Saturday, December 31, 2011
No one knows what the next year is going to hold but we, at Samaritan House, are anticipating some great (and new) things. Thank you for everything you have helped us do over the past 365 days. Our hope is that you have a peaceful and fulfilling New Years celebration with family or friends.
Talk to you next year...
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
A single mom lies awake thinking of the hand life had dealt her.
Just one stocking (for three kids) was hung on the fridge with care,
In hopes that something... anything... would be there.
Her children were nestled on a mattress, a couch and a bed,
While visions of a real home danced in their heads.
And mom in her ‘kerchief, and her youngest child in a cap,
Could not settle their brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out in the street there arose such a clatter,
But this was not new, something always was the matter.
Silently through the window the police lights would flash,
She walked over to the shutters and pulled down the sash.
The moon in the puddles of the parking lot gravel,
Gave the lustre of hope in a life quick to unravel.
When, what to her sleepy mind should appear,
But a revelation for the future, it all seemed so clear.
The thoughts in her head, came so lively and quick,
She knew in a moment she must write them down so they’d stick.
More rapid than eagles, these ideas... they came,
So she scrambled for paper and pen, and and wrote them down by name!
Now, Dignity! now, Health Care! now, Full-time Employment!
On, Independence! on, Education ! on, a Life of Enjoyment!
To the top of the shelter! Through the second-story hall!
Please make these true! Make these true! Make these true, all!
“Santa can’t save us,” she mused with a whistle,
And strenghtened her resolve with determination and gristle.
But I heard her sigh, ‘while her kids slept out of sight,
“This can be a Happy Christmas for us, I will make it a good night!”
Thursday, December 22, 2011
We live in a world of constant noise and peripheral chaos. Our money is often spent before we deposit the paycheck and the horizon sometimes seems scarier than anything we've ever left behind. Finances are tight but that doesn't really bother the calendar hanging on our wall because those days keep advancing without ever consulting us. The time of year for gifts has finally rounded third and is unabashedly heading straight for home plate. The only question is whether that plate will be bare or loaded with wonderful festive items.
I work at a place where the majority of the people do not have a great deal of money. When the topic of holiday giving raises its commercial head, one might think that the conversation grows tense and uncomfortable, but that is rarely the case. On many occasions, I have learned quite a lot from Samaritan House residents on the subject of giving. What is the most valuable thing a person can give another? My experiences at the shelter have shown me that the greatest gift is time.
In a society of fabricated community, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets are prime examples of how real intimacy is going extinct and being replaced with cyber relationships a mile wide but an inch deep. Spending time with a person now consists of logging on to check their status before you post a quick blurb on their wall? Am I missing something?
Oh, yeah... Conversation.
Take this holiday season as an opportunity to reconnect with your friends and family on a more personable level. Sit down and talk or go for a walk or just turn every electronic device in your house off and enjoy the quiet together. Get back to the basics of relationship, even if it's just a brief respite before the new year begins and you have to plug back in. Our residents spend hours together just talking and I fear this is a lost art. If you have no one to chat with in your life, then come down to Samaritan House and chew the fat with our residents because it will be an experience that makes you a better person.
And it's free.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Imagine the world’s lamest superhero. I’m not sure what this person’s (lack of) power might entail, but it would be largely ineffective. He or she likely has no comic books named after them, either. Perhaps this person’s lone claim to notoriety is that they have never saved anyone. Well, here is your chance to do something more monumental than the world’s lamest superhero. In fact, I am presenting you with the opportunity to do something quite heroic…
On Thursday, December 22, you can play a part in saving someone’s life.
Samaritan House will be hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross and we still have opportunities to sign up from 11am until 2:45pm. For more information, call Cary at 257-5801. The blood drive will be at the Samaritan House Administrative Center located at 1110 2nd Street West in Kalispell.
You don’t have to be a superhero to save someone. You will do nicely…just the way you are.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Be Kinder Than Necessary.
On the surface, this seems trite and a little too simple. They key is to closely examine the last word of this phrase…necessary. Being kind is not an overly difficult task and really doesn’t require much more than common decent courtesy. Kindness is often a reflex or reaction that we generate on the spot.
But, what does it mean to be unnecessarily kind? The implication of this behavior demands us to examine a situation and then go beyond the expected niceties that might be required. This means that we fore go being kind and kick it into overdrive. Don’t just help someone today, be so unfathomably helpful that they suspect ulterior motives (but, a ha! The joke will be on them because you have none).
What would it look like if you enacted a brand of kindness that was proactive and sought out opportunities to befuddle others who never saw it coming? Try this today and see how it feels.
Monday, December 12, 2011
As the calendar shortens, many of us reflect back over the previous 365 days and take a personal inventory of what happened and how these events impacted our lives. If we could have a restart, what would we do differently? Looking back is always easier than living in the moment so what wisdom will we garner from last year?
Resolutions are easy enough to make but sometimes difficult to keep. Over the next few days, I will list some resolutions for the new year. How can we keep moving forward and avoid the stagnant tendencies that render us powerless and hopeless? What changes can me make in our own lives as well as the lives of others?
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
It has been a little inconvenient and forced some of us to fall a bit behind on our work. Its very unsettling to have your belongings in flux; you have a slight idea where something is but you cannot get to it. A few things got lost along the way. I swear I had a few items that I have either misplaced or they simply decided to make a break for it while I was distracted by the mounting piles of junk that had spontaneously appeared.
