The Women’s Home Weekly Brown Bag Lunch

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We’ve talked before about our weekly brown bag lunches for our treatment and transitional housing residents, where different speakers come share their knowledge and stories. Brown Bag provides individuals and organizations opportunities to share their unique skills and insights with our residents, providing education and inspiration in line with our WholeLife® Program. Here’s some of the incredible groups and speakers we’ve had share their time and stories with our residents recently as well as speakers we’re excited will be coming soon.

The Women’s Fund is a local nonprofit dedicated to providing health education for women and adolescent girls through seminars, classes and publications. Volunteers from The Women’s Fund come the second brown bag of each month to present workshops to our residents. Subjects in their classes include, heart health, exercise, building good nutrition, how to advocate for your health, and keeping track of your medical records.

Lola Clay is a licensed counselor who has trained at the Jung Center here in Houston and received her Ph.D in Jungian Studies from Saybrook University. Jungian psychology, also known as analytical psychology, is based on the research of Carl Jung which emphasizes individualized care to help clients achieve wholeness. Lola Clay spoke at Brown Bag for the first time in August of 2015 and will return in February to speak again.

Linda Lewis has been involved with The Women’s Home for nearly 20 years after being introduced by fellow longtime supporter and member of The Women’s Home Advisory Board, Adele Pieper. She always appreciates any opportunity to work directly with our residents and is impacted by “seeing how their life changes as they work their way through their personal difficulties and regain confidence in who they are.  There is little that separates us, and they remind me how grateful I should be for the blessings in my own life.” January 22, 2016 she will be speaking about the importance of creativity and how each of us is creative in our own way. Linda, who has woven unique cloth for clothing and home décor for over 30 years, found a creative outlet that combines her love of texture and color with working with her hands. “Much of my work is influenced by what I see in nature’s colors and textures which are full of wonder.”

Sahar Pazirandeh, founder of Free Your Star Foundation and author of Find Your Voice, the life you crave is a conversation away, is dedicated to helping others realize their strength and potential. An Iran native, Sahar shared her personal story “of being born in a war, surviving abuse, fighting addictions, and finally finding my voice. I highlighted the reflection of her [the residents’] journey in mine. How our histories don’t need to be anything alike of us to hold each other up as women, as Shero’s (she-roes).”  About The Home and our residents, Sahar said, “It’s a place filled with Shero’s. Almost every woman in The Women’s Home could label herself a victim, instead she has chosen to become the Shero of her story. She has made the choice to be brutally honest with herself on one hand, and completely compassionate on the other. You can’t help but support a woman on this journey. It’s often said, help a woman heal, and she will help an entire community.”

Brown Bag is a fantastic opportunity for anyone seeking to get involved with The Women’s Home who may not have the time to volunteer on a regular basis. We are always looking for more speakers who can share insights and resources relevant to the since tenants of our WholeLife Program: spiritual, mental and emotional, physical, financial, vocational, and social wellness.

If you’re interested in speaking at brown bag, contact Volunteer & Collaborations Coordinator Jenna Jackson at jjackson@thewomenshome.org or 713-568-1356.

Connecting with Spiritual Companions

Search COntinues FinalWe’ve talked before about how The Women’s Home’s impactful spiritual program The Courage to Search’s rousing success led to the development of a follow up program, The Search Continues. The Courage to Search is our 10 week program where interested members of our treatment and transitional program explore and reflect on their spiritual beliefs, solidify their spiritual practices and find a faith home with the guidance of trained volunteers. Development of The Search Continues began after residents who participated in The Courage to Search expressed interest in continuing their spiritual growth in a structured environment.

The goal of The Search Continues is to provide those clients with individual spiritual companions. These are volunteers who have training or extensive background in some faith tradition, and who will meet regularly with clients to discuss their spirituality. Among this first group of spiritual companions are newly involved volunteers as well as returning friends of The Home who have supported our residents’ spiritual growth before. In addition to spiritual companions, The Search Continues will provide clients with ongoing spiritual activities or opportunities in the Houston area, building on The Courage to Search’s field trips to local faith destinations.

