'm really excited for this, partly because I love conferences and dressing business casual, and partly because it's nice to spend a day out of the office once in a while. Granted I did take yesterday off...and that was out of the office...whatever. There's usually a social/networking 'cocktail hour' after these conferences, this one is calling it a "Tweet Up". I think that's so cute (excuse my excessive girliness), and I'm eager to see how many of these organizations do use Twitter. I'm going to follow ALL of them.
Does anyone else think it's a little weird that we call it "following" on Twitter and blogs? I think we used to use the word 'subscribe' but somewhere along the way, stalking became fashionable, and now we follow. Just kidding, but seriously, it's kind of weird.
Another quick off topic comment, ladies, or guys too, I don't judge...if you're craving a manicure but not craving dropping $15-$20 on something that's going to wear off next time you wash dishes, I recommend the Paul Mitchell School in Cranston, RI. It's a cosmetology school and students practice providing service, including $5 manicures. I suggest you bring your own polish though. There's also a Whole Foods out there and who doesn't love Whole Foods?
Kind of a shorter post today, sorry, it's been really busy around here so I'm sure there's a ton to say, my mind is just already focusing on the next task. Whatever that is. If I have time later today and I can think back enough, I will post again. For now, enjoy your foggy day, and drink too much coffee.
The main reason I thought to write today is because I was at my cousins birthday party this past weekend and a family member (who happens to follow this blog) said "You're really slacking on your blogging." Way to call me out on the failures of my career, but it made me realize I MISS BLOGGING! A lot is happening here and National Novel Writing Month began today, so the time consuming, yet mind-enriching, horizon broadening, process of writing everything and anything has officially started.
The Fall 2011 newsletter is almost completed! I've been rearranging articles and letters, adding photos, taking more photos since I'm afraid you've seen most of them on the blog, and searching to no avail to find quotes to fill in the margins of the newsletter that highlight and emphasize how amazing our volunteers are. As much as I claimed that this newsletter would be the death of me, I have fallen slightly in love with it and am already plotting for the next one.
HEY volunteers, I also have new orientation packets for you with all updated statistics surrounding homelessness, descriptions of our volunteer positions, phone lists and directions on how to use the new phone system, FAQs, and a list of items that are always needed for donation. I've had a lot of people asking for chap stick and lotion lately, it's getting to be that time of year (the cold time, I mean...when your skin starts cracking and nothing can salvage it once it's started). So if any of you that are reading this just so happen to have a stash of chap stick hanging out in your garage wondering "What should I do? I don't have this many lips!" I have a great idea of where you can donate it.
We've instituted a new volunteer position beginning immediately. We're calling it Staff Support and it will be at the overnight shelter from 6pm-9pm. We need this position filled every single night as a regular commitment, especially for No Freeze. Essentially what the Staff Support volunteer does is assist with the checking in of guests and assigning beds, answering phones, and answering questions guests have about showers and chores. You'll be trained, don't worry, we would never just throw you in the dark without a flashlight. For training, we would have to start coming in at 6 on your assigned day and kind of shadowing staff as they explain and show you the processes that you'll need to know. It's very simple and a lot of fun, plus you'll make great relationships and find yourself involved in some of the best conversations of your life. Guaranteed.
My cat fostering is going well. By "well" I mean that she is the sweetest darn cat I've ever seen, almost annoyingly sweet. Prepare to witness my inner (or actually completely obvious at all times) nerd. I found some sparkly little catnip mice for her that she's loving and we eat dinner together at night, and she really liked the movie "How to Steal A Million" with Audrey Hepburn. Totally kidding, she slept through the whole thing...in the bathtub.
We're having an awesome influx of volunteer groups who are looking for projects. I say "awesome" because our new location needs a TON of work and with 70 people in the shelter, the facilities we currently use need constant upkeep and deep cleaning. This weekend we'll have a Connecticut College group and then in about 2 weeks we have another Connecticut College group working on the same project. The Coast Guard has spoken of sending some volunteers as well, in fact I'm going to email them as soon as I'm done writing this and set up a date.
If you're looking for a way to help out the Hospitality Center, but do not have the ability to make time commitments, may I suggest something such as a sock drive? Even a neighborhood sock drive! Make some hot apple cider, pumpkin pie, hot chocolate with peppermint, apple crisp, and a hot soup and invite all your neighbors over, the only requirement is that they must bring a package of new clean socks to donate to our homeless neighbors in the colder season. It's a bondingexperience and a service project all in one! Or do a reverse yard sale! Post fliers around your town advertising the different "yard sale" sites and designateteam leaders from different ends of town to host at their house. The host can get a few boxes of joe or make their own coffee and socialize with your neighbors while warming your hearts with the spirit of giving!
I'm thinking now that maybe this is going to become a county wide service project and we can ask schools to act as our host sites the day of instead of individuals within the community. WHO'S EXCITED? I just got so excited. If this interests you, PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE email me or comment on this post. Especially the other area VISTAs, do you guys have a plan for the MLK Day of Service or do you want to coordinate on this? Actually I'll email you this week about this too because I think we could get a lot of the studentsCampus Compact VISTAs).
Now that I'm thoroughly STOKED about
1. National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo)
2. MLK Day of Service
3. The amazing Conn College groups helping at State Pier Rd
4. Hot apple cider
5. This day (and everyday)
6. Your existence.