But now things are back to normal and I have no more excuses for a decrease in my productivity. I am settled into my new office and the jostling and moving and lost office supplies are but a distant memory. I was tired of toiling out of the hallway and make-shift benches converted into a workspace. It is nice to have everything accessible so I can perform at my best.
Being office-less was terrible. I'm glad people don't have to live like that.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Samaritan House will be hosting a Help Portrait event at the Administrative Center on December 10th.
Help Portrait is a movement of photographers who are using their time, equipment and expertise to give back to those who are less fortunate. It provides a way for someone who otherwise could not afford a professional quality framed portrait.
Here are the details:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Yep. You heard me correctly... clothes hangers.
How, you might ask, could I classify a hanger as one of the best inventions of our time? To be fair I must concede that it doesn't beep or glow. You cannot log-on to it or even ask it for directions. No one will ever confuse this item with something that might need to be locked up for safety reasons. So, what is so great about a clothes hanger?
It keeps things off the floor. Most of us have floors that we wouldn't be overly alarmed if something fell onto them. Sure, we would feign embarrassment at the state of our carpets but, by and large, they rarely look like a street in Calcutta. If something ends up on the ground life does not grind to a halt until said item is picked up. We can cope.
But, what if your floor is actually pretty dirty. You might be a neat and tidy person but perhaps one of the other 6 people living in the same room do not share your heightened sense of cleanliness. The individual to the left of you has tracked in mud and the one on the right spilled coffee and hasn't bothered to clean it up. Not a bad time to have a hanger laying around.
This dilemma might be fiction for a large portion of us, but for our residents it is a reality. We take so much for granted and often never give things in our daily routine a second thought because we have become accustomed to living at a certain standard that eludes many people in Kalispell.
We have become pampered by hangers.
Monday, November 28, 2011
It seems we just turned the corner on Thanksgiving and now Christmas is staring us directly in the snow-blown face. It is not uncommon to be overwhelmed this time of year. Familial obligations creep out of the woodwork and funny-looking Christmas cards from once-removed fourth cousins begin flooding our mailboxes. I won’t even mention the fruitcake. There are things to purchase and people to visit and caloric calamities to ingest... everything swirling around in a vortex of holiday busyness that can be stressful and tense.
But (there always seems to be ‘but’)… what if your holiday season was hardly overwhelming at all? What if you could erase the chaos from your schedule and spend the holidays alone? At some point a few of us migght have whispered to ourselves about the benefits of being on a deserted island as soon as tghe claendar flips over to December. Christmas can be such a bother.
Many people complain about being overextended during this time of year. However, the fact that this occurs is a good indicator that there are people in our lives to add to the holiday shuffle we routinely perform. Chances are, a lot of these people care about us and (in spite of the insanity) are positive contributors even during our sense of being overwhelming. The majority of our Samaritan House residents are not overwhelmed. They live out the theoretical quiet Christmas so many others long for. Of course, there is always a catch when the hypothetical chokes on reality.
Homelessness has many attachments that can physically hinder a person from enjoying most of the amenities non-homeless people have. Reliable shelter, steady employment, regular access to food, and education are things many of us do not think about on a regular basis. Some of these options are not available to the homeless, hence their daily lives can be underwhelming in comparison to people who are not homeless.
The joys of an underwhelming holiday season for the homeless: not having to mix and mingle at endless office parties and family get-togethers. No sense of Christmas claustrophobia caused by shopping for others at any one of a thousand stores of their choosing. Avoiding the hassle of cutting down a tree to wrestle with in the living room. How great to not have to listen to endless holiday hits on XM radio. The solitude of having no one drop by to pay you a visit unexpectedly.
This is what we dream of, right?
Friday, November 25, 2011
This term was coined in Philadelphia in 1966 but didn’t really gain steam as a national (anti)phenomenon until 1975. The origins for the name of this day are debated. One theory addresses the commercial aspect of this phrase and the idea that most companies make a significant profit (in the black) on this sacred day of capitalistic consumerism. Another suggestion is that the streets and roads are so crowded that everything morphs into a huge shadow. I always thought Black Friday should simply be a tribute to Billy Dee Williams, but I seem to be alone on this.
Whatever the true genesis for Black Friday, it typically elicits polarizing responses: some people avoid it like the (black) plague, while others set their alarm clocks for the Monday before everything begins so they can be the first in line to pacify their growing wish lists. I even heard that some organizations and businesses are opening their doors at 4am to provide child care so parents can drop of the kiddies and enter, once again, into the fray. My initial thought was… who does this? Who drops off their own children in the middle of the night so they can join the parking lot mosh pits of the Valley’s numerous stores?
I’ll tell you who.
Not everyone is blessed to have grandparents or a caring spouse to watch their kids. Sometimes the only option for a single parent is to rely on these types of programs because this is, literally, one of the only times they can find a babysitter. Fighting the crowds and elbowing past the ill-fated store greeters is a challenge for some. There is an adrenaline rush and, while the reduced prices are nice, there will be plenty of days left to shop on days without specific colors attached to them. Other people venture out because this is the only time they can procure an item that usually would be way out of their price range. They bend over backwards and jump through whatever hoops are present just to feel normal. It’s both sad and scary that this is becoming the new normal.
