A Little Needed Boost!

2014: a lot happened, and much more will continue to happen as we move into 2015.....

People experiencing homelessness often just need a little boost that will help them move onto and into their next phase. That boost may seem small and insignificant to most people, but to a person or family caught up in the blues of being homeless, these little boosts are enormous and remarkably significant.

All the numbers and statistics I'm going to mention, is about putting another small piece into a large puzzle. Each piece may not seem important at the time, but in reality, they are all vitally important and serves a purpose. 

Over the past 9 years, I've had the honor of being Cornerstone's Fund Manager. This position entails getting a financial allotment every month from The Emergency Fund to give to those who have an immediate need. This money has been, and continues to be, a wonderful and much needed gift to those who are moving out of homelessness and toward self sufficiency. 

Many of the things I'm going to mention also came out of Cornerstone's own pocket, while other things come from the generous giving and gifting of donors and there are a few things which are free. Knowing how and when to access it all, for the best of the people in need, comes from the wisdom, knowledge and expertise of our case managers and outreach workers. 

Every day, the residents of Cornerstone and people experiencing homelessness within Uptown, have the opportunity to receive their basic necessities, such as a bed, blankets, food, clothing, case-management, showers and hygiene items. This stuff is vital and helps homeless folk survive, but my emphasis here is to go beyond that and to focus on some specific needs; the often "more difficult" stuff people need to truly move from penniless to being financially stable, from unemployment into employment and from homelessness into permanent housing... 

In today's society, people cannot move forward if they don't have Identification.
  • This year we helped 261 people obtain their birth certificates. Most of these were from Chicago for a mere $15 each. We also helped people get theirs from all over the United States for a variety of prices. 
  • If you're homeless, State IDs are free in Chicago with the right documentation. We helped well over 100 people get theirs. We also assisted 12 people get their drivers licenses for $30 a pop.
  • A relatively high percentage of people come through our doors with absolutely no identification. You need one form of ID to get another form of ID, so it's extremely tricky to navigate and there's a specific order people must follow, so we have helped many people obtain their Social Security Cards, Medical Records and High School transcripts to make this happen. This whole process can take weeks (even months) and frequently costs a few bucks.
Seeing someone get a job is always a blessing, but if that person is homeless and without income, there's often huge obstacles to being able to keep employed, help is often needed.
  • This year, financed through The Emergency Fund, I gave out 120 "7 Day" transit cards and 4 monthly passes. "7 Day" cards are worth $28 or $33 each, while a "monthly" pass is $100. Too often, homeless people lose their jobs simply because they can't afford to get to work. We weren't going to let this happen, so we provided that transportation until they got their first paycheck.
  • I am unsure of the exact numbers, but small cash amounts was placed on transit cards hundreds (if not thousands) of times this year. This is financed through CCO, and gives people ample opportunities to get to vital interviews, appointments and other important meet-ups. Making this available, creates countless opportunities for benefits, employment and housing. 
  • I helped 5 people get their rap sheets at $16 each, increasing their possibilities of getting employed.
  • I helped 2 people get their PERC cards. This costs over $50, and is the proof and documentation that they are licensed Security Officers. 
  • When people get employed, apart from transportation, there are often other financial needs as well. On 12 different occasions, I was able to help people get uniforms, steel toe boots, shoes, black pants and other clothing. Without these specific clothing items, these 12 people would have struggled to keep themselves employed.

When someone moves from the plight of being homeless into housing, there's often a little boost that's needed to make this transition actually happen, and this occurs in many ways. Sometimes, it's just a couple hundred bucks, (a little more or even less), that can make a huge difference in someone's life. It can take a person or family who is homeless and help them become stably housed.
  • An enormous obstacle for anyone experiencing homelessness is the fact they often need to pay both their first month's rent and Security Deposit to move into their own crib. This barrier is huge for anyone on limited income. This year we helped 7 people financially with rental assistance.
  • We also assisted 6 people pay their Security Deposit and another with her application fee.
  • Sometimes people move into their new cribs, and with most of their money gone, they can't afford anything to put into it, so in 2014, we assisted 12 people get household items. This often comes through a "gift card", so they can purchase vital things like pots, pans, sheets, fans and so forth.
  • We also helped 3 people purchase new mattresses. Imagine finally moving into your own place, only to have you and your children sleep on the floor; it happens too frequently. We've also given away many mattresses and baby cribs that were donated to us.
  • When it comes to housing, we assist people in countless ways. Ron faithfully drives many people and all their belongings to their new apartment and helps them move in. We help a lot of people find dressers, TVs, microwaves, kitchen supplies, food and many other necessities from the endless flow of donations we receive. Our case managers and outreach workers ensure people don't miss vital appointments, making sure it all happens.
I hope this write-up gives a little insight into some of the numbers and ways we assisted people in 2014. It takes a lot of time, effort, love and prayer from many different people working together to make things happen. In this blogpost I focused more on the financial aspect, but it couples with another write-up I recently did, titled Making Housing Happen!, which focused more on our wholistic approach. 

In 2014, it was a pleasure, an absolute joy, to see and celebrate with so many people throughout this past year. It's been an honor to take people's photos, as they proudly hold up their keys, smiling and proclaiming, "yay; thankyou, we did it!" 

May these stories of hope, celebration, love and success flow freely into and throughout 2015! 
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