Something New and Daring

Daring Way Nov 14

Many who have been homeless and struggle with addiction or mental illness live in shame from the long shadow stigma casts on them. A new treatment at The Women’s Home will help them let go of the shame that keeps them in their past’s control and empower them to live daringly.

 

In October 2014, two of our clinical staff were selected to attend an intensive five day training for The Daring Way™. The Daring Way™ is an experiential methodology based upon the research of Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social work and author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Experiential therapies encourage participants to examine their subconscious issues through guided activities such as role playing or guided imagery. The Daring Way™ emboldens participants to examine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors holding them back in order to identify new choices and actions that will move them towards a more whole way of life.

 

The Daring Way™ expands upon previous methods based on Dr. Brown’s research which heavily influenced our program’s shame resilience training. The program is based upon Dr. Brown’s twelve years of research on shame, vulnerability, courage, and worthiness. Participants are encouraged to examine why they don’t pursue some desires but do act on others and what road blocks are holding them back. As a part of their training our clinical staff members learned not only how to carry out The Daring Way ™ 12 week curriculum, but participated in an accelerated version of it with the other attendees. Our clinicians are practicing the program for the first time with two client groups. The Daring Way™ program will replace our shame resilience groups for our residents, and will empower them to move past their feelings of shame and their fear of being vulnerable to set and achieve their goals. The Daring Way ™ is another example of sharing evidence based best practices in our clients’ treatment.

Selling, Stocking Pantries

ULR Drive Nov 14

Throughout the month of November Urban Leasing & Realty (ULR) Properties is hosting a nonperishable food item and toiletry drive benefitting our residents. The food drive has 11 drop off locations between the sponsors, including one at The Cottage Shop so donors all over town can participate easily. ULR is hosting one of the locations along with their cosponsors Ashton West Dallas apartments, Beet Box Blend Bar, CIM, Marie Flanigan Interiors, Marry Go Round, Rafail Insurance Group, SkyHouse Houston, and Total Nutrition throughout the City.

Food drive organizer and ULR co-owner Jessica St. John got involved with The Women’s Home after attending one of our luncheons three years ago. Our mission and message struck a chord with her, “Being a woman business owner, I can understand everyone needs help from time to time. The Woman’s Home isn’t a quick in and out, it really helps women get back on their feet.” She toured our facilities with our Young Professionals liaison, Bethany Fields and has been working with The Home ever since.

Jessica started the food drive through her company in 2013, at Bethany’s suggestion when Jessica asked what The Home needed. Jessica says the food drive also gives those who lack the time to volunteer or money for big donations a platform to make a difference in their community. At the end of last year’s drive, several agents from ULR felt the impact of their effort when they stocked The Home’s pantry and toured our campus. In 2013, the community response resulted in over 1,400 items and ULR is hoping to outdo that record this year, expanding the drive from one week to one month to give more donors a chance to contribute. With the involvement of several local businesses as sponsors and the extended time period of one month, their goal of breaking 2013’s record is in reach.

Jessic wished to thank Bethany and the other staff of The Women’s Home for allowing ULR and their co-sponsors to be of service.

Supporting Good Nutrition from the Ground Up: Our Kitchen Gets a Lift

kitchen remodel Sept 14

A kitchen is a place of gathering and sustenance in many homes, whether for a quick bite over the sink on a day running late, or for a celebratory meal that carries into the evening. The kitchen at our 26 bed dormitory is no different. Good nutrition and healthy balanced meals are an important part of recovery, which is why we employ a fulltime cook, Renella Wilson, as well as a dietician, Shaynee Roper, who work in tandem to provide three wholesome daily meals to our clients. For some of our residents, their situations have kept them from adequate nutrition for years before coming to our program. The care and effort of our chef and dietitian help restore their nutritional health, but a chef with an outdated kitchen faces a higher challenge.