My hat is off to all of you who are braving the roads, weather, and other shoppers. While you’re out there, though, remember that some people need this day much more than others.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Some people like to focus on the historical and politicall ramifications. Others enjoy a break from their daily schedules to go hunting or legally play hooky from class. Football, turkey, and candied yams take center stage right before a prolonged nap from an imagined tryptophan overindulgence. (PS... turkey doesn't really make you sleepy).
Whatever your perspective is regarding November's final Thursday, looking back and taking some time to reflect on what you are thankful for is a very cathartic exercise that is good for the soul. It reminds us that life is fluid and even if times are difficult, there is no reason to believe that things can't improve. It's easy to focus on the negative, and at times life genuinely feels overwhelming. Like we can't keep up.
But stop. Take a breath.
Rekindle those thoughts and think back to something good that has happened. Appreciate that beauty of the moment in the midst of the chaos. Remember what it was like to smile and then recall while you smiled in the first place. I'm not asking you to dabble in some psychoanalytical exercise or jump through some psychological hoop. I am not painting the world with rose-colored glasses. I know there is pain and madness and adult on-set diabetes and the New York Yankees...
There is also charity and redemption. Sunlight and snowmen. For at least one day a year let us call to mind the things and people that warm our spirits and induce butterflies in our stomachs. Make a concerted effort to be thankful for what has happened in your life and also in the difference you have made in the lives of others. We can go back to being cynics on Friday.
Monday, November 21, 2011
There are probably thousands of answers to this question and I had a great little article all ready to go until reality interrupted the theoretical universe I call home. I was literally sitting at my desk punching the keystrokes that composed my opening sentence when one of our residents stuck his head in my office (man, I really need to keep that door closed) and asked if I could give him a hand with something.
Sure, I thought. He probably needed something from the supply closet or maybe the kitchen was out of coffee. I could trouble myself to pause my very important blog submission and solve this crisis. I donned my martyr robe and asked him what he needed. My face had just the right mix of empathy and concern and I even leaned back in my chair to strike a 'how can I help you?' pose. His truck was stalled in our parking lot and he needed some guys to help push it so he could try and jump start it.
Ummm. I'm the Associate Director. I don't really do things like that. I don't mind fetching some paper towels once in a while or maybe making a few photocopies every now and then, but pulling some Dukes of Hazard stunt at 6:30 in the morning in 30 degree weather is not really in my job description.
Anyway... I am pretty wrapped up in writing this awesome article about the importance of helping people.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
5:37 am (blink, blink)... 9 degrees (blink, blink).
I heard a joke once. "How many idealists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is none because an idealist has never changed anything; they just romanticize the problem."
Homelessness is an epidemic but what are some tangible solutions to addressing it? Noble intentions and heart moving rhetoric are wonderful things but they should not be viewed as anything but a means to an end. I believe many people want to help but sometimes this problem seems so overwhelming that it paralyzes those who could provide realistic solutions to homelessness. For those interested, don't try to change this light bulb all at once. Start small and know that any contributions are appreciated and part of a remedy to the greater illness.
Donations are very helpful. Warm clothing for this time of year is especially practical and will be a blessing. Food is another item that always makes a difference. Whether it is a home cooked meal or a bag of groceries, no contribution is too small. Another idea is to 'adopt' a family or individual. Samaritan House is full of residents that can use various items. Call us if you are interested, at 257-5801.
We are sincerely thankful for your help because we all understand that good intentions aside, 9 degrees is not a theoretical state. It is real and it is now and there are people outside living in it.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
As of this morning, we still have 6 tickets left for our raffle drawing the day after Thanksgiving. Each ticket is $100 but the overall grand prize is $2000, followed by $1000, there are also $200 and $100 prizes.
As the weather begins to change and grow colder, many of you have been kind enough to call and inquire about possibly 'adopting' a family or individual for the holidays. For more information on what our residents' needs are, please call Curt, who is heading coordinating these efforts. He can be reached from 6am-2pm, Monday through Friday at 257-5801.
Our Fall newsletter should be arriving soon, so please keep your eyes open for it. We will post some more updates soon. Have a great day and keep warm!
Thursday, November 10, 2011
What comes to your mind when you hear the word "homeless?" Here is the final segment of our four-part interview that asks some people this very question.
What does homelessness look like?
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
I posed this question to Samaritan House Executive Director, Chris Krager, and his reply was, "We're finding that our community visibility is somewhat low. The good news is that there is always room for improvement."
Curiously, I began to wonder what people around the Flathead Valley thought of us. It is no stretch to say that our reputation is very positive in certain circles. Many of our residents travel from great distances hoping to find an open bed simply based on word of mouth within the homeless community. The Montana Veteran's Affairs office is always referring people to us because of the dedication and care exhibited by our staff.
But what about Kalispell? What about people who are not homeless? Does anyone out there even know we exist? I put my existential crisis on hold and thought it might be nice to find out, so I hit the street (metaphorically) and asked people what they thought about Samaritan House and a few other issues.
Here are the interviews dealing with Samaritan House. The rest of the segments will be up on this site soon. Much thanks to Ruth Krager for filming and editing these.
