Everything I Do, I Do For My Kids

August 17th, 2018

Mechelle Pierce & KW

KW left Florida eight years ago, fleeing an abusive relationship. They walked away with nothing but what would fit in their car. She and her two children (then age 7 and 10) moved to Troy, IL, where they knew people.  KW also left a job as a CNA in a nursing home. Dedicated to stabilizing her family, she quickly found a day shift job in Troy. They were rebuilding their lives. After six years, their apartment was now their home. The boys liked their school, and KW even began advancing her credentials by starting a Certified Med Tech program, so that she could better provide for her children. A year later, everything changed. The nursing home reduced staff, and KW lost her job. With limited nursing homes in Troy, she needed to look for a job farther away. “I was passionate about finding a job,” said KW. “I worked on it constantly, because I had two kids who depended on me. I didn’t want us to be homeless.”

Unfortunately, her hard work was overwhelmed by life. During her search, her car broke down. Without much public transportation, finding a new job became even more difficult. She had been living on her savings. When the money ran out, she was evicted in November 2017. “I arranged for my boys to stay in Troy to finish school,” she explained. “Then I started thinking of where I could stay.” She had heard of DOORWAYS and called to ask about Emergency Housing. “That same day I got into a motel in Troy. I was so relieved and grateful.” But KW knew this was only temporary housing assistance. She needed to find a job, so she again turned to DOORWAYS’ Employment Specialist, Mechelle Pierce. “I was very impressed with KW’s commitment, qualifications, and work experience,” noted Pierce. “I knew she was qualified, but her location had very few opportunities.” Pierce discussed moving KW out of Troy and into St. Louis where more CNA jobs were available. Focused only on putting her life back together for her children, she agreed.  DOORWAYS moved her to emergency housing in Bridgeton in January 2018. Within a few weeks, she had a job. “Mechelle brought me applications and helped me get to places to apply. By the end of January, I was offered a job, which I started February 1.”

KW’s housing allocation ended late February. She then moved into a shelter for five months while she saved enough money for an apartment for her family. “Besides the money, I had a difficult time finding a place to live because I have an eviction. When I lost my job in Troy and used all my savings, I was evicted. Most people won’t rent to you if you have an eviction,” she explained.  DOORWAYS was able to help by connecting KW to a landlord who agreed to rent to her. “All I can say is that DOORWAYS helps people have second chances,” smiled KW.

She moved into her new apartment early July. Her oldest son graduated from high school, and both boys will be back with her soon. They secured three mattresses, so each has a place of their own to sleep. She is still gathering furnishings to make it a home for her family. “We have a sofa, but no dressers yet. I’m looking for shelving and cabinets for the kitchen to have a place to store things and prepare meals for my boys.” Even though her house is minimally equipped, KW is grateful beyond words. “It’s wonderful having a place where I can have my kids, and that we can call home again. Everything I do is to give my boys a better life. It’s a blessing to have this chance to be back together.”

Through support from generous donors, DOORWAYS now celebrates 30 years of service to people in the City of St. Louis and 117 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Last year we provided a new beginning to 3,100 individuals. For more information, contact Karen Carpentier at 314-328-2704 or kcarpentier@doorwayshousing.org.

 

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Camp Kaya 2018

August 15th, 2018

Through a generous grant from the Norman J. Stupp Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee, the DOORWAYS Residential Program was able to offer a five-week summer camp for the children living at the Family Residential Complex. Fifteen children aged 5 to 14 attended the camp, which started on Monday, July 9, and just concluded on Thursday, August 2, running Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In addition to a variety of arts and crafts—such as making your own tie-dyed shirts and painting—Camp Kaya also welcomed special guests. Representatives of the University of Missouri Extension/Missouri Botanical Garden taught a class about gardening, seeds, and fruits. Campers planted vegetable seeds and monitored their growth over a two-week period, hopefully gaining an interest in gardening as a fun activity that can create family time as well as fresh produce for the household.

Mad Science of St. Louis, along with their Imagine Arts Academy, collaborated to offer eight exciting hands-on activities to engage imagination and creativity. With their theme of “putting the fun in science,” Mad Science of St. Louis combines education with science-related entertainment to captivate campers while also encouraging exploration and a desire to learn more. Camp Kaya participants learned about the science of magic and illusions, with the chance to perform a Houdini-style escape; tackled the curious cube; and uncovered the source of sounds through sonic waves. Activities included creating vibrations and using sound effects. School supplies and a new bike where incentive to affecting camper attendance. At the closing ceremony, all campers received a backpack full of schools supplies to start the 2018 school year.

