Friday, March 30, 2012

Is it Time to Volunteer?

In our society today, it may be hard to consider taking time out of our busy lives to volunteer. The economy can limit one’s ability to make the choice of donating one’s time. We all have families to take care of, our own job responsibilities in our careers, children to care for which include their activities to support and attend, homes to maintain and repair - the list can go on and on.

However, the benefits of volunteering are endless. Finding the right match can give one new friends, allow one to learn new skills, or even advance in your own career. Volunteering can even improve your overall mental and physical health!

The true fact is that a volunteer can be the glue that holds an agency or organization together. Not only are you making a connection with your community, but you are also benefitting yourself and your family as well as the cause that you are choosing to volunteer for.

Some of us are more outgoing than others who may have a difficult time meeting new people. Volunteering provides that opportunity to get to know others with common interests as our own. Once you begin to meet new people, it is easier then to reach out further and make even more connections. Volunteering can help you build on your skills that you already have and in turn benefit the community by your contributions. It’s a great way to explore your passions and is a positive way to escape from your every-day routine at home, work or school.

Some may volunteer as a family. This is an option for those who maybe feel guilty if they are not home with their own family spending time with them - especially given today’s fast paced society where everyone is always busy and one needs to work hard at being more creative in finding ways to spend quality time together. Children learn by example. Having parents who show by example the positive outcomes that result from volunteering one’s time will in turn instill the same kind of mind set in the children who grow up in this kind of environment.

Dove, Inc. started with volunteers and it would not be here today if it were not for our volunteers!!! We are forever grateful to each and every one who has so richly blessed our organization over the years. We have formed friendships, started programs, served people in need, strengthened our communities, provided safety to those who were afraid and hurting, reached out to the homeless, held a child’s hand, improved our own neighborhoods, taught life skills in the schools, answered a phone call, caught us up on our filing, delivered meals to the shut-ins, called bingo at the nursing home, etc...etc...etc. When you volunteer, you give part of yourself. You all have done just that. And we at Dove thank you - from the bottom of our hearts!!!
If you would like to volunteer for Dove, call Barb Blakey, Director of Volunteers and Community Relations, at 428-6616. We look forward to meeting you and invite you to become a part of Dove’s family.
                                 Teri Ducy, Domestic Violence Program Director

Training is available for individuals interested in educating themselves on the issues surrounding domestic violence. The training will take place April 30, May 2, 3, 7, 9 and 10, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., in Decatur at Dove, 302 S. Union, Dean Simcox Conference Center. This training is approved by ICADV (Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence) and facilitated by Dove and other community agencies' staff members. There is a $150 fee for the training.

To register, contact Barbara Blakey at (217) 428.6616. A pre-registration phone interview needs to take place by noon on Tuesday, April 24 and there is a registration meeting on Thursday, April 26 at 1:00 p.m.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Culture of Violence Against Women

Rush Limbaugh recently made headlines for calling young Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke some rather unsavory names after she addressed Congress about birth control needing to be covered by all insurance companies for a variety of reasons. Limbaugh called her a slut, a prostitute, and stated that if insurance had to pay for her birth control, she should post her sex tapes online so that he and the rest of us could watch them.
And while Limbaugh has most definitely been faced with a great deal of backlash for his three-day tirade  about the young woman (including over forty some sponsors pulling their advertising from his radio show), this is just the latest incident of a troubling societal problem. Another example is Bill Maher’s blatant, repetitive attacks on Sarah Palin, when he called her a slang, derogatory term used to refer to the female genitals. Some individuals may feel that comments like Limbaugh’s and Maher’s are not a big deal, and that while hurtful and mean, they are just words.
They are words, but words have power. They have the power to change the way a person thinks, to influence the way a person acts, and how a person treats another person. If you can degrade a woman to the point that she is just an object and not a real person, it is that much easier to commit an act of violence toward her, or to look away while someone else does it, or even to blame that woman for the violence committed against her.
All a person needs to do to see this is pick up a newspaper in almost any city, on almost any day of the week to find an example of this. The focus is almost always on the victim, rather than on the perpetrator. How many of us have heard about a sexual assault and instead of asking ourselves or those around us, “why did that man rape that woman?,” we ask questions like, “well, what was she wearing?” or “Why was she out at that time of night?” or “How much did she have to drink when the ‘incident’ happened?” As if the answers to those questions will somehow assure us that as long as we don’t dress a certain way, don’t go out a certain time of night, don’t drink alcohol, etc., etc., etc., we ourselves will be exempt from sexual assault.
Anyone can be a victim of violence, but our society has this tendency to place blame on the victim rather than where it belongs: on the person who committed the actual violence. We must learn to change our thinking if we ever hope to live in a world where systematic violence against women is not a common, every day thing as it is now. It is estimated that 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Right now, a woman in the United States is raped every two minutes.
We must be willing to reject the status quo, we must be willing to take a stand and to rise up and tell the perpetrators that this kind of violence is NOT acceptable in our country. And we must change our own flawed way of thinking. Because until we do that, those statistics aren’t going to get better.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Point In Time Results