November and December are notoriously difficult times to plan end-of-the-month functions because people are busy and time is a precious commodity that seems to be sparse around the holidays. Fair enough. Planning and executing a fundraiser that no one will attend is both frustrating and insane so here's the plan...
Samaritan House will be launching a freshly formatted event in the new year. We are unsure of what it will look like or how it will appear, but it will be revamped in a such a way that you will be happy to attend. Please stay tuned for the updates and other blogs on this site.
Also, our Fall Newsletter has been sent off to the press so it should be arriving shortly in a mailbox near you.
Friday, October 7, 2011
On Friday, October 28, from 12-1pm, Samaritan House is happy to present local musician Allie Andrews in conjunction with our final Fourth Friday Concert event. Originally from Orlando, Allie has been a resident of the Flathead Valley for 4 years. I won't try to compare her to other artists because, frankly, she is better than anyone I have heard in a long time and I feel others should be compared to her.
Allie draws inspiration from hiking, camping, and she is a avid snowboarder. Her reading tastes are eclectic, ranging from G.K. Chesterton to instructional manuals, depending on what mood she is in. Lyrics are vital to Allie and a message of unconditional love resounds when she performs. Please watch the interview and visit the link to see Allie's video for her song, 'Knock 'em Down.'
Please check back tomorrow because we will have an exclusive interview with Allie, but for now, YOU SHOULD REALLY take the time to watch her video for 'Knock em Down!'
Knock em Down
Come and join us on Friday, October 28, from noon -1pm at the Samaritan House Administrative Center, 1110 2nd Street West in Kalispell. A delicious lunch will be provided for a donation of $10 and the proceeds help Samaritan House immensely. Here is a preview of Friday's menu:
Homemade Rustic New Potato Soup
Belgian Creme Fresh Broccoli Soup
Country House Salad
Oven Baked Butter Rolls
Coco Chocolate Cake
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
They give us a chance to reflect on a topic and then vehemently disagree with the author as we compile our own mental checklist that would be far superior. Sometimes we are angered or inspired by them. Perhaps they even knock a few cobwebs loose from the recesses of our memories and we recall things that we imagined were long gone. They elicit emotions.
So, in the tradition of great Top Ten lists (please forgive me, Letterman), I submit a list of childhood memories that are fun to remember. Also... I would love to hear from some of you (crickets chirping in the background). What are some childhood memories that you would like to share? Feel free to comment.
Top 10 Childhood Memories:
10. Fifth grade gym class... the day I won the dodgeball tournament vanquishing Josh G. to the annuls of loserdome. Finally.
9. Tying my little sister to the closet door with a slinky. (everyone loves a slinky).
8. Sitting on the porch waiting for my dad to get home from work just so I could run up and give him a hug.
7. The first time I watched Red Dawn. Then the second... and the third...
6. Mom's. Homemade. Ravioli. Dinners.
5. Going to my grandfather's farm and hanging out with him while I thought I was working but was really just getting in the way. Remembering his laugh and smile.
4. Vacations at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
3. The time I convinced my sister that I was a vampire for three days.
2. Super Mario Brothers.
1. Thinking that everyone, everywhere, was as happy as I was.
It's a shame reality rarely matches fantasy.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Or how about when someone says you remind them of someone else? Ouch. All those years spent cultivating your personality and style and belief system just to be compared to some random stranger who has probably been doing the same thing just a few streets over from where you live.
Uniqueness is an idea that many people pride themselves on. We like being set apart from the rest of the herd and we point out the differences between ourselves and others with ferocity. So, how do you think I felt a few years ago when 3 different people called me within a 5-minute window to tell me there was a baseball game on TV and a guy in the stands, sitting behind home plate, looked "exactly like me." I was indignant until I checked for myself and saw this handsome devil who could have been my twin (except that I loathe the Atlanta Braves).
Strike two for the ego.
Why do many of us crave this sense of individuality? Are we born like this? Did our life's story and experiences do this? Both or none of the above? I'm not saying that its good or bad; just that it seems to be. Some cultures express and emphasize this more than others, but we're Americans and this trait is in our bloodline...our DNA. We like to stand out.
I see a lot of people everyday who don't want attention drawn to their circumstances. They try to blend and morph into the backdrop of society so others won't notice them. Maybe its fear or embarrassment. Maybe its the remembrance that they, too, once loved standing out. Perhaps there is no worse feeling than marginalization for someone who is used to being lauded.
So, as the holidays approach (yikes), I humbly urge you to take some time and recognize those people who might be hiding because standing out has gone from a spotlight to a prison sentence.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I was also told, numerous times, that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. If I put in enough time and effort (see...there are catches already) the sky was the limit. Soon, once I discovered the tumultuous realm of long division, I scratched my plans involving space travel or anything else that necessitated me having to use scratch paper to achieve my end result. I was a bit disillusioned because I no longer found this mantra of Americana to be absolutely true. But, oh well, I could still be a world class soccer player.
As I grew older I revised this idea of unbridled and boundless potential to include categories where I showed potential... Thought perhaps I could be whatever I wanted as long as there was inclination and ability (my World Cup soccer hopes were dashed when I discovered I was probably the slowest kid in a three-state radius). It doesn't sound quite as catchy,"You can be whatever you want if you happen to have some natural talent in that area, and if not, the likelihood goes waaaay down." But, I found this to be truer than what was explained to me as a child. The one constant, however, is that time and effort were still a crucial part of the equation.