Our Search Continues Spiritual companions will undergo orientation at the beginning of January, with the program slated to debut later that month.

Connecting with the Community

Small JC3Being connected to the community you live in fosters an important sense of belonging. At our supportive housing facility, Jane Cizik Garden Place (JCGP), events and activities provided by staff and volunteers give residents the chance to socialize. Every month, JCGP hosts at least three events for residents, including the much-loved Ladies’ Night organized by Terrace United Methodist Church, a potluck organized by residents, and an event organized by staff based on resident interest or feedback. These events as well as any others that occur throughout the month are all shared with residents via the monthly newsletter JCGP Sr. Case Manager Ashley Stratton and Case Manager Nena Chima compose and place on residents’ doors at the start of each month.

The newsletter not only covers the events at Jane Cizik Garden Place, but includes resident birthdays for the month and events around the city that are free or low cost. The newsletters also include healthy recipes, a literature spotlight, and a headline story that lines up with national events like Alcohol Awareness month. Resident feedback also plays a role in the featured coverage in the newsletter. For example, a resident came to staff interested in learning ways she could improve her overall wellness, and the following newsletter’s theme was optimum health.

Residents also play an important role in bringing events their neighbors can benefit from to JCGP’s campus. A few months ago, a resident was interested in participating in
, a program that helps eligible employed individuals and families with a flawed or no credit history secure and pay off a loan for a car. Ways to Work requires participants go through a one-time orientation before they provide one on one consultation services to secure a loan and support services. The interested resident asked Ways to Work to host the orientation at Jane Cizik Garden Place, allowing her and nine other residents to participate.

Another resident brought nutrition classes to JCGP when she heard her doctor’s office was offering them in the community. Other events that residents initiated have been a community-wide garage sale, and next month the opportunity for free haircuts. Knowing their suggestions effect the events and calendar each month, and hearing positive feedback from their neighbors, ensures that residents feel like they have a positive impact on their community.

The events that residents most appreciate most are ones that provide enrichment and skills they can apply in their lives. Popular classes include a financial boot camp put on by Easter Seals that teaches residents important budgeting, credit, and financial literacy skills. On a different track on Friday, October 16th a make-up artist came and gave residents styling and beauty advice. Events on site at Jane Cizik Garden Place allow all residents, even those with limited time, money or mobility, the opportunity to connect and feel a part of their residential community. One of the newer residents told case managers that the events at JCGP make her feel like “she belongs and that she’s involved.”

Mental Illness Awareness Week

b2ap3_thumbnail_miaw-logoThe first full week of October, the 4th through the 10th, is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). Established in 1990 by Congress, this week is dedicated to raising awareness, educating the public, and promoting acceptance of those with mental illness. In the 25 years since its founding, there has been major progress in social attitudes, understanding, and treatment of mental illness and those who live with it, but a need remains for greater research and empathy for the way those with mental illness navigate and view the world.

“For our women who struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, behavioral health treatment is essential to their survival. So often I hear our women say that if it were not for The Women’s Home they would not be alive. We also know that nearly 50% of those in prison have a substance abuse or mental illness disorder. The majority have never been treated for their illness. Having access to treatment is more cost effective and more humane than prison or potentially suicide.” Paula Paust, Executive Director of The Women’s Home.

That need for understanding and adaptability is why The Women’s Home is dedicated to ensuring our behavioral health staff and interns utilize the best research-based practices possible to serve our residents. It is why we are dedicated not only to ensuring our staff receive the best training possible, but that our interns do as well, so when they leave The Home, they will have the skills necessary to serve the community. As a part of following best practices, we provide trauma-informed care to our residents that treats not only their struggles with addiction or mental illness but addresses the underlying history and events that exacerbate and cause these conditions. By helping our clients find and unpack the root causes and triggers of the conditions that effect their daily lives, we give them the best opportunity to develop understanding and healthy tools to minimize stressors, combat their symptoms, and recover from illnesses that have overshadowed many of their lives.