The commercial kitchen in our dormitory had not been updated since its installation in the early 1990’s and needed to be brought up to date and standard. This meant completely gutting the existing kitchen. Some of the installments, like the walk in refrigerator and freezer were brand new additions built from scratch, others like the stove top and hood, flooring, and cabinets, were completely torn out and rebuilt to better aid our cook in feeding our residents. Throughout all of September and into the first two weeks of October, The Women’s Home’s residential kitchen was closed for much needed updating and renovations. It reopened reborn with new fixtures, appliances and storage.

These renovations were made possible with help from foundations, several organizations, and committed volunteers. Corporate chef and kitchen equipment specialist Neil Doherty created our new kitchen’s layout after doing a walk through tour of our transitional housing facility’s commercial kitchen. Neil is the chief corporate chef for Sysco’s Houston based international headquarters. Sysco, is the preeminent international commercial food supplier to the hospitality industry and connected us with equipment vendors best suited to our needs. A $75,000 grant we secured from The Vale-Asche Foundation provided for the purchase of all new appliances and fixtures. A $10,000 donation from HomeAid completed the renovations.  After the renovations completion Chef Neil trained our cook to use this state of the art equipment to serve our residents to the fullest with the new space. Art Chavez, a senior principal at the Houston branch of architecture firm Page, provided the plans necessary for securing our building permits.

In the month and a half the kitchen was closed for renovations, we turned to local restaurants to help feed our residents with our 30 Meals, 30 Nights campaign. Restaurants throughout the neighborhood contributed healthy full dinners for our thirty residents in the dormitories, making the wait for the new kitchen’s completion a little smoother.

Honoring a Top Achievement

Top Achiever Oct 14

Laura Fowler (left) with Coalition for the Homeless CEO, Marilyn Brown (center) and the Male Achiever of the Year Steven Marshall (right)

 

Established in 1982, the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston is dedicated to coordinating community efforts to prevent and end Houston Homelessness. October 10 marked World Homeless Day and the Coalition used this day of awareness to acknowledge the progress and hard work of organizations and individuals in the Houston community. This year there were nine nomination categories. The Achiever of the Year Award recognizes two formerly homeless members of the community who have overcome significant barriers to achieve a self-sufficient and positive lifestyle. Laura Fowler, a 2011 graduate from The Women’s Home’s transitional housing program, became The Coalition’s 2014 Achiever of the Year Award Winner.

A former naval officer with two daughters, Laura came to The Home in 2010, after her alcoholism had taken over her life, alienating her from family and leaving her homeless. Laura began attending Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings, and was encouraged by a graduate of The Home to seek help here. Through her work with staff in our WholeLife™ Program, Laura was able to face the pain from the loss of her mother when she was nine. Coming to terms with this loss that played a large role in her depression and alcoholism through counseling and her grief group allowed Laura to begin living instead of merely surviving.

With the training she received in our vocational program, Laura secured a cashier’s position at H-E-B in October 2011 and was soon promoted to Assistant Service Manager and assigned as the Veterans Reception Coordinator. In February 2013, she was named Partner of the month and then in March received H-E-B’s 2013 Woman of Distinction Award. As her professional life flourishes, so does Laura’s personal life. She is an active member of AA with a new mentor, she also participated in her work’s “Fully Fit” program, leading her to quit smoking after 20 years. Laura has reconnected with her family and daughters, rebuilding relationships she previously believed beyond repair. She also has new love in her life, after recently marrying. Laura’s hard work and progress rightly earned her the status of Achiever of the Year from the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston.

Congratulations to Laura Fowler, The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston’s 2014 Achiever of the Year. May you continue to thrive through your hard work to live a happy, healthy whole life.

Executive Moms Connect with The Women’s Home

The Executive Mom’s Society (EMS), a new group aimed at enhancing the lives of working mothers, gathered at the Women’s Home one Wednesday for an exciting day of networking and self-improvement. September 10, The Women’s Home was proud to partner with The Executive Mom’s Society for its monthly meet and greet luncheon.