But what happens if a child is very talented or gifted in an area but their life's circumstances do not afford them the chance to develop these skills? Okay, I understand there are incredible stories of successful adults that bucked the odds and overcame traumatic and difficult childhoods to become legends in spite of their environment. These people are not the norm and for every Horatio Algers that struck it rich there are a thousand children who might not ever get a decent opportunity to soar because they lack a few basic things.
Like proper nutrition. Kids who do not eat breakfast go to school hungry and studies show that this affects a child's academic performance. What about privacy? How does trying to study while sharing a room with two other siblings because there are five people living in a one-bedroom apartment factor into this equation?
What if this 10 year old has responsibilities that other kids don't. Cooking dinner and looking after the other children until their mom gets home from work at 7:30pm. Then they can start their homework. Or what if they get sick and cannot afford to go to the hospital? Oh... never mind, there are free and reduced clinics. This solves everything.
My point is this: It is laughable to assume there is a level playing field in America that gives all children an equal opportunity to succeed. This is not a political blog and I will not blame (or praise) any specific party or endorse a political ideology. My sole indictment is reserved for anyone who is able to help children but refuses to. So, what does this look like? That is up to you. Start a free breakfast program. Volunteer to be a tutor or help in an after school program. Become a coach or mentor.
Just don't tell a child that he or she can be whatever they want unless you are willing to be part of the journey.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Maybe I could write about what it was like in Haiti last year and how I had never seen a country so utterly devastated yet still found many people so full of hope. Hope. Let's talk about that, instead. That's a neat little topic.
A long time ago there was a man from the Near Ancient East who called hope one of the three greatest attributes to humanity. Hope is an idea that looks into an abyss and sees a ray of light. It quells rationality and replaces it with the thought that things might get better. Okay, now perhaps I'm onto something: better.
For a thing to be 'better' there has to be a comparison to something that is not as good. It implies two (at a minimum) objects can be looked at objectively.... Oh! Objectivity. There's something to muse about. Now we're getting somewhere, aren't we?
If I am objective then I can divorce myself from any emotions that would try to creep into my life. Objectivity affords me the opportunity to go about my day and function rather than feel. This is so much better than having to face the issues that would require me to make the subtle changes... empathy over sympathy. Concern instead of condescension. Algerian author Albert Camus once said, "There is no possible salvation for the man who feels true compassion."
I, however, could just really use another cup of coffee. It's easier that way.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Fast forward 10 years and you would be hard pressed to recognize Vince. He appears older than his 56 years. He needs dental work and he gave up shaving quite a few years ago. He has lost weight and fidgets a little when he gets too uncomfortable. But there is something about his eyes.
They are steel gray, and they seem conflicted. They appear muted and a person call tell they have seen much: A foreclosure and a chemical dependency issue. The death of his spouce and unemployment. Over ten years of homelessness.
But then, every now and again, they flicker and resonate with the sparkle they held in his younger days. He remembers his days working at various restaurants and he knows that he still has some things to offer. He is sober and industrious and wants to make a clean start but there is a monster looming on his horizon that seems unable to be vanquished: His resume is a bit lacking.
After bouncing around Portland he left Oregon for the Flathead Valley in 2001. These were amongst his darkest days and he battled every day just to find a reason to wake up the next morning. He took jobs as a dishwasher and janitor in the very types of restaurants he might have managed in his old life.
Vince has chosen to make some changes and has been sober for nearly 3 years although he has not worked for more than five. He is at a place in his life where he now feels like he is hireable and will be a good and reliable employee. He wants to work but has difficulty even landing an interview for a job that many people would turn their nose at. Some estimates say that there are nearly 100 applications for most job openings. Without a resume and credible, updated references, Vince faces a daunting task in the hunt for gainful, honorable employment.
Sometimes people just need a chance.
*Not his real name.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Kalispell Dairy Queen and Mary Dutter.
Bob and Laura White.
Alamon and Frank and Peg Gebhardt.
Jerry and Cynthia Kennedy.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Andre Floyd - also known as Montana's Cultural Minister will be bringing his talents to the Samaritan House 4th Friday Concert Series on September 23rd.
Andre, the quintessential musician, has been all over the world with his special brand of music. He's worked with such greats as Taj Mahal, Edgar Winter, Corky Siegal and much more. The $10 admission includes lunch and will prove to be a great time.
Here are the details:
Monday, September 12, 2011
Ten years ago I took a team of volunteers to Ground Zero after the towers came down. We worked with the Salvation Army feeding the rescue workers around the clock in 12-hour shifts as they tried to extract bodies from the rubble. It marked me.
Many of us can recall with great specificity what we were doing on that day in 2001. It was an unintentional bonding moment most of us never want to relive. We were all changed. And while the memories still resonate and the feelings of that day will never quite fade totally into oblivion, time does have a way to add perspective that allows us to stop and catch our breath before we move on. If we can move on.
Lets be honest, this world is an indifferent place that often places us into scenarios that we did not foresee. We are often forced to react to situations that we never anticipated. Sometimes we face these demons alone and other times we are surrounded by an audience. But these times still come.
And they come often.
