You Never Know Where Kindness Will Lead, by Mary (Bacon) Rosenkrans

Most people’s stereotype of a homeless person is that they are dirty, drunk, rude, standing in lines for handouts, uneducated, and mentally ill. My brother Francis “Fran” Bacon fit that description at times, and yet there was much more than a passing glance might tell you if you saw him on the streets of Harrisburg.

Francis was born July 10, 1956, the youngest of four children—three boys and one girl—to Grace Gallagher and Arthur Francis Bacon. As the only girl, I assumed the role as his “little mother” early on and did my best to look after him until he passed away in November. He was my baby brother and he called me Mae, the only person to do that. (He also called me Sissy, but I always ignored that because it annoyed me.)

Francis was two years old when our father died of cirrhosis of the liver. I don’t know that Francis had many memories of our father. My father had mental health issues—which is why he drank—but he was also brilliant. And so was Francis (what else would you expect from someone named Francis Bacon).

The principal at our local parochial school realized early on (an act of kindness) that Francis and my two other brothers needed a better education than what they could get in Freeland, Pa., a small coal mining town, so they were sent to Milton Hershey School once they reached the age of 12. The school at that time was only open to boys who had lost one or both parents. The school provided everything—clothing, housing, food, education—at no cost to my mother (another act of kindness). She and I later moved to Hershey so we could live closer.

Francis graduated from Milton Hershey School with a full scholarship to Cornell University (more kindness), but at the same time his life-long struggle with bipolar disorder hit and he left college after only one year.

In spite of his inherited mental illness, Francis never stopped learning. He also never felt sorry for himself and created a life on the street and made it his community. So many people along the way showed their kindness and he, in turn (when he wasn’t drinking), returned his kindness to them. Elaine Strokoff and the people at Downtown Daily Bread were one of those. It wasn’t just the food, which is so critical when you are hungry and poor, but it was also the respect he was given and friendships that he developed that became a lifeline for him. One example is that they helped him order books and have them shipped to their address because he didn’t have one. When Francis was missing just before his death, they posted a sign on the wall asking if anyone had seen him.

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Francis “Fran” Bacon, at CACH’s Project Homeless Connect 2012

There were many, many others that were kind to my brother as well. Chuck Wingate at the Bethesda Mission who became a close friend, checked up on him and drove him places, took him shopping, accepted his phone calls and had his wife Nancy, a nurse, care for him when he was ill. April and Angel Ocasio from Isaiah 61 adopted Francis and he became Uncle Fran to their children. All of the caseworkers at CMU; the librarians at the Dauphin County Library; the bank clerks at Wells Fargo; Deb Ritchey at the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority; the Salvation Army; Father Rozman, Deacon Crudup and staff at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Shining Light Thrift Shop; the staff at Hamilton Health Center; St. Francis of Assisi’s soup kitchen; and Rev. Karin Pejak at Zion Lutheran Church. They all were a part of his community.

My brothers and I knew very little of this kindness. We are grateful and thankful to all. Caring is a two way street and one act of kindness often leads to another. We also had little knowledge of the life Francis made living on the street and only recently learned about the many friends he had. At his funeral, we heard about how funny he was, a great story teller, smart, generous; and, most of all, kind. We are proud of him and take great comfort in knowing this now.

So the next time you pass a homeless person on the street, don’t make assumptions. Just show some kindness. You never know where it will lead.

CACH Member Spotlight: Shalom House

Shalom House is a homeless shelter in Harrisburg, PA that gives women and their children a home during a time of crisis. According to Patricia Carpintieri, Shelter House Supervisor and case manager at Shalom House, the shelter houses between 250 and 280 individuals each year.

The shelter currently has a 21-bed capacity and provides two outside housing programs.  Shalom House is an agency partner with the United Way of the Capital Region and is supported by The Foundation for Enhancing Communities.

The first housing program is for female veterans, which lasts between 18 months to 2 years, according to Carpintieri. This program helping up to 6 homeless women veterans each year, offers case management, transitional housing and further helps the women get on a pathway to return to self-sufficiency.

The second program is the Shalom House Aftercare Rental Housing Program (SHARP), which offers case management and rental assistance to chronically disabled women. In addition, they receive help with food and utilities and coordinated assistance to help move them to independence.  According to Carpintieri, SHARP serves between 12 and 15 women each year.

Below is a tour of Shalom House that was given by Carpintieri.

 

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Corinne

Volunteering for CACH can be a very rewarding experience. Just ask Corinne Rebinksi of Mechanicsburg, Pa. Rebinski is the senior manager for Brown Schultz Sheridan Fritz, a certified public accountants and business advisors firm in Camp Hill, Pa. She started volunteering for CACH in 2011 and continues to volunteer today.

The main reason Rebinski decided to volunteer for CACH was because the Harrisburg Rotary Club had established a homeless initiatives committee, of which she is co-chair, in order to find opportunities to help Harrisburg’s homeless community. Upon searching for these opportunities, she came across CACH’s annual Project Homeless Connect event, which provides resources to the hardest-to-reach homeless individuals.