At least 30 EMS members enjoyed a catered lunch and a motivational talk titled “From Tired to Inspired Executive Mom: How to Find Balance and Order When your Life Feels Like Chaos.”  Mom, Coach, and incoming EMS President Elizabeth Barbour engaged these savvy moms with her wit, humor, and insightful pep talk about the do’s and don’ts on gaining inspiration.  EMS members also learned more about The Women’s Home and the amazing work we do here. Some members were so inspired they signed up to come speak at our weekly client Brown Bag lunches.

The Women’s Home salutes the Executive Moms Society for its efforts in uniting working Houston area Moms to support and network with each other! Your group can visit us anytime! Our doors are always welcome to you!

Healing Hands, Helping Hands

Steve Curly Oct 14

You may have noticed there have been some big changes in The Cottage Shop recently, many of those are thanks to the volunteer efforts of Dr. Steven Curley and his wife, Natalie. Steven heard about The Women’s Home through one of our other volunteers, Frandale Johnson, who’s a friend of Natalie’s.

A surgeon for over 25 years, Dr. Curley’s expertise focuses on treating patients with cancer focused on the liver and bile ducts. In addition to his surgical work, he teaches at the Baylor College of Medicine and heads a laboratory focused on researching less toxic treatments for cancer patients. Steven became driven to research and improve quality of treatment for cancer patients when his 18 year old cousin lost her battle to cancer while he was still a surgical resident. After witnessing the emotional and physical impact on his cousin as well as their family, Steven felt compelled to do better for those facing cancer.

Dr. Curley was drawn to The Women’s Home’s work when he recognized our own dedication to improving the lives of those facing hardships. Naturally a hands on sort of person, Steven set to work building The Cottage Shop new displays and assembling additional racks for the shop. Steven also had new carpet installed for the boutique section of The Shop, to better emphasize our stock of high fashion merchandise. A surgeon by profession and a carpenter recreationally, Steven enjoys the immediate results that come from building something with his own hands. “It’s gratifying to actually build, repair, or paint something that has an immediate impact in improving appearance and functions in the shop!”

For the outside of The Cottage Shop the Curley’s commissioned artist Homer Allen, a former billboard painter turned full-time artist, to create two outdoor art installations for the front and back walls of the shop. The first of the paintings depicts twin monarch butterflies arising from the petals of yellow, orange, and crimson chrysanthemums. The 8 foot by 8 foot canvas was installed September 20 on the front of The Shop. The second piece is set for installation in late October.

The Curley’s efforts included not only physical improvements, but analytical ones as well. They compiled data on The Shop’s customers and conducted data survey of The Shop’s sales rates alongside several of our sister resale and thrift shops in the Montrose area. They also analyzed how the neighborhood’s demographics have changed in recent years and how better to serve their shopping interests. They used the results to create recommendations on how The Cottage Shop can better serve our customers, so we can continue to support our work with Houston women.

Balancing the Books: The Women’s Resource teaches our Residents Financial Literacy

Women's Resource Oct 14

The Women’s Resource Volunteer educators Inez Mendez (left) and Angela Torres (right)

On the journey to a whole life, our residents learn balance in all things including their finances. Women who live within limited means like many of our residents, often do not have the opportunity of a financial education. The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston, one of the city’s leading financial literacy organizations, like The Women’s Home is dedicated to helping women and girls in need.

The Women’s Resource is a local Houston nonprofit which provides free financial literacy classes and after school programs to low income Houston women and at-risk high school girls.  The Women’s Resource offers its adult education classes at over 40 partner locations, offering free financial literacy training to women throughout Houston. The Women’s Resource empowers women to control their fiscal independence, avoid new debts, and manage existing ones. The Women’s Resource’s after school program, Project LEAD, offers a 10 week curriculum to 200 high school girls throughout Houston. Project LEAD, based on the study of successful women’s educations, actively works to keep at risk students in school and teach them vital financial skills. Additionally, The Women’s Resource partners with local colleges, universities and researchers to study the impact of financial literacy on Houston women and families.