As you might remember, the HAC and Homeward Bound conducted the annual Point-in-Time count on January 26. The following are the results of the count, released at the 2012 Affordable Housing Breakfast.  Information may also be found on

Total Homeless Persons: 210
Adults: 159
Children: 51
In a shelter: 87
In Transitional Housing: 61
Using Motel voucher: 7
In Safe Haven: 3
Unsheltered: 52
Chronically Homeless Persons: 49
Total Homeless Households: 147
Male: 90
Female: 57
Without children: 116
With children: 31
Black: 52
White: 84
Hispanic: 4
Multiracial: 2
Other: 1
unknown: 4
Veterans: 9
Households Affected by (may be more than 1 per hh):
Domestic Violence: 19
Physical Disability: 28
Substance Abuse: 45
Emotional/mental Illness: 38
Chronically Homeless Households: 44
Total Persons in Shelters/emergency motel vouchers: 94
Adults: 75
Children: 19
Chronically Homeless: 26
Total Households in Shelters/emergency motel voucher: 74
Male: 53
Female: 21
Without children: 62
With children: 12
Black: 19
White: 50
Multiracial: 1
Hispanic: 2
Other: 1
Unknown: 1
Veterans: 6
Households Affected by (may be more than 1 per hh):
Domestic Violence: 13
Physical Disability: 16
Emotional/mental illness: 23
Substance Abuse: 23
Unaccompanied children: 0
Chronically Homeless Households: 26
Total Persons in Transitional Housing/Safe Haven: 64
Adults: 34
Children: 30
Chronically Homeless: 3
Total Households in Transitional Housing/Safe Haven: 31
Male: 6
Female: 25
Without children: 14
With children: 17
Black: 16
White: 15
Veterans: 0
Households Affected by (may be more than 1 per hh):
Domestic Violence: 1
Physical Disability: 2
Emotional/mental illness: 7
Substance Abuse: 8
Unaccompanied children: 0
Chronically Homeless Households: 3
Total Persons Unsheltered: 52
Adult: 50
Children: 2
Chronically Homeless: 20
Total Households Unsheltered: 42
Male: 31
Female: 11
Without children: 40
With children: 2
Black: 17
White: 19
Multiracial: 1
Hisp.: 2
Unknown: 3
Veterans: 3
Households Affected by (may be more than 1 per hh):
Domestic Violence: 5
Physical Disability: 10
Substance Abuse: 14
Emotional/Mental illness: 8
Chronically Homeless: 15
Unsheltered locations included streets (9), police department lobby (1), vehicles (10), abandoned buildings (20), tent (1), other building/lobby (8), other unspecified (3)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Point in Time Volunteer Responses

We asked the Homeward Bound Point in Time volunteers a few questions about their experience volunteering for the survey and here were a few of the responses:

  1. What prompted you to volunteer for the Point in Time survey?
·        Saw notice in DoveTales and decided that was something I could do. – Bruce Williams
·        It just seemed like the right thing to do. – Richard Sublett
·        The importance of counting, as well as possible, the number of homeless people in Decatur is very clear to me and that's why I volunteered. – Sue Hemp
·        I volunteered at the Public Aide office in the morning I felt like being a part of this was doing something bigger for the community. – Bea Hartsock 
  1. Please tell us a little about your experience with the survey.
    • I was at the Library. There were a large number of people at one time when the library opened, so many were not interviewed. It is likely that some homeless were not counted. – Bruce Williams
    • I was at the law enforcement center from 10pm to 1am along with two other people.  We had only one person who was surveyed. – Richard Sublett
    • My experience was positive. The system used this year worked well; allowing us to quickly weed out non-homeless people at the start with one simple question and meaning there was less wasted time and paper. – Sue Hemp
    • I thought it was going to be hard to get the people to want to answer such personal questions but they were very open to the whole process. – Bea Hartsock
  2. Did you have any preconceived ideas about the homeless before conducting the survey and did your ideas change after you volunteered your time?
    • I am not sure if my ideas changed, but I realized that I didn't know much about homelessness. – Bruce Williams
    • No preconceived ideas, I was very happy to NOT see any children. – Richard Sublett
    • Yes, even though I've had some experience working with homeless people. Everybody's different - one guy was even upbeat about his situation. But then he was finding a way to access services he needed. – Sue Hemp
    • I did not have any preconceived ideas about the homeless. – Bea Hartsock
  3. Would you volunteer again next year for the Point in Time survey and why?
    • Yes, I think it is worthwhile. – Bruce Williams
    • I would be willing to do it again next year, I'm glad our community is active in doing something about the homeless people. – Richard Sublett
    • Yes - see answer to No. 1 above! – Sue Hemp
    • I would volunteer over and over again every year this is a good thing. – Bea Hartsock

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cluney John Speaks About Point in Time Survey

Cluney John currently works as Supervisor of Permanent Supportive Housing with Dove’s Homeward Bound Program.  She filled a volunteer station for Point-in-Time, counting homeless individuals.  Her assignment was at Oasis Day Center, a program of Heritage Behavioral Health Center.  Nancy Rude and her staff and volunteers provide daily hospitality and services for individuals visiting Oasis.  Following are some of Cluney’s thoughts about her interactions on that morning.

“As someone who works daily with homeless, or formerly so, individuals, I went to the Oasis Day Center at 7 a.m. ready to meet familiar and new faces.  I found more examples of what I know homeless folks to be.  They are unique and individual, no two exactly the same.  I was greeted and helped to settle in by friendly men who clearly feel at home at Oasis.  Some folks were curious and offered their participation in our “count’ without having to be asked.  I met individuals who had spent the night before in abandoned buildings or on the street.  I met several who had stayed in one of Decatur’s shelters, and had already completed questions there for Point in Time.  I met couples, single men and a few single women. 

Quite a few individuals had no home of their own, but had been staying with a friend or relative awhile and would be moving on soon.  The many families and persons “sheltered” in this fashion cannot be counted in Point-in-Time because they are not homeless according to the definition used, coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Many, many persons have no home and are unable to establish one on their own resources, but are not officially homeless as long as someone provides overnight accommodations to them.  Of course, this arrangement usually becomes one of frequent turnover, or couch-surfing.

Besides the talkative folks, I met many quiet persons who avoided eye contact until I approached them to invite their help with the City’s effort to bring adequate housing to Decatur.  Like the variety of personalities you have in your family or church or workplace, some are slow to warm up or trust.  Some are wary about reactions from others, about being judged, about their struggles prompting more labeling.

Whether chatty or quiet, the homeless individuals I met that day brought an array of experiences.  Some have education and periods of successful employment that served them well in the past.  Some have repeating struggles with disabilities, family conflicts, mental illness or addiction and these struggles implode their efforts at self-sufficiency.  Some are compelling in their articulate assessment of their own situation and their desperate need for medical/dental care they can’t afford.  Many have been seeking work for a long time, but are stopped by a work history damaged by their own erratic behavior when substance abuse or mental illness was completely untreated.  They believe they are better now and more capable of working successfully.

Mostly, I found at Oasis a safe place where visitors were patient with each other as they waited in line for a free morning coffee.  Some people clearly have friends there and some structure for their day as they complete laundry, take a shower, receive their mail and check in with staff or other visitors.  Some people are loners and talk little.  But they are welcome and they stay to take care of business like the others. I was grateful for Oasis and for their quiet, consistent, capable service to anyone who needs a place to come in from the street, the cold.  Homeless persons are like the rest of us more than they are different.” 

- Cluney John

Friday, March 9, 2012

“Spring-ing Forward”

Looking forward to setting your clocks ahead this weekend?  Maybe not to adjusting your sleep schedule?  Yeah, me too.  But I’ll take an extra hour of daylight anytime!