Devastation is not constrained to a universal form. Often it comes in waves that are still and quiet and excruciatingly painful. Other times is is a cacophony of confusion and chaos that screams for attention. Whatever the wrappings, it provides us an opportunity to make a choice. A chance to (re)define our livelihood. Will we embrace hope and move forward and cling to the belief that things will get better? Or will we resign ourselves to a fearful existence that cowers and makes no attempt to improve the situation?
Where will we be?
Thursday, September 8, 2011
One aspect of his job goes unseen by the public. Several times during the course of a year Chris turns into a self-imposed hermit so he can focus on writing grants that help secure the longevity of Samaritan House. It is no fun chore to stare at a computer screen and answer an absurd amount of questions for, literally, days upon days. Seriously, why bother?
The answer is simple. At the end of each project and marathon grant-writing session Chris doesn't see numbers or statistics. He sees people. Each percentage point is more than a statistical representation... it is a person who was helped. Seeing behind the numbers is a necessity in order to not lose the vision behind Samaritan House.
With that in mind, here are the numbers from the latest transitional housing APR summary. Transitional housing can be thought of as longer-term shelter with case management. The residents can stay for up to 2 years.
In 2010, Samaritan House Transitional Housing served 121 homeless people.
* 42 single adults
* 34 parents with 45 children
The average length of stay was seven months and one week.
29% were homeless veterans
31% were chronically homeless
65% were homeless families
79% of discharging clients went on to a greater permanency in housing
90% of discharged clients had an increased income
Upon discharge, clients experienced an average increase on income of $118 per month.
There were 5 clients that were unable to be served.
Two babies were born during the mother's stay.
One gentleman passed away.
91% average occupancy rate... we are almost always full.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The same human gene pool that is responsible for terrible things like war and poverty and anything to do with late 1980s glam rock also can be credited for amazing things like solar energy and MRI machines and Honda Civics. Suffice it to say, we have been destroying and creating things since the first humans rubbed two sticks together.
There have also been some truly incredible ideas and philosophies that have been passed down through the halls of time. Such wisdom covering topics like survival (stop running with those scissors), health (a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips), and morality (if you don't want it done to you then stop doing it to others). Most of these are pretty right-on and have contributed to the evolution and development of all kinds of societies. There is one pithy saying, however, that might be worth some discussion.
"A change will do you good."
Now, let's be honest. Most of us have uttered these six words at some point in our life. Usually, it corresponds with a situation where we are experiencing some chaos or disequilibrium in our life and the best thing we can think of is to get outta Dodge as quickly as possible. The idea is that if we can distance ourselves from whatever is momentarily plaguing us, we can catch our breath and recover and all will be right with the universe until it is time for another change to do us even better.
The problem, as I see it, is that all change does is extract us from one scenario and plop us down into virgin territory where we are likely to face the same issues from a whole different perspective. The change we make has potential to be a catalyst for a better life, but it should not be the ideal we seek. Really, all a change does is give you an opportunity. If we are honest, we could just as easily argue that "a change might do us ill."
I propose the new statement should be this... (cue the drum roll but then be prepared for disappointment). "Improvement will do us good!" Now, right about now you are likely thinking this is so elementary and self-evident that it really goes without saying. I will concede that point, but than ask why isn't the expression "an improvement will do us good"?
Because improvement takes effort and time and work and is messy. Improving our situation entails more than packing up and switching zip codes. Improvement acknowledges that our problems might actually follow us to said zip codes. Improvement says the problem could actually be us and not Kansas. What changes do we need to make in our life? What support network do we have to rely on? It might be difficult, but it can be done.
Do we see hope at the end of the tunnel or just more tail lights from our rearview mirror as we flee another situation in a desperate attempt to simply change our way out of a bad time?
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
But, alas... this is neither a history lesson nor a political endorsement. Rather, I was struck by something written in The Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson uses the phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Self-evidence is a marvelous thing because it eliminates outside mitigating factors that might force us to live in someone else's reality.It is up to the individual to decide what is important.
If an idea or belief is self-evident, then it should be easy enough to demonstrate; It should be obvious. All men are created equal...
...unless they make minimum wage
...or they are a different religion.
...if they have a college degree
...or a boat on the lake.
...unless they don't have a fixed address
...or eat their meals at a shelter.
...if we belong to the same social circles
...or we feel comfortable around one another.
Do we really believe this... that all people are created equal? Or is it merely a quaint patriotic cloak we wrap ourselves in as we look down on others who are not us? Our treatment of one another is (evidently) what helps define who we are. The next time we decide that we are 'proud to be an American,' maybe we can take a minute to reflect on what this could mean. That the implications of our beliefs have long-lasting effects on ourselves and those we rub shoulders with every day. True patriotism demands an equality based on the value of each person.
Montanans are patriotic people and proper patriotism is something to be applauded.
...self-evidently speaking, that is.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Me: Wake up around 4:45 to begin my day; put on some coffee and steal a glance at the news so I can solve all life's problems. Begin to shake the cobwebs from my head.
Me: Slug down some more coffee and look through my pantry before deciding there is nothing that I want to eat. Check on my sleeping children and set the lawn sprinkler before I leave for work.
Terry: Wake up and wait for the dining room to open so he can get some coffee. Try to be as quiet as possible as not to wake up roommates.
