News Off The Streets  January 23, 2018
 
          
                                                                           Seeking Help                 Finding Hope               Moving Forward
Notes from the
space called
St. John Center
 
In 2017, 182 homeless men left our shelter and moved into permanent housing.  This required a lot of effort on the part of staff and partners, involving:
  • no fewer than 900 coordinating services;
  • hundreds of rental applications;
  • continuous outreach to our partner agencies;
  • legal assistance;
  • crisis counseling;
  • assistance with IDs and birth certificates; and
  • personal engagement not easily categorized – but critically important.
But these are numbers.  And while they are essential in the story that is St. John Center, they are still just numbers.  At the heart of all we do is STORIES.
 
Last December a guest at Sr. John told me of his struggle with depression and pain so devastating it had led to suicide attempts.  But then he added: “I come here because it is my safe space. I won’t hurt myself here.  I can figure it out here.”
This painting of St. John Center was done by former board member Mary Bryan.
 “Safe space.”  That is our goal at St. John Center: working to create a space where men can experience a feeling of safety as they attempt to “figure it out,” all the while supported in their efforts to do so.
 
The gentleman who spoke with me noted that he is “making strides,” and I couldn’t help but think that all of us so committed to this space called St. John Center are making strides, as well. We are part of something beautiful, healing, and hopeful.  One story at a time.
 
And yet I am saddened to share that on Jan. 13, a homeless man died in his encampment, unable to fend off the bitter cold on his own.  And so the work we do together continues, as we strive to make a difference one day at a time in this safe space called St. John Center.
 
I am so indebted to each of you for your support, celebrating with you each and every one of the 182 stories that found a permanent space to call home in 2017.  And now we begin anew in 2018.  I look forward to our continued journey together, and I thank you for your ongoing commitment to St. John Center, a space we all love.
 
Maria Price - Executive Director
Several participants in St. John Center's Permanent Supportive Housing Program prepare sweet potatoes they baked during their weekly life skills training class.  St. John Center housing case managers Vickie Burks and Tiny Herron instructed the men on how to prepare healthy meals at their apartments.  In addition to sweet potatoes, the men were shown how to make baked chicken and fish, steamed broccoli, and fresh green beans.  Yum! Yum!
Raisin' the Rent
tickets on sale Jan. 24
 
Join us for the 12th annual Raisin’ the Rent party from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 at the Mellwood Art Center.
 
Tickets for St. John Center's largest annual fundraiser are available at bidpal.net/rtr beginning Jan. 24.
 
Tickets are $30 each through Feb. 17 and $40 each from Feb. 18 through March 3.
 
Dance to live music from The Remedy, enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres, and bid on a variety of quality live and silent auction items.
 
We are still in need of auction items so think about donating a stay at your vacation home, tickets to the Derby, Oaks, or Thunder Over Louisville, ballgames, concerts or other events.  Ask businesses you patronize for a gift card.
 
To make sure we have a good crowd please encourage family, friends and business associates to save the date and join you at Raisin' the Rent.
 
Many thanks to Charah Inc. and Atria Senior Living who are co-presenting sponsors this year.
 
For more information, to register, donate an auction item, or become a sponsor, call Keith Steer at (502) 568-6758, ext. 31.
Wish List
St. John Center is currently in need of the following items:
  • Toilet paper
  • Coffee Creamer (powdered, no individual packets)
  • Sugar (no individual packets)
  • Artificial Sweetener packets
  • Ground Coffee
  • 8-oz. Coffee Cups
  • Coffee Stirs
  • Rain Ponchos
  • Disposable Razors
  • Bathroom Deodorizer
  • Copy Paper (8 ½ x 11, white)
  • Yellow highlighters
  • Post-it notes
Now there is an easier way to donate to St. John Center, just send a text message.  If you want to support our mission of getting men off the streets and into housing, simply text stjohncenter to 243725.
John is eager to use his new fishing gear.
Apartment puts
end to John's
homelessness
and loneliness
 
Many people wonder what it would be like to hitch a ride on one of the many freight trains criss-crossing America, but not John.
 