We wrote in our article on National Recovery Month about the importance of collaborations and expert trainings to our programs and that is true for our behavioral health care as well. We strengthen our clinical care through partnership our partnership with Baylor College of Medicine to provide on-site psychiatric care and medication. Our clinical staff and interns are trained in Brené Brown’s The Daring Way™ to help residents learn resilience and overcome their shame. Once construction on our WholeLife® Service Center and housing for women and families is complete, we will be able to expand our behavioral healthcare to include not only women, but their families as well through a partnership with Depelchin Children’s Center. Like all our programs, this new facility will informed by the standards and research provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) program. Coc supports nonprofits’ efforts to end homelessness through rapid rehousing, and access to mainstream support services while minimizing the trauma and effects of dislocation on those facing homelessness.

Appreciating the Importance of Recovery

b2ap3_thumbnail_RM-2015-Logos-343x94September is National Recovery Month, a time to raise awareness of the positive impact support services and treatment can have on those suffering from addiction or mental health disorders. National Recovery Month began in 1989 as Treatment Works! Month, a way to honor the efforts of treatment professionals who support and guide those working through addiction on their journey to recovery. Today National Recovery Month has evolved to include mental illness and encourage us to raise awareness and educate ourselves on the need for strong programs and resources for those in need in our communities.

Here at The Women’s Home, Recovery Month reminds us of the importance of the work we do to ensure we’re always providing programs informed by best practices and the latest research on recovery and wellness. The foundation of all our services, the WholeLife® Program, was developed using the latest research on successful long term recovery and encompasses all aspects of a person’s wellbeing. This complete support of mind, body and spirit would not be possible without the support and collaborations with our friends and partners in the community. Ensuring that our residents are given the best tools to lead a whole life means providing shame resilience training through our Brené Brown certified clinical staff who lead clients through Brown’s The Daring Way™. It means offering residents seeking spiritual growth the support of dedicated trained volunteers in our The Courage to Search and The Search Continues. It means creating partnerships with organizations like The Women’s Fund and Dress for Success for financial and professional trainings.

 

Providing the best care possible also means studying the needs here in Houston, a path which led to the development of our current construction projects The WholeLife Service Center and a second housing complex for women and families. These new facilities will expand our services to not only providing support and treatment for those in recovery, but also providing resources that can prevent the crisis situations that leave people vulnerable to mental illness and addiction.

The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit Seeks to Empower and Educate

Re-Entry Summit LogoTexas has the largest prison populations in the United States. In 2014, 12,214 of those incarcerated were women, and of those women, 8,550 served a previous sentence. Ex-offenders face a multitude of legal and social barriers that inhibit them from successfully re-entering society. A study by the Legal Action Center found that Texas has over 32 different laws restricting released prisoners, ranging from employment policies to limitations on public assistance. These barriers increase the likelihood of relapse and recidivism among individuals with criminal records. One in five women released in Harris County will receive insufficient support in overcoming these barriers.

While post-release reintegration is difficult for anyone, women face unique challenges that are often overlooked and lead to unmet needs. Female offenders are more prone to addiction, mental illness, low self-esteem, lack of job skills or experience and homelessness than their male counterparts. Women out of prison also face additional challenges in finding employment: many second-chance jobs are primarily manual labor and involve time commitments that conflict with childcare responsibilities.

The Women’s Home, with funding from the Texas Bar Foundation, will host a summit September 30 addressing the challenges women transitioning from prison to society face.

The summit will take place at United Way Houston and feature panel discussions and breakout sessions with national and local experts addressing the challenges women face before, during and after their experience with the prison system. Subjects covered will include behavioral health, law and policy making, as well as housing and employment barriers.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Mary D. Looman and Dr. John D. Carl, the authors of A Country Called Prison and Dr. Andrea M. Leverentz, author of The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Drs. Looman and Carl propose that prison is a culture that begins with disadvantaged, abusive and neglected childhoods setting up an entire segment of the population to become duel citizens who struggle between U.S. societal norms and a country called prison. A Country Called Prison offers pragmatic and economical suggestions to reform the prison system and address the incarceration epidemic in America.