Me: Arrive at Samaritan House and check on the previous days activities. Sort through the pantry and refrigerators to see what is available to serve the residents for breakfast. Do my best Gordon Ramsay impression before deciding on donated precooked breakfast sandwiches and pancakes.
Terry: Take a shower in the communal bathroom and then go outside to get some fresh air while waiting for breakfast. Finally grab some coffee.
Me: Serve breakfast and scurry around getting the residents the supplies they need to do their respective chores.
Terry: Eat breakfast and head back outside talk to other residents. Make a game plan for the rest of the day.
Me: Settle into my office and answer emails and other responses to various projects. Answer the odd or occasional question from anyone who knocks on my door.
Terry: Sweep and mop the hallway of the shelter. Go back to the room and rummage through belongings to find some papers that needed to be filled out. Try to figure out how to dress for the day. It looks like rain.
Me: Return phone calls to people and businesses who have been partnering with us. Force myself to drink some water to balance out the caffeine intake. Perform room inspections.
Terry: Leave the shelter and try to fill the day until residents can return to Samaritan House at 4 pm. Walk to the job service to turn in some forms.
Me: Staff meeting to discuss policy rewrites.
Terry: Still at job service office.
Me: Check back with the kitchen to see what is available to serve the Veterans lunch. The leftovers from the previous evening's dinner looks promising. Get everything prepped and into the oven. Sort through some donated items and put them away.
Terry: Walk to the park and wait for lunch.
Me: Serve lunch and clean up. Sulk back into the office knowing I only have 2 more hours of work left. Make a trip to the food bank to drop off some items and pick up some donated food.
Terry: Walk to an organization that serves free lunch. Eat and then walk back to the park.
Me: Meet with some potential volunteers who are considering assisting us by cooking and serving dinner.
Terry: Walk to the library to get out of the rain. Read some books on world history. Check the internet.
Me: Log out at work and depart for home. Call my folks back on the east coast.
Terry: Still at the library. Email family who live out of state. Head to the laundromat to wash some clothes.
Me: Pick the kids up from school and help them with homework. Play with them for a while until my wife gets home from her job.
Terry: Finish washing clothes and go to the store to pick up a few things. Begin the journey back to Samaritan House, trying not to drop the bags.
Me: Hang out with my family and hear how my wife's day went. Run to the post office to check the mail and then hit the grocery store to pick up some food. Arrive home and fire up the grill.
Terry: Go back to the room and try to find a place to put the items purchased at the store. Read a book.
Me: Eat dinner and compulsively switch back and forth between Sportscenter, Food Network, and CNN.
Terry: Sort through some employment opportunities and then walk a few blocks to the Samaritan House Administrative Center for dinner.
Me: Go to Target. Go to Shopko. Go to Starbucks. Go Home.
Terry: Eat dinner. Drink coffee. Walk back to the room.
Me: Read for a while and then put on a movie. Begin getting the kids cleaned up.
Terry: Read for a while and work on a crossword puzzle.
Me: Some friends come over to visit. Put the kids to bed.
Terry: Smoke break outside and sit on the bench. Begin to think about the next day.
Me: Take a shower and do some last minute things around the house.
Terry: Read. One final break outside before having to check in before the stroke of 10.
Me: Watch the news and go to bed.
Terry: Go to bed.
Terry: In bed but wide awake.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
- Tennessee Williams.
Time. It's an idea or concept that many people take for granted or ignore until they find themselves running out of it. There are only so many hours in a day and our schedules are often so packed that we never seem to find a spare minute. How we construct our days are, largely, our own doing. We might complain about the job we have or the events dictating our existence, but many people are products of an environment in which they have some semblance of control.
It's rare to hear a person lament the overabundance of time on their hands.
This is not a tangible reality for a lot of people so the idea of 'killing time' loses meaning. As a rigid schedule marches an individual through the day, a byproduct emerges from the chaos of such a frenzied routine: purpose. The fact that a person is so busy implies there is an element of purpose to their life that is driving them to be that busy in the first place. When an individual can assign meaning to their life, that life becomes not only tolerable, but an air of excitement and hope seeps in.
But what happens when a person is faced with countless hours and not much to do? Being left alone with nothing more than your thoughts and reflections can cage a person and remind them that life is not turning out the way they imagined. Not having a strict schedule allows the mind to wander to places that can produce joy and madness in a single moment.
My name is Curt and I'm the new guy at Samaritan house. My next post will be an hourly comparison between myself and a resident at Samaritan House. Draw from this what you will. How does your day parallel the life of the homeless? I am not asking you to walk a mile in another person's shoes; instead just imagine a different day.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
And it was great.
The Red Cross held a blood drive at the Samaritan House's campus at the old armory. Thirty-five people donated their time, energy, and platelets. At the same time, a food drive was unfolding beneath the same roof. It was a beautifully orchestrated dance of charity and selflessness that will benefit countless faces who did not have the opportunity to set foot on the premises. Volunteers from across the community inundated both Samaritan House campuses doing everything from painting to organizing food.
Some of Kalispell's needs were met on two very distinct levels. First, the medical ramifications of the blood drive cannot be underscored. The Red Cross provides an invaluable service to the community and it was an honor to partner with them on this endeavor.
Lastly, Samaritan House was able to expand our pantry which will allow more people to eat and have some basic needs addressed. The volunteers did an amazing job and shouldered a great deal of the burden on this project. Thanks to all who donated and made this a successful event.