Corinne Rebinski is pictured above cheering about the donations received for Project Homeless Connect.

Corinne Rebinski is pictured above cheering about the donations received for Project Homeless Connect.

“Since our club is established in the City of Harrisburg, and we are comprised of many members of the area business community, I am passionate that we need to “put our money where our mouth is” and offer our service to help address the issues of Harrisburg’s homeless community,” Rebinski says. “CACH is certainly the premier organization dedicated to this cause, so it is a good fit for us.”

Rebinski is very passionate about helping address the issues of Harrisburg’s homeless community. Since 2011, she has coordinated volunteers from the Rotary Club to help, interviewed applicants for a temporary cash assistance program, and co-chaired the children’s room committee. For the children’s room committee, Rebinski has designed and set up the children’s room. This has included addressing the needs of homeless children by designing activity and care areas, obtaining equipment supplies, and being in charge of set-up and clean-up.

“I believe that for the issues of the homeless community, the best results come from a united community effort, and that is exactly what CACH is designed to do,” Rebinksi says. “Many diverse people working together to solve problems. You can’t get much better than that.”

6 Myths about homelessness dispelled

1. Most homeless people are middle-aged men.

While last year’s Point in Time survey of Dauphin County’s homeless population did not take into account exact ages, females made up the majority of the population. In 2012, 58.9% (159) of Dauphin County’s homeless population were females, and 41.1% (111) were males. Also, there were 127 homeless children counted in the 2012 Point in Time census.

2. Homeless people need to “just get a job.”

According to our Point in Time survey last year, 19.6% (55) of the area’s homeless population were employed. There are many resources available to help these individuals find jobs, but finding a job with limited resources, such as lack of home or transportation, makes the process more difficult.

3. People are homeless by choice.

No one chooses to be homeless – many factors can make any individual suddenly homeless. During our 2012 census, it was discovered that drug or alcohol abuse, family breakup, medical problem, and domestic violence were the top reasons for being homeless in Dauphin County. 24% said that drug or alcohol abuse was the top reason, followed by family breakup (16%), medical problems (9%), and domestic violence (8%).

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Homelessness can effect anyone, including families with children. Last year, there were 127 children homeless in Harrisburg and Dauphin County. Pictured above are two homeless children at CACH’s Project Homeless Connect last year.

4. Homelessness will never happen to me.

Many people never intend or expect to become homeless. Many had jobs, a house, and a family before they became homeless. According to facts from our Homeless Services Reference Manual, the odds of anyone experiencing homelessness over the course of a year is approximately 1 in 194.

We also discovered through our Point in Time survey that there were 63 households with children who were homeless. This meant that 23% of the area’s homeless population last year consisted of homeless families.

5.  Homeless people all come from the City.

Nearly half (46.3%) of people receiving homelessness assistance lived outside the City of Harrisburg, according to last year’s Point in Time survey.  –

6. Homelessness will never end.

Many cities in the U.S. have established 10-year plans to end homelessness that include very ambitious goals, according to the Portland Rescue Mission. CACH is in charge of Harrisburg’s plan, which is a 10-year blueprint plan to eliminate homelessness in Harrisburg and Dauphin County.

This plan, called “Home Run,” serves for us to develop initiatives that are necessary to prevent and eliminate homelessness in the community.  Every day, every week, all year long, CACH works to change the lives of our community’s homeless.

Walk for CACH to help us make a difference!

Help CACH make a difference by registering to walk in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community! The walk will be held on Saturday, May 18, at the Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) on 1 HACC Drive in Harrisburg, PA.

That Saturday, registration and check-in will begin at 7:45 a.m. At 9 a.m., the 5K Walk will start, and at 9:15 a.m., the 1 Mile Fun Walk will start. The walk is expected to be held rain or shine, and there is expected to be food, beverages, music, fun activities, and prize drawings following the walk!

Everyone who walks has a chance to win one of several great prizes, which are collectively valued at $1,000. In addition, for every $50 you donate or raise, you will receive one raffle ticket toward the prize drawings. If you donate or raise $25 or more, you will receive a Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community t-shirt while supplies last.

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Last year’s Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community

CACH will be one of 41 local health and human service agencies participating in this year’s Highmark Walk. Our goal this year is to raise $4,000. But this goal cannot be met without your help, so please consider registering for the walk! If you are not able to walk that day, you can still register as a virtual walker!

There are also many incentives to register during this month! Walkers who register this month and have at least $100 in paid donations will be placed in a drawing to win a $50 Visa gift card.  Organizations that raise at least $1,500 this month will be placed in a drawing to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Please help us out by donating and/or registering for the walk at http://highmark.towercare.com/Markslist/site/displaySite.do?siteIdCode=VDRPA4SS! We are very grateful to those individuals who have already registered to walk with CACH! All of you are helping us move individuals and families out of crisis into meaningful and lasting success!