“Our hope is that the classes will help participants enhance their money skills, create positive banking relationships, build financial knowledge, develop financial confidence, use banking services effectively and make sound financial decisions.”

Kelly Keith, the Program Manager at The Women’s Resource

The Women’s Resource has partnered with The Women’s Home since 2009. This September marked the beginning of an 11 week series of courses ranging from the basics of money and savings to smart credit usage. The Women’s Resource worked with our Manager of Case Management, Ana Hernandez to select the most beneficial courses for our residents. The courses will help our residents develop a full range of financial skills, including planning a budget, developing a financial plan for all stages of life, managing income and expenses, how to manage debt, smart credit usage, and how to evaluate insurance coverage.

These courses are the first opportunity some of our residents have had for a financial education. This access to financial education empowers our residents to build stable healthy bank accounts and investments, creating a strong financial foundation to support their futures.

The State of Local Mental Health and Its Effect on Homelessness

Mental Health Awareness June 14

The State of Local Mental Health and Its Effect on Homelessness

 

On June 17, 2014, local city and county leaders, health care providers, community volunteers and students met at The United Way of Greater Houston for a panel discussion entitles “The State of Local Mental Health and Its Effect on Homelessness.” Micah, Hirschfield, moderator and TWH board member, opened the panel discussion onto a full house. Panelists included (above, from left) Laurie Glaze, Executive Director of Texas One Voice: A Collaborative for Health and Human Services, Eva Thibadeau-Graczyk, Director of Programs for the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, and Marc Eichenbaum, Deputy Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives.

Many who attended that night were donors and volunteers of The Women’s Home wanting to know how to become more informed and involved in the issues facing our clients. Also attending the presentation were students from Rice, Baylor and the University of Houston, passionate about learning to identify solutions to this important social problem. Also present were care providers interested in learning more to assist their clients. In addition, representatives from the county and city agencies were there to support and interact with attendees.

There was a frank discussion of the dismal per capita mental health spending levels in Texas (Texas ranks 49th in the nation in spending, an average of only $39 per citizen), which leaves communities ill-equipped to meet the need for behavioral health services, most especially for those who are homeless. Houston currently has over 1,700 adults waiting for mental health services that simply do not exist. As a result, many of these unstable individuals are seen, at great cost to taxpayers, at the psychiatric hospitals and, unfortunately, the county jail — the state’s largest mental health care provider. This is often called “back and spending”, money that gets spent after lives have spiraled completely out of control.

However, hope was offered in the examination of the Mayor’s initiative to end chronic homelessness.  The model being embraced is that of permanent supportive housing, housing that is offered without barriers to those that need it most.  The idea is a best practice whose time has come here in Houston.  The city, county, housing authority and mayor’s office have exhibited unprecedented cooperation in identifying and placing chronically homeless individuals through a coordinated access program designed by the Coalition For the Homeless.  First targeted were veterans and the most visible of homeless in downtown.  Already, the rates of homelessness are receding with this concentration of effort.

The Home stays abreast of these trends and works with all of the agencies and offices representated on the panel.  Our own Jane Cizik Garden Place is a model of housing and services that truly leads the way in our community to solutions to this multi-layered effort.  We were proud to present some of the bigger issues we face in delivering the services so desperately needed in Houston.

WholeLife℠ Feature – TWH’s New Treatment and Transitional Program Class – “Courage to Search”

WholeLife 3-24-14

The growing efforts of The Women’s Home are all tied together by our comprehensive and very effective WholeLifemodel, which addresses the emotional/mental, physical, social, spiritual, vocational, and financial wellness of our clients and residents.