The 63-year-old Texas native spent an entire summer traveling around the western U.S. courtesy of unattended freight cars.  He once spent the night in an unlocked passenger van being shipped to San Jose, California.
 
He learned some things about how to survive without a permanent address from the “hobos” he met along the way.  “They gave me a few tips,” said John, “but I learned a lot on my own the hard way.”
 
During his lifelong battle with homelessness John says he has lived outdoors more than he has inside.  Living outside meant John spent the majority of his a time alone.  He did not enjoy the solitude.  "Being homeless is definitely not pleasant,” he said.  “Being alone is the worst part.”
 
But John is lonely no more.  In August 2014 he received housing.  Now, he is greeted by many of his neighbors when they see him outside his apartment.  He knows their names and they know his.
 
“Oh, it’s been a blessing,” he said of having his own place.  “My apartment gives me a place where I can stay warm, a bed to sleep in, a stove to cook on, and I can take a shower whenever I want.”
 
John gets an assist from T.J. Martin, his St. John Center case manager.  “T.J. has helped me a lot.  He visits me every month,” explained John.  “He helps me go shopping.”
 
"It is a pleasure to work with John.  He always has a funny story to tell about his past experiences," said T.J.  "He has a positive outlook and wants to give back.  John is saving money so he can make a donation to St. Jude Children's Hospital."
 
No stranger to the kitchen, John's favorite meal to make is baked chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese and spinach, and a baked potato.
 
John’s family life as a child was less than ideal.  He never knew his father.  He started drinking due to peer pressure when he was still in high school.  At 15 he went to live with a friend in Wyoming.  When he was 17, John started hitchhiking.  His travels took him to California, Utah, Montana, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.
 
John has held several unusual jobs on a - surveying crew, oil wells, the railroad (the same one on which he sneaked rides years earlier), and even an underground uranium mine.
 
It was June 2005 when John first visited SJC.  He often worked second and third shift then came to the shelter to take a shower.
 
John attended college for a semester and earned straight As.  He is still interested in learning.  He checks out books and DVDs at the library.  John would like to take a computer class and learn to speak Spanish.
 
He has some simple advice for anyone who finds themselves in a situation similar to his.  “Don’t give up.  It is never over until you quit trying,” said John. “And don’t refuse to accept help when someone offers it.”
 
Now officially “retired,” John’s many decades of working have earned him monthly Social Security benefits.  He manages his money carefully; making sure his rent gets paid first.  And he manages to save a little bit most months.
 
An experienced fisherman, John has purchased a rod and reel and tackle.  This spring, when the weather gets warmer, he plans to put them to good use.  Then he will no doubt add fish to his repertoire of home-cooked meals.

St. John Center clients, staff and volunteers were treated to the melodious sounds of the Brass Quintet from the Louisville Orchestra on Jan. 22.  The expert musicians showcased their talent by performing a variety of selections ranging from classical to show tunes.  The enthusiastic crowd applauded loudly and often.  The musicians also took time to explain their instruments and take questions from the audience.  On hand for the performance were Jerry Amend and Jim Recktenwald on trumpet, Steve Causey on the french horn, Donna Parkes on trombone, and Tim Buzzbee on tuba.
St. Albert the Great Church collected items for St. John Center Jan. 20-21 and boy did the parishioners ever rise to the challenge.  Julie Okruhlica (above) filled her large SUV with donated items that included toilet paper, artificial sweetener, lots of rain ponchos, socks, coffee stirs and much more.  And there is still more she could not fit in the vehicle.  In addition, St. Albert also provided $2,700 to help upgrade SJC's computer system.  We are grateful beyond words.

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Address postal inquiries to:
St. John Center, Inc.
700 E. Muhammad Ali Blvd.
Louisville, KY 40202

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