Homeless population growing older

More than half of homeless adults are age 47 and older, according to a recent AARP blog post. This is quite a devastating fact. Older individuals are more prone to health risks and living on the streets will only increase these risks. There have been different statistics of the lifespan of homeless people, and they are quite scary. As the AARP points out, some statistics say life expectancy can be up to age 64, which is about 20 years younger than the life expectancy of the non-homeless population.

Because of these distressing, startling statistics, helping older homeless individuals has never been more important. These individuals deserve our attention as equally as the younger homeless population, but with a little extra care to their health.

This is why we are proud of the organizations we work with to get homeless individuals the medical care they need, and make sure health care is an important focus of our annual Project Homeless Connect. To see many of the service providers available for the homeless in Dauphin County, please see http://www.cachpa.org/HomelessServicesReferenceManual.pdf.

For more about the older homeless population, please check out AARP’s recent blog post: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/03/27/sally-abrahms-old-and-homeless-no-caregive/.

Spotlight on YWCA of Greater Harrisburg: Helping find homes for homeless veterans

Veterans dealing with economic hardships, mental health and/or addiction challenges make up a significant portion of the homeless population and face the greatest risk of becoming homeless. According to CACH’s Homeless Services Reference Manual, veterans facing poverty have a one in 10 risk of experiencing homelessness over the period of a year. CACH’s 2012 Point in Time survey found that 14.2% of the 281 homeless respondents were veterans.

There are many services available to help homeless veterans, especially for veterans living in Dauphin County and surrounding areas. CACH member organizations in Harrisburg that have programs to specifically serve homeless veterans include Bethesda Mission, Shalom House, and the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, which are included in CACH’s Homeless Services Reference Manual.

According to Bill Reed, director of veterans services at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, the YWCA does a lot of work to help homeless veterans. The YWCA extends these services for homeless veterans to several counties, which include Dauphin, Cumberland, Lebanon, York, Lancaster, and Perry counties.

Pictured above is Bill Reed, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s director of veterans services. When the YWCA began offering services to homeless veterans in 2006, Reed had just retired from the military and was hired for the program.

Pictured above is Bill Reed, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s director of veterans services. When the YWCA began offering services to homeless veterans in 2006, Reed had just retired from the military and was hired for the program.

Thanks to grants from the Department of Labor, the YWCA offers two key programs to homeless veterans: the homeless veterans reintegration program and the homeless female veterans/veterans with families reintegration program. “Both of these programs are [geared] to helping homeless veterans find employment, which will lead to housing and self-sufficiency,” Reed said. The current annual goal for the Homeless Veterans employment Programs is to enroll a minimum of 94 homeless veterans, and an additional 30 homeless female veterans and/or veterans with families.

According to Reed, the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg also offers three transitional housing programs to homeless veterans through the Department of Veteran Affairs. These programs offer 16 transitional beds, which the YWCA provides through partnership with the Harrisburg Area YMCA. Reed said that there are also five permanent housing positions for chronically homeless, disabled veterans, which are supported through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A recent addition to the homeless veterans’ housing programs offered through the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg is Transition in Place (TIP).  This program, which is funded through the Department of Veteran Affairs, offers homeless veterans and homeless veterans with families transitional housing that follows the “Housing First” model.

According to Reed, “It’s transitional housing, but instead of it being in an institutional setting, the case manager and homeless veteran locate an apartment in the community where the veteran would like to actually live permanently.” For this program, the YWCA provides assistance with basic needs, rent, utilities, case management, and employment.  Once the veteran obtains sufficient income for self-sufficiency, they assume the lease and remain at the chosen apartment.

This is the job club room at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg. It is one of the many services the YWCA offers to homeless veterans, where homeless veterans can work in the online computer lab to find employment.

This is the job club room at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg. It is one of the many services the YWCA offers to homeless veterans, where homeless veterans can work in the online computer lab to find employment.

According to Reed, the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg also sponsors an annual event called the Homeless Veterans Stand Down. This event is similar to CACH’s Project Homeless Connect, but Stand Down is exclusively for homeless veterans. This year’s event, which was held February 22nd through February 24th, served 53 homeless veterans. Reed said this event has grown and increased the services provided through collaboration with a number of agencies and groups that support veterans. One key partner at Stand Down is the Lebanon VA Medical Center, which is a health care organization that provides quality health care to veterans.

According to Reed, in addition to the services provided by the YWCA Veterans programs, several other organizations provided services at the Homeless Veterans Stand Down. These organizations included the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor, PA National Guard, PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Department of Education, PA Career Links, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Onsite Health, PA Bar Association, American Red Cross, and the Disability Rights Network. Reed said that many more organizations and individuals provided services and volunteered their time and resources at the Stand Down.

The Homeless Veterans Stand Down offers many services, which include but are not limited to, employment services, medical screenings, dental services, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) services, drug and alcohol services, suicide prevention, counseling, legal services, health and comfort.

CACH is very proud to work with the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg and our other members that offer services to help homeless veterans. For more information about YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s homeless veteran programs, you can contact Bill Reed at 717-234-7931, extension 3126, or e-mail him at wreed@ywcahbg.org.