Dr. Leverentz offers an in-depth, firsthand look at the former prisoner’s experience reentering American society in The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Through a series of interviews with forty-nine women, Dr. Andrea Leverentz reveals how the formerly incarcerated attempt to navigate and reconstruct their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters, romantic partners, friends, students and workers. The book depicts the precariousness of reentry for women in light of public policy, a primary focus on male prisoners, and the way society views the formerly incarcerated.

The Houston area has not seen an event of this nature since 2008, making this a great opportunity to bring our community together and advocate on behalf of female ex-offenders.  By educating our community, we hope to create better opportunities for women as they re-enter society, helping to keep them from experiencing homelessness or further incarceration.

Click here to register online for the summit

For more information about the summit, contact Marcia Tapp at 713.328.1975 or at mtapp@thewomenshome.org.

Help us Help Houston Women and Families

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As friends and supporters of The Women’s Home, you already know of our successes in changing the lives of Houston women. Many of you have heard about our newest project, an 84 unit apartment complex for families as well as a WholeLife® Service Center in Spring Branch down the street from our first housing complex, Jane Cizik Garden Place, this exciting development will enable us to transform the lives of hundreds of families in the Spring Branch community. We’ve raised over $21 million for these two projects’ capital campaign, but we still have $5 million to raise to meet our goal.

This will be a dynamic year of growth for The Women’s Home as we break ground on these two new projects and expand our operations. We need your support now more than ever. In addition to preparing for the operational needs of our new facilities, we will be adding a couple of key positions to ensure the continued quality of our programs. The new positions include a dedicated volunteer manager and a part time professional committed to continuous quality improvement of all programs. In addition, our administrative staff is hard at work developing programs, procedures and strategic focus for the future. Throughout planning for these new developments, we continue to focus on smooth operations for both our treatment and transitional program and our permanent supportive housing community.
Most importantly, we are changing the future for the women we serve!
We could not achieve this exciting new growth or the lifelong changes it enables for our clients without your help. Every gift supports our work providing our residents with the assistance and training they need to live independent fulfilling lives. With each gift, you make a meaningful contribution essential to rebuilding the lives of desperate Houston women.
Every donation, big and small, helps change the lives of the women we serve, please click the donate button at the top right of our website to make your contribution today.

Coming in September: The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit

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Texas has the 5th highest incarceration rate and one of the largest prison populations in the nation, with women making up nearly a third of those incarcerated, a vast majority of whom were charged for nonviolent crimes. One in five of those women will end up in Harris County upon her release. According to a study by the Legal Action Center, all ex-offenders in Texas face over 32 different legal barriers upon reentry, ranging from employment policies to limitations on public assistance.

Women reentering society face additional challenges that are often overlooked including a lack of job skills, need for family housing, and difficulty finding employers offering positions conducive to childcare responsibilities. These challenges combined with a lack of resources and support put women with criminal records at higher risk of homelessness, mental illness, and addiction than their male counterparts.

This obvious need is why The Women’s Home will be hosting a two day summit to show community leaders the faces of those struggling with reentry and connect women with the resources they need. The Re:Entry summit, funded in part by Houston Bar Foundation, will take place September 30th to October 1st at United Way Houston, with a job and resource fair for women with criminal histories at South Main Baptist Church the next day. Partnering with local organizations, the summit will address issues including housing, job skills, the children our incarceration system leaves behind and research supported alternatives to the traditional prison system.

The first day of the summit will have education panels featuring local experts and policy makers who are advocating for fair and accessible resources for those with criminal histories. This portion of the summit will focus on educating service providers, community leaders, and local businesses about the challenges women previously incarcerated face when reentering society. The second day, taking place at South Main Baptist Church will provide women, especially those with criminal records, free access to a job and social services fair as well as a legal clinic tailored to the struggles reentering women face.

“We see these struggles everyday with many of the clients we serve, and we hope this summit serves as a way to address the problems, while directly helping the women who will be attending,” Marcia Tapp, Director of Resource Development for The Women’s Home said.