This week, ten residents of The Women’s Home Treatment and Transitional program began a journey in a new class aptly titled “Courage to Search.” They were greeted at the lunchtime gathering with a beautiful new journal and a panel of six enthusiastic and gifted volunteers, ready to guide their exploration over the next eight weeks of spiritual exploration. The clinical staff and community outreach team at The Home has worked closely with The Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center to develop this unique program. Under the guidance of Institute Vice President Stuart Nelson, our group will utilize an evidence-based questionnaire that will be the basis for group interaction on topics including: life review, relationships, present values and decision-making. Stuart and an academic colleague formulated the questionnaire into what they call a “Meaning Systems Interview,” to encourage open-ended exploration and dialogue within the group, and also involves individual contemplation outside the group. In addition, the program will include a field trip to various sacred sites in the city.

In addition to Stuart, an impressive array of volunteers has stepped up to shape the creation of this additional offering to the residents. Alden Clark, Ann Lister, Angela Caughlin, Janet Vucinich, and Jo Reid have all worked diligently to prepare the curriculum. They will also serve as facilitators over the coming weeks. Their combined experiences and education include everything from feminist liberation theology, expression through creative writing, clinical therapy and personal growth through spiritual exploration.

Manager of Clinical Services, Emily Kemper, later told the volunteers, “I noticed that the clients responded positively, and in a way that allowed them to be vulnerable as a response to some of your personal sharing. What I thought might not happen did happen…your vulnerability touched their stories, and they were able to share them. I suspect that this will continue to happen, and that the similarities of your collective stories will open up the conversations, as…an ease and comfort that I have already seen from just one session.”

There is much evidence that recovery from addictions is not realized without a major spiritual birth or transformation in an individual who has lost the coping skills needed to “live life on life’s terms” because chemical substances have hijacked their ability to access rational and hope-filled thought. This is often described as faith in a “higher power”. Here at The Home, we look for creative ways to encourage the daily practice of spirituality through silent contemplation, affirmations, yoga, meditation, and sharing in community. Healing is greatly influenced and fueled through faith, shared experiences, and hope.

Providing spiritual care without a bias to a particular faith is often a very tricky path. But, for those that feel “spiritually bankrupt” or who have been unable to deepen their own personal perspective, it is imperative to start somewhere in the quest. In the short term, it is believed that the addition of this new class will result in learning about introspection, awareness of different systems of meaning, increased awareness of motivations, opinions and aspirations, and the increased familiarity with spiritual resources and sites around our diverse city.

In the long term, we believe that our residents’ behavior will be positively impacted by a healthier sense of spirituality, increased engagement within the community, and by gaining a personal spiritual “home” – once they exercise the courage to search.

TWH Recognized at the 2014 BBB Awards for Excellence

BBB June 14

The Home was recently honored at the 22nd Awards for Excellence by the Better Business Bureau. The agency was one of the finalists selected in the category of Houston non-profits. These awards were begun in 1992 as a joint effort of the BBB Education Foundation and the University of Houston Bauer College of Business Administration. It was the intent to recognize area businesses for their commitment to quality. Initially they were named the Spirit of Texas Awards and were modeled after the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. They continue, today to highlight local business for their acheivements and commitment to overall excellence and quality in the workplace.

Board President Brenda White, Board member Jo Reid, Executive Director, Paula Paust and Director of Resource Development, Marcia Tapp were on hand with a packed house of 985 buisness leaders representing the finalists at the Westin Galleria on Wednesday, May 7. Friend of The Home, mistress of ceremonies, Deborah Duncan entertained the guests as winners were announced.

“The distinction of this particular recognition is thrilling”, said Paust, the 23 year veteran leader of The Women’s Home. “We are indeed honored to be recognized in such esteemed company.”

The core values adopted and in place at The Home go a long way to providing a framework for excellence.

 

Core Values

 Dignity:  Respect for the worth of every person.

Integrity:  Honesty, justice, consistency and ethical practice in all relationships.

Inclusiveness:  Diversity in those we serve, our staff and leadership.

Stewardship:  Wise use of talents and resources in the service of others.

Wholistic Growth:  Empowerment of individuals to adapt creatively to changes in life.