Friday, August 23, 2013

These three credits need no textbook

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Freddie works with a classmate, Carlita, who happens
to be an employee at our Mulumba House,
where Freddie resides!
Last August we introduced you to Freddie Morman, a resident at our Mulumba House, a supportive housing program for men overcoming homelessness and substance abuse issues.

Freddie heads back to school on Monday at The Catholic University of America. It's an important semester.

"I just got all of my textbooks," he said. "I'm taking biology, psychology, Old Testament studies, and an introduction to human services."

There are also a few credits for which Freddie needs no textbook - an internship at Catholic Charities' Transitional Rehabilitation Program (TRP) at 801 East.

"That's the program that saved me," he said. After struggling with drug problems for years, he broke his addiction in the TRP. The addictions counselors were an immense support system and inspiration to him, and he pledged to pay it forward by becoming an addictions counselor himself. 

"At my internship this semester I'll be taking on many of the core functions of a counselor, working under my supervisor, Mr. Kurt Thomas," Freddie said. These duties include conducting orientation for new clients, helping develop their treatment plans, and providing one-on-one counseling. 

"I went through this program, and there is no place I'd rather complete my internship hours. I feel like I owe them that much," Freddie said.

Father John congratulates one of the happy grads
of our ESOL program.
Back-to-school season is in full swing at Catholic Charities. As Freddie begins a new semester at CUA, other clients will begin our job training programs and language classes. Kids and teens with developmental disabilities will hear the familiar school bell in the halls of our Kennedy School. We'll help adults recovering from crisis get help back on their feet through workshops on resume writing, budget building, and parenting skills. Kids from food insecure homes will not fall behind in class with help from our food programs and pantries. We're in back-to-school mode every day, ensuring our neighbors get the resources they need to become truly self-sufficient. 

Please make a Back-to-School Gift to help us do more. You can also leave an encouraging note for Freddie in the comment box below wishing him the best as he takes the next step on his journey. 

Want a "refresher course" on Freddie's journey at Catholic Charities? Here's a look back at our post from August of last year!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Blessing on Wheels Hits the Road to End Homelessness

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Meet our brand-new van!

Ferework tries out the driver's seat!
This beautiful 2013 Dodge Van Caravan is a gift to Catholic Charities' Single Adult Transitional Shelter Services (SATSS) program from Poor Robert's Charities, which provides local nonprofits with grants to receive new vehicles to use in their ministries. 

For our SATSS programs, the new van is a necessity. The programs include our Dorothy Day Place for single adult women who are homeless; our Bethesda House for men who suffer from chronic mental illness; and our Chase Partnership House for men who are homeless and working to overcome substance abuse issues. 

Together the SATSS programs have a capacity for 71 clients, with the goal of giving each man and woman a stable, supportive place to live to help them address their barriers and ultimately become self-sufficient with a job, steady income, and permanent housing. 

The van will allow staff to transport clients' to medical appointments, job training classes and interviews, and other supportive services. In addition to taking over this role from its predecessor, the new van, with a capacity for six passengers plus a driver and ample trunk space, will make it much more efficient to move supplies between programs, accept donated items, and move residents on those happy days when clients successfully exit our transitional programs into more permanent housing.

Ferework Fuje, our Director of Maryland Housing Programs, and Zemichael Zelalem, Senior Program Manager for SATSS, accepted the new van today at Ourisman Chevrolet. More space, more seating, more opportunities for us to help our clients get back on their feet and overcome homelessness - a beautiful gift! Thank you, Poor Robert's Charities, for this wonderful blessing on wheels. Special thanks also to our friends Kate and Vince Burke and all others who support Poor Robert's Charities! 

Ferework and Zemichael were thrilled to accept the van. "This is a necessity for our clients," Ferework said.
We love the logo on the trunk!
Our housing staff love the huge trunk - great for transporting supplies, collecting donations, and help clients move out of transitional housing into more permanent places to live.
Thank you, Poor Robert's Charities and Vince & Kate Burke!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Every Last Payday Loan, Gone

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Patricia smiles with her youngest son, who attends
summer camp at Holy Family while she works a full day.
When Patricia took out her first high-interest payday loan, she knew it was a bad idea – but she had no other choice.

