VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: BETTY NISHIMURA
Each week, Shalom House receives food donations through its partnerships with Operation Food Search, Schnuck's, Aldi's and local churches, many of them United Methodist churches. This means that each week there is a bit of chaos in the pantry until everything can be organized. Luckily for Shalom House staff, we have a volunteer, Betty Nishimura, who comes in every Tuesday to help sort out the newly arrived donations.
Betty is a retired physical therapist and has been volunteering at Shalom House for 11 years. Originally she sat on the Ladies Auxiliary, but stepped down to help take care of her grandchildren. She has been volunteering in the pantry for three years and attends Living Word. She is truly dedicated to Shalom House. "Whenever Betty comes to help out with the pantry, we know everything is going to be great, and it is really helpful for the staff," says Danette Thompson, Executive Assistant. "Each week she takes a huge load off of our shoulders!"
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS WITH BJC HEALTHCARE AND GRACE HILL
One of the many aspects of Regana's position is to accompany Shalom House clients to both psychiatric and physical medical appointments. For many of the women at Shalom House, visiting a doctor can be stressful as they may not have had positive experiences with accessing medical care in the past. Another factor to consider is that within the homeless, transient population such as we see at Shalom House, physical maladies are not highly prioritized; survival is the top priority. Often this leads to minor medical issues growing into major medical issues. For both reasons many of the women cared for by Shalom House utilize emergency rooms as their main form of medical care. Our goal at Shalom House is to educate our clients on the importance of working towards preventative care.
At Shalom House, women who don't go into Transitional Housing or Permanent Supportive Housing often stay for an average of two months in the Emergency Shelter before moving on, most often to another social service organization. Without the assistance of trained clinicians and case managers, the average wait at a community clinic such as Grace Hill is two months. As a result, the women may leave before ever addressing their physical ailments.
Shalom House continues to partner with Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers to quickly and more effectively bring general medical care to our clients. Each week, Regana, in collaboration with the rest of the clinical treatment team staff, assesses the medical needs of each woman at Shalom House and determines which individuals are most in need of medical care. On Fridays two nurses connected to Grace Hill's homeless program visit Shalom House and provide each woman with a brief health assessment. Instead of waiting two months for an appointment, the women now only have to wait two weeks! The women are provided referrals to OBGYNs, physical therapists and other specialized medical care to which they otherwise might not have had access. Not only does this partnership with Grace Hill more efficiently and effectively provide health care to our clients, but it also saves everyone money, as emergency room care is extremely expensive.
Partnerships with organizations such as Grace Hill allow Shalom House to truly take our client care and service to the next level. Without Regana, however, such partnerships would be made more difficult--even impossible. And without grants such as the one provided by BJC Foundation, Shalom House may not be able to provide such outstanding services to our residents.
BATTLING HUNGER: ONE RESIDENT'S STORY
Donna’s story is an unfortunate example of the hurdles many individuals in our society face when attempting to secure food--a basic and fundamental right. Like many other of our residents, Donna suffers from mental illness and an addiction, which unfortunately led to an arrest and felony conviction. Before her conviction, Donna had been receiving food stamps for her and her son. Afterwards, however, Donna could no longer receive any type of public assistance for food or housing due to a law that ex-offenders with a felony record can never receive food stamps. To make matters even more difficult, most places of employment refuse to hire individuals with a felony record; nor are these individuals allowed to enter public housing. Food pantries, which seem a fruitful resource, can be difficult to utilize if you do not have an address, do not live in the county of the food pantry, or do not attend that particular church.
Donna is not the only resident in Shalom House that is an ex-offender with a felony record. Despite paying her debt to society, Donna is still being punished by being denied access to the basic fundamental human rights of food, shelter, and meaningful employment. Even before her arrest, Donna had a difficult time on food stamps as any raise in income can drastically reduce the amount of food stamps one receives—even if your income is still not enough to cover both food and shelter. When she combined the income of herself and her son as they were sharing a household, the amount of food stamps she received decreased to a mere $15 dollars a month!
Shalom House has now become Donna’s only recourse. Until she was finally able to obtain employment with the help of Shalom House, her only source of sustenance was the food provided by Shalom House. But without the support of donors and volunteers that help provide the food, Shalom house would be unable to obtain enough food to feed all of our residents. And without Shalom House, residents such as Donna would continue to be unable to obtain food—a right many of us take for granted.
A PLACE TO FIND HOPE
At the 2013 Signature Event, we were happy to introduce a new Shalom House video, "A Place to Find Hope."