Summer opportunities such as Camp Kaya also foster teamwork, encourage personal growth, and enhance self-confidence. For children in low-income, low-service areas without nearby resources, summer camps provide a safe place for fun, socialization, and learning. They also address hunger issues. Camp Kaya included meals and snacks, which helps assure the children have adequate nutrition during the summer—often a time of hunger when school is out. “Summer meals programs across the nation directly address this need,” noted Opal M. Jones, president and CEO of DOORWAYS. “But statistics show that out of the 22 million children receiving school lunch assistance, only 4 million are getting a summer meal due to challenges related to distance, limited transportation, and unsafe neighborhoods, for example. Thanks to the Normal J. Stupp Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee, DOORWAYS was able to provide a fun, interactive learning opportunity for the children, and assure they had enough to eat over the summer.”

Through support from generous donors, DOORWAYS now celebrates 30 years of service to people in the City of St. Louis and 117 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Last year we provided a new beginning to 3,100 individuals. For more information, contact Karen Carpentier at 314-328-2704 or kcarpentier@doorwayshousing.org.

 

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A New Beginning

July 20th, 2018

Her only focus was to survive for her children. In 1999 when KC was diagnosed with HIV, she was a single mother of four who had just escaped an abusive relationship. She was young and afraid, but driven to create a good life for her four children. Her first goal was to find a place to live. When her case manager told her about DOORWAYS housing opportunities, KC quickly applied and was approved. “When I got the news, I was so elated, because I felt like this was a new beginning for me and my children,” she recalled. She quickly moved herself and her young children into the apartment.

KC learned that a DOORWAYS apartment not only provides a safe place for those with HIV who are homeless, or at-risk of homelessness, to stabilize their lives, but it also provides access to essential resources. All clients receive an intensive intake assessment to identify critical needs. Those needs are addressed through individual case management with extensive referrals to whatever resources are needed: healthcare, food security, counseling, employment assistance, transportation, schools/day-cares, etc. As KC explained, DOORWAYS also offers self-development workshops:   “DOORWAYS has provided a world of opportunities to me and my family such as providing HIV education, financial literacy classes, nutrition classes, support groups, and even tutors for the children.”

During the early years, she was battling depression and anxiety as her life was filled with such uncertainty. By working with the DOORWAYS staff and utilizing the many resources offered to her, KC was able to regain her stability and begin building a bright future for herself and her children. Her primary focus was to assure her children would receive a good education, so that they would have access to good paying jobs and a life of self-sufficiency. She set an outstanding example by completing an associate’s degree in arts from St. Louis Community College with a focus in human services.  Following her footsteps, her four children have committed themselves to their schooling as well. They graduated from high school, and set their sights on college. KC proudly noted that her daughters just graduated from St. Louis Community College. One is working as a dental assistant while the other is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management. Her oldest son graduates from the University of Missouri next year, while her younger son is currently attending St. Louis Community College—with the hope to open his own photography business.

KC and her family are one household living in the 103 apartment units throughout DOORWAYS’ seven permanent housing complexes. In addition to the seven residential complexes for clients who are able to live on their own, DOORWAYS also provides housing to homeless individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS through a 36-bed care facility for the more seriously ill, an emergency housing program, and an intensive Jumpstart program for homeless single parents with children. Efforts to prevent homelessness are achieved through a subsidies program to assist with rents and utilities.

“Housing is healthcare,” explained Opal M. Jones, president and CEO of DOORWAYS. “HIV/AIDS is treatable. It is no longer a death sentence, unless you are homeless without access to health care, medications, and the stability of a place to call home where you can regain your strength and find your hope for a brighter future.” That’s just what DOORWAYS gave to KC and her family. Housing and a support network provided a firm foundation from which KC could launch her efforts to nurture her family and herself, building a thriving family through hard work, dedication, and hope. “DOORWAYS has been a blessing to me and my family,” explained KC. “My family has received so much help, love, and support from the staff. I know without DOORWAYS’ support and God’s grace, I could not have made it this far.”

Through support from generous donors, DOORWAYS now celebrates 30 years of service to people in the City of St. Louis and 117 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Last year we provided a new beginning to 3,100 individuals.  For more information, contact Karen Carpentier at 314-328-2704 or kcarpentier@doorwayshousing.org.