You know what comes soon after the clocks change…the official first day of Spring is March 20th!  I am not a Winter person, so I welcome Spring with open arms.

So, we’ve got an extra hour of daylight and warmer weather on the way- what to do with it?  Spring signifies a fresh new beginning and moving forward from all the “stale” Wintertime stuff!  Do you feel rejuvenated and refreshed in the Spring?

Here’s an idea:  while you’re making a Spring Cleaning list for your house, make another Spring Cleaning list for your soul.

  • meet the new neighbor or re-connect with a neighbor?
  • spend more time volunteering?
  • schedule a date night with your significant other?
  • tell your kids how special they are and how much you love them?
  • give to those less fortunate than yourself?
  • become more involved in your community?

Make the best of this extra hour of daylight and warmer weather!  I’ll bet whatever you choose to do this Spring for your soul will be much more rewarding than deep-cleaning the kitchen.  Unless you’re one of those really weird people who love to clean and in that case, come and volunteer to clean at Dove and kill two birds with one stone!

Happy Spring to you all!

Brandy Robinson

Friday, March 2, 2012

Homelessness a Bigger Issue Than Many Realize

Recently I was perusing a social networking site and came across a picture that was posted by one of the sites users. This picture depicted several men sleeping in the lobby of the Macon County Law Enforcement Center. The subject of the picture was nothing I had not come across before but the caption in reference to the picture caught me a little off guard. The photographer essentially stated his surprise by the lobby being utilized as a resting place for those without homes. Being the director of Homeward Bound, a housing program for the homeless in Macon County and the chair of a homeless advisory council I thought the issues concerning the homeless was being adequately spread in this community. Unfortunately, the photog’s statement and the subsequent comments of others have made me realize that there is much more that needs accomplished.

In 1998 the Macon County Continuum of Care’s (CoC) Homeless Council (currently the Homeless Advisory Council or HAC) began conducting Point-in-Time counts. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires each CoC’s to gather data about the homeless population within its communities. This data is used to get a snapshot of the number and characteristics of the homeless in different communities during a specific point in time. Initially these counts were conducted bi-annually but beginning in 2012 HUD requires they be conducted annually.

HAC (the working group for the Macon County CoC) has conducted them annually since 2007 because as a community-driven entity the group wanted to keep the community accurately informed about homeless issues. In conjunction with conducting the count, HAC hosted a community breakfast where the numbers of the count were released to the public. Additionally, during this breakfast issues of homelessness were discussed, other programs presented information about ongoing projects, guest speakers shared innovative ideas and/or inspirational stories and political forums have even been held.

The Macon County CoC is a great collaborative group that has developed several projects to assist the homeless in this community. However, seeing that photo and reading that caption and comment has opened my eyes a little wider to the need for greater awareness efforts. The Continuum of Care was created as a way to bring together those concerned about the issue of homelessness in hopes of enacting change. The “bubble” that we have surrounded ourselves with appears to have done the complete opposite of its original intent. We are spreading the word quite loudly within our circle but apparently only creating a whisper outside the circumference.

As I mentioned, the HAC hosts an annual breakfast and this year, my hope as the Chair of the HAC, is that new faces will grace the tables. I am asking that you not only show up but that you invite one person who does not know about the Continuum of Care or the depth of the issue of homelessness in this community. Invite them so that they might learn that nearly 43% of those homeless persons counted during the 2011 point-in-time were children (under 18). Invite them so that they might learn what changes are taking place locally, statewide and nationally to address this and other issues affecting our community and its homeless individuals, families and children. Invite them so that they might join us in securing decent, safe and affordable housing not only those who were captured in that photograph but also for the many more who weren’t. Invite them so that they can join the rest of us in the movement toward ZERO for future point-in-time counts in this community.

The Homeless Advisory Council Community Breakfast will take place on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. at Grace United Methodist Church, 901 N. Main, Decatur, IL. Please RSVP to Homeward Bound, 217-362-7700 by no later than Thursday, March 15, 2012. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Homeward Bound office.

Darsonya Switzer
Homeward Bound Program Director

Doing our part to make a difference.

 With so much talk everywhere on issues of violence, once again a topic discussed at the CONO (Coalition Of Neighborhood Organizations) meet...