Building Healthy Outcomes

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Our quarterly outcome reports are an integral part to maintaining the quality of our programs and ensuring that we make the best impact possible on the lives of our residents in both our treatment and transitional program in Montrose and our supportive housing complex, Jane Cizik Garden Place (JCGP) in Spring Branch. Our outcome reports breakdown the demographics of our current clients, recent graduates and residents and serve as important tools to maintain diversity in those we serve and track what services are most needed by our residents at Jane Cizik Garden Place.

Our outcome reports for Jane Cizik Garden Place track the case management services used by residents, with the goal that each household at JCGP has at least one interaction with our case managers. Our case managers at JCGP provide residents connections with a variety of services including transportation, rent processing assistance and connection to community events. Monitoring these services ensures our residents get the support they need and seek from JCGP. (See chart below.)

building healthy outcomes

At the end of the first quarter of 2015, our treatment and transitional housing program had an occupancy of 92% with 59 clients, up from last year’s 86% occupancy and on track for our goal of consistently having a 95% occupancy level. Our admissions Coordinator Michelle Carey-Redic received 208 phone intake calls in the first quarter, referring 159 of those callers to programs that better fit their needs and meeting in person with 34 women for intake appointments. Our treatment program focuses specifically on aiding women who are homeless and facing mental illness, addiction or both, but we receive many calls from potential clients who do not match our services. Callers such as women seeking immediate shelter for themselves and their children, women without history of mental illness or addiction, or women who are still in the first 90 days of their sobriety are referred to organizations that can help. This screening process ensures potential residents are given the best chance of success from the beginning by placing them with programs best equipped to assist them.

In the first quarter, eight of our treatment and transitional housing clients graduated our treatment and transitional housing program after staying at least 6 months. All eight graduates left with income as well as permanent housing 100% of our treatment and transitional housing program’s graduates left with income as well as permanent housing. Having all of our graduating residents leave with housing and income is one of our main goals for ensuring our graduates leave the program with stable lives and the best chance for long-term success.

Dress for Success & Paradigm2Women Empower our Residents to be Professional

Dress for Success

Dress for Success Houston has been helping Houston women attain economic independence by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to women in need since 1988. Saturday April 25th, a group of volunteers from Dress for Success Houston, led by Dorothy Prejean, a Project Manager for 2015’s Community Action Project: Paradigm2Women, helped residents from our treatment and transitional program find their style for success. “It was my honor and privilege to be a part of the planning and execution for the 2015 Community Action Project: ‘Paradigm2Women.’ The pleasure to work with the staff and women at The Women’s Home was very rewarding. I walked away with an overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness for the success of the project.” Dorothy said.

The day began bright and early with residents coming in their professional best in outfits donated by Dress for Success the day before. A volunteer provided make-up and hair guidance before residents took professional photos suitable for job applications and business profiles. After photos, the residents were each given a personal introduction and the chance to walk the meeting room runway while volunteers read the residents’ bios to the group. After a brief overview and introduction of the day’s agenda, the residents participated in three educational panels on different subjects including how to re-enter the workforce with confidence, how to present your skills in an interview, and diversity in the workplace.

“The presentations were very informative and I took quite a bit of information from that entire day. Thank you so much for that wonderful opportunity it was greatly appreciated!” Sarah* one of our residents said about CAP day. After the workshops, residents were able to ask questions in a Q & A session. One of the event speakers, Mustafaa Carroll stated, “I was quite impressed by their focus on helping women to become employable, employed, and in effect rebuild their lives. Everything I witnessed from beginning to end was positive, and upbeat.”

The group broke for lunch along with an impromptu dance party before the day closed with a gift raffle and certificates for the days’ participants. The residents enjoyed the dedication of the volunteers and appreciated the information and consideration they received. “They served us and it just felt amazing that they wanted to do it for us. I appreciate each and every one of the volunteers.” Laura*, a resident said of her CAP day experience.

*In order to protect our residents from stigma, names have been changed.