 

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Congratulations JB!

June 15th, 2018

This year marked a great achievement for DOORWAYS resident “JB”. Since 1998, his life has been unpredictable. At times, he experienced homelessness, with nothing but the clothes on his back. He explained his focus was on “the daily heroin grind.” In June 2010 during PrideFest, ‘JB’ was offered a free HIV test. He had been tested in the past, and the results were always negative. This time was different. His test was positive. After a period of denial, he knew he needed to get onto a new path. ‘JB’ reached out for help in the summer of 2010 and, from that moment, has been moving forward, achieving great things on his journey to stability. August 18 marks eight years free of heroin. ‘JB’ noted this was possible due to the services offered by DOORWAYS. “Having my own place where I could be away from those people, places, and things that were part of my addiction led me to finally get clean!”

“We are incredibly proud of ‘JB’,” noted Opal M. Jones, President and CEO of DOORWAYS. “Many people feel trapped in their lives, but all it takes is one step to get on a new path. DOORWAYS is here to stand with them, support them, and guide them towards their best possible future.”

With a new sense of confidence and hope, ‘JB’ set his sights on an education. “In 2015, I started going to college through St. Louis Community College and the Pell Grant. I went just on Tuesday nights at first, and now here I am in the 2018 graduating class with a General Liberal Arts Degree. It means a lot to me, because I never finished high school.”

For 30 years, DOORWAYS has been providing housing to homeless individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS as a first step toward stabilizing their lives. Our intensive case management approach provides referrals and encouragement to take charge of a medical treatment plan coupled with improved healthy lifestyle choices to regain weight, strength, and hope. Supportive services also address other issues that can lead to homelessness, such as substance use, mental health, poverty, lack of education, unemployment, and domestic violence.

For more information about how you may support DOORWAYS in its mission to provide housing, health, and hope, please contact Jim Timmerberg, Director of Development, at jtimmerberg@doorwayshousing.org or 314-328-2705.

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Click here for more information on the Residential Program.

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Cooking Demonstration

April 18th, 2018

DOORWAYS’ Residential Program operates seven housing facilities providing 103 one, two, or three bedroom apartments for individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS, and also homeless or about to become homeless. As a result of generational poverty or more recent circumstances, many clients have limited income, education, and employment experience.  Without stable housing, they have not been able to manage their healthcare and medical treatment program, and may have deteriorating health and a growing sense of hopelessness. When they move into a DOORWAYS apartment, they not only receive a key to an apartment but, also, a comprehensive support network with case management and self-development programs that improve health and hopefulness.

Good nutrition is the key to strengthening the body and the immune system, both which are essential for a successful antiretroviral therapy (ART) program. Reducing viral load counts, and reaching viral suppression, significantly reduces the chances of transmitting the virus; thus, increasing participation in nutritious shopping, cooking, and eating habits is critical to achieve a healthy life for our individual clients, as well as our community.

Thanks to a grant from the Episcopal Presbyterian Health Trust, DOORWAYS is offering a series of healthy cooking classes for residents in our apartment complexes through Operation Food Search. The course offers educational information about healthy eating and cooking, while demonstrating the preparation and cooking of a healthy recipe. Attendees were able to taste the food, ask questions, and discuss recipe modifications for their family members. They then received a copy of the recipe plus the groceries needed to duplicate the meal themselves in their own home. Each participant also received a complimentary piece of cookware to assure they would be able to fix the food for their families.

All guests were asked to complete a survey after the class, to determine the impact of the session and expectations of behavior change. Ninety percent indicated their understanding increased about how good nutrition helps the immune system fight viruses by strengthening the body. One hundred percent noted they now plan to include healthy foods in their diets more often than before they attended the session. “We are very grateful to the Episcopal Presbyterian Health Trust,” noted Opal Jones, president & CEO of DOORWAYS. “This type of interactive health information session and cooking demonstration would not have been possible without their grant, which encourages innovative models for health care approaches.”

Additional cooking demonstration classes will be held throughout 2018, along with several sessions simulating a shopping trip to the grocery store to reveal ways to purchase fresh, nutritious foods on a limited budget. For more information on this grant, contact the DOORWAYS development office: 314-555-1919 ext 2704. d
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Click here for more information on the Residential Program.

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