A single parent, Patricia is the sole breadwinner for her two school-aged sons and her mother, who lives with the family. Her income just couldn’t stretch to cover everything, and Patricia began to fall behind with her mortgage and bills.

The situation reached its crisis when their utilities were about to be shut off. Patricia took out a payday loan, hoping that a small sum would be enough to prevent cut-off and float the family through this rough patch. However the outrageous interest and fees landed Patricia atop a slippery slope – she needed to take out two additional loans just to keep up her payments on the original. She also began to get phone calls from scammers and bill collectors. The pressure was overwhelming.

“There are so many people who want to profit from the misfortune of others,” she said. “I was at the end of my rope. I had lost faith in the goodness of mankind.”

In this state of desperation, Patricia turned to the one constant source of hope and light in her life: her parish, Holy Family in Temple Hills, MD. The pastor at the time, Fr. Damian Shadwell, heard her story and knew where he could get Patricia help: Catholic Charities Parish Partners, a program that works alongside parish staff to assist parishioners in need.

“Parishes in our archdiocese are committed to helping their parishioners. We’re here to make sure they have the resources to do that,” said Laura Yeomans, Parish Partner Coordinator for Prince George’s County.

When her problems overwhelmed her,
Patricia counted on help from her parish community.
Laura worked quickly with staff at Holy Family and also at St. Mary of the Assumption to get Patricia connected to critical community resources. The family was in dire straits, so Laura gave Patricia gift cards for the supermarket, a prepaid Metro SmarTrip card, and a gas card to get to her job.

Next, Laura and staff at St. Mary of the Assumption tackled the issue of the payday loans, enlisting Laura's husband, a lawyer, to help Patricia dodge additional fees and interest charges the loan company had imposed. Patricia contributed what she could to the final amount, and Parish Partners used their emergency funds to pay off the rest. This freed up $400 each month in Patricia's budget that she had been using to pay payday loan interest. 

Finally, the horrible cycle of payday loans had been broken. “I was just relieved. I couldn’t believe she fixed that whole situation for me,” Patricia said.

To ensure Patricia never needed to turn to payday loans again, Laura coordinated efforts at both parishes, finding Patricia additional resources to avoid foreclosure, and a mentor to support her when her burdens felt too heavy. “The key was the dedication of staff at both parishes working to help this family,” said Laura.

More than anything, Patricia wants to make sure no one makes the same mistakes she made in turning to payday loans for help. “There are other, better resources out there to help people,” she said. “I’m so glad I found someone to help before it was too late.

“I never thought anybody on this Earth would care about me, not after all the mistakes I made. But Laura did care, and she did help. I’m still working through a lot of things, but I know I’m on a better path now. And I know I’m not alone.” 

Do you need financial assistance, or do you know a family who is struggling? We have community resource guides available for the entire Archdiocese of Washington - view them here.

If you wish to support Parish Partners' work with families like Patricia's, you can make an online gift here

Friday, August 2, 2013

Two Day Pop-Up Clinic off to a strong start with hundreds receiving care

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At 7:30 am this morning, Jose was walking out of the gym of St. Vincent after having a root canal completed. Emily, who was relieved to have no cavities, was waiting on her mother, who was having her wisdom teeth removed. They were some of the first patients to be treated as part of a two day ‘pop-up’ dental clinic providing free care to as many adults as possible who did not have insurance or the means to pay for regular dental care. 

Welcome to the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy, an event co-sponsored and organized by Catholic Charities and the Maryland Office on Oral Health, and made possible thanks to hundreds of volunteer dentists and hygienists. Patients started lining up the Thursday night, bringing with them plenty of reading material and sleeping bags. 

By the time the doors opened at 6 am, the line stretched more than 200 people deep. And that’s only the line for people who hadn’t pre-registered. 

The Mission of Mercy is a service model created in Virginia by a dental society who saw an alarming need for adult care. It has proven to be incredibly popular as a way for local dentists to triage cases of dental need for adults, for whom there are few resources available.

Patients are able to get standard dental cleanings, cavity fillings, tooth removal and even endontics (root canals). A few numbers to give you a sense of how big this event is:
  • 50 Dental Chairs in one gymnasium
  • 400 volunteers (including dentists, hygienists and support volunteers)
  • A goal of serving 700 to 800 patients over two days
  • Total dental care provided estimated to be around $750,000
Local media coverage!