Friday, July 6, 2012

Proud to Serve Those with Pride!

Cornerstone Community Outreach is proud to serve all people in need; regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, etc.

As a society we have recognized the need to keep families together even in the most dire of circumstances, including homelessness. This need extends until the family is "unconventional", Cornerstone is proud to serve and keep together ALL families.

We are currently congratulating Robbie and Antoinette on moving into their new apartment! We have been so blessed to have been a part of this wonderful couple's journey. Robbie and Antoinette have been together for over 16 years and have been a inspiration to our other ladies here, speaking many words of wisdom and healing to a younger generation facing adversity. It is an amazing thing to be allowed a glimpse into this couple's story and life. We are so Proud to serve those with Pride!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Every Birthday Needs A Party!

            Our “Den Mother” of sorts, Miss Bobbie, is probably the most revered of all the workers in our program. On first meeting her most clients understand quickly that while she is here to help you she will not put up with your shenanigans and will be the first person to put you back in line should you step out. What they don’t always see right away, is that Miss Bobbie’s particular brand of mothering comes in the form of tough love and quiet compassion. While she may get after you, she will also champion for you when the rest of us are at our wits end.
            The women see her as a daily staple in their routine. Every night at 4 o’clock without fail Miss Bobbie will walk through the doors and plant herself in a chair in the lounge and listen intently to their conversation. She appears as a buoy in their otherwise stormy seas.
            Yesterday she celebrated her … birthday and the ladies decided we had to throw her a surprise party. They planned and pulled of a wonderful celebration of the woman who gives them so much. To give back they sang songs, gave presents, and ate far too much sugar. One client in particular gave a very special gift, which shows the amazing impact Miss Bobbie has on her life, and displays how the women see her.

A Poem for Miss Bobbie

"There once was a light in a tower,
The Light was always bright, no matter the hour.

Come the weather, good or bad,
The light in the tower never ran out of power.

They come from here and they come from there.
Hungry and tired, lost and despaired.

And when they look up the tower is there.
With the light always bright and shining through the night.

With a message of hope and words of advice.
Rest, eat, change your clothes, have a smoke or two;

Remember this is a shelter and not your home."

-Denaice Wright

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Because Even Doctors Aren’t Immune…

           When we have been blessed in our lives and never had to walk in poverty to the extreme that our clients do we often think ourselves better than this kind of a life. We aren’t addicts, our parent didn’t abuse us or give us up, we didn’t have to survive on welfare, and we have fully functioning mental capabilities. We rarely stop to think of the far reaching grip homelessness can have, even on those more fortunate than us.
            In my first few months working with the single women’s program I encountered a woman named Linn, at first glance she seemed like the typical client suffering from mental instabilities and I didn’t give her much more thought than usual. Linn had a particularly odd quirk for someone in her circumstance; she was consumed with cleaning everything. She spent the majority of her day sweeping the stairs and the sidewalk in front of the shelter’s entrance. It wasn’t until some weeks later that I had my first one on one encounter with her; I was sitting in my office filing papers when a very distraught Linn came in. She had been outside sweeping when one of the male clients came out and spit on the sidewalk where she was working. She wanted me to address this problem as soon as possible. Could I please tell the men not to spit on the sidewalk? Naturally I asked her if they couldn’t spit on the sidewalk outside where should I tell them to spit? “I don’t care” she replied “but it is very unsanitary and disrespectful for them to be spitting where they obviously see me working”. We went back and forth for a few minutes with me unable to give her the kind of response she wanted and her unable to see my reasoning that the sidewalk is probably the best option for someone to spit.
            She eventually gave up trying to reason with me and left my office in a huff muttering under her breath about how unreasonable I was being. Naturally I found this exchange to be amusing, as I would expect anyone else would and I laughed it off. A day or two later she was back in my office with the same complaint. I gave her the only answer I could, “Linn if you would like to write up a grievance against the men downstairs that is probably the best I can do.” She begrudgingly agreed and soon had written over a page explaining herself and why she found this to be completely unacceptable behavior.
            As I was adding the grievance to her file I got curious, exactly what kind of mental illness was this woman suffering from?  I began to read through her file notes and intake. Turns out she was a licensed Medical Doctor; she made it through med school and residency only to have a breakdown sometime after completing her medical training. Needless to say I was floored, a doctor? I couldn’t believe it. Sure I had seen people come in who had degrees, some even had Master’s Degrees, but a doctor. In our society doctors are put on a pedestal so high we consider them almost untouchable.
            Linn continued to live with us for over a year; she never seemed to recover from whatever it was that caused her to lose so much of herself. But she seemed content to sweep and clean any surface she could find.  And I was taught a very valuable lesson, no matter your situation, no matter your intelligence, or education, no one is ever one hundred percent removed from the threat of homelessness. I am not saying at any moment we are all a paycheck away from a shelter, but rather when we picture a homeless person in our minds we generally all (myself included) see a very specific image, it probably goes something like this; grew up in and out of the shelter system, lived off welfare, uneducated, raised by a single mother, possibly suffering from mental illness, and more likely than not a substance abuser. The purpose in this story is simple, not every person we see here is the same. But all of them are equally in need. And sometimes the need is simple; sometimes it means asking a group of men not to spit on the sidewalk. Sometimes it means putting aside stereotypes and fully recognizing the face of the homeless. Sometimes it teaches us that no matter our occupation we can all give something back, because no one is ever fully immune, not even doctors. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To the least of these...

Serving the poor...where to begin. When people ask me what I do for a living they always get the same answer..."I work in a homeless women's shelter". To which I always receive the same reply, "wow that must be rewarding, I don't think I could ever do that." I always respond with a chuckle. Not because my job isn't rewarding but because the idea that I possess some special skill that allows me to do this work is laughable. Anyone can serve the poor, you may not do it as hands on as we do. But anyone can serve the poor.
My Coworkers and I have decided we can't allow the experiences that we encounter in this job to go without sharing. Sharing the joy and pain and sometimes the things that leave us completely speechless is important. It helps you see that serving the needy isn't a job for super heros, instead just for those of us who have seen what it means to be surprised by hope, and to walk forward with it.