Thanks to all the vampires and the hoarders!
Monday, June 20, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Project Homeless Connect is a one stop community wide event that will host every available service and organization to help the homeless.
Project Homeless Connect is an international movement to end homelessness which has been replicated in over 200 cities including Missoula and Billings. The purpose is to help eliminate barriers that prevent homeless people from gaining access to aid. Key characteristics of Project Homeless Connect include: Hospitality, Immediacy, Partnership, Community and Excellence.
The Interagency Council on Homelessness says this of the event, "Project Homeless Connect is equal parts welcoming homeless neighbors into the life of the community, changing the way resources are accessed, and acheiving quantifiable results for the people experiencing homelessness."
Here are the details:
Dates & Time: June 16th, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
June 17th, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Location: Samaritan House Administrative Center
Address: 1110 2nd St. West
Kalispell, MT 59901
Services Available include Pet Services, Medical Help, Educational Help, Financial Education, SNAP (Food Stamps), Medicaid, Social Security Application Info, TANF Applications, Healthy Montana Kids, CHIPS, Office of Public Assistance, Food, Healthcare, Childcare, Housing Counseling, Legal Services, Mental Health Case Management, Literacy Help, Personal Hygiene Products, Clothing, Haircuts, Veterans Services, Senior Services, Job Services, Transportation, Assistance towards Photo IDs, Gas Vouchers, Cell Phone Minutes and a free warm lunch will be served both days.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Samaritan House "Reach Around" Concert Series Presents the Kalispell Middle School Orchestra Students
Here are the details:
Date: Friday, May 27th
Time: Noon - 1:00 pm
Where: Samaritan House Administrative Center
Address: 1110 2nd St. West
Kalispell, MT 59901
(The former US Army reserve Center on the corner of Meridian Rd. and 2nd St. West, across from Peterson Elementary School.)
$10 ticket includes concert and lunch.
For more information call (406) 257-5284.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Why go out to lunch when you could come have lunch with us, hear some good live music and support your local homeless shelter?
Here are the details:
Friday, March 11, 2011
Tickets for the benefit at $30 each will include a pig roast dinner, live and silent auction, ticket holder raffle and live music from the Smart Alex. Beer and Wine will be available for purchase. Doors open at 5:00 pm, dinner begins at 5:30 pm, the live auction begins at 6:00 pm and the music begins at 7:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at Samaritan House, 1110 2nd Streeet West in Kalispell, Montana (406) 257-5284.
Samaritan House is one of Montana's few homeless shelters. It provides a Transitional Housing program with Case Management services, a kitchen and cafeteria and a broad range of services and supports to help break the cycle of homelessness. In 2010, Samaritan House served over 1,180 local homeless people and provided more than 26,000 meals in the cafeteria.
Smart Alex is a four-piece band with over 134 years of combined musical performance experience. They play a wide variety of music including classic rock, swing and country.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
- Office Space for Samaritan House Administration. Acquiring this building has made it possible for Samaritan House to add 11 new beds to the shelter location at 124 9th Ave W.
- Tutoring Program. Children in homeless families often find it difficult to remain current with school work. This tutoring program will offer a consistent time and place to get this necessary help. Samaritan House Tutoring is done by Mrs. Barb Peterson, a retired school teacher from Peterson Elementary School.
- GED and Tele-Medical Services. A full GED study curriculum will be available with the help of Literacy Volunteers to assist a client in preparation for taking the GED test. Tele-Medical Services will make it possible for clients to speak with their doctors and counselors where they are and make this care more accessible.
- Dental and Medical Clinic for clients in need of affordable care.
- Food, Clothing and Furniture Pantries will receive donated items and in turn give these items to clients who need them at no charge to the client.
- Kitchen and Cafeteria for Samaritan House clients only. Meal times are:
Breakfast 7:00 - 8:00 am
Lunch Noon - 1:00 pm
Dinner 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Other important things to know about Samaritan House programs:
- Samaritan House does not serve Sex Offenders, Violent Offenders or sometimes even anyone with a felony of an aggresive nature.
- Samaritan House facilities are well staffed. Every meal time has a distinct start time and stop time.
- Every person at Samaritan House is working with Samaritan House Case Management.
- Samaritan House sees great success with its clients. Client outcomes are as follows:
- 86% have a greater permanency in housing upon discharge.
- 90% see an increase in their income or skill level upon discharge.
- 100% have a greate sense of self-determination upon discharge.
- The Annual Homeless Survey for Flathead County consistently shows around 483 homeless people. This makes Samaritan House only 18% of what is needed to properly address this areas homelessness issue.
- In 2010, Samaritan House turned away 803 local homeless people. This represents 24,090 bed nights (803 x 30 days average length of stay = 24,090).
- Samaritan House clients have lived in Flathead County an average of 5 years, they are local people, neighbors, relatives and co-workers.
- Moving services to the Samaritan House Administrative Center will provide for space to create additional beds at the original shelter location. This will directly help us more adequately address the growing issue of homelessness in Flathead County.
- The Conditional Use Permit for this plan will state that Samaritan House is requesting "Homeless Shelter" simply because that is the category title. There are no beds requested in the application. The facility will also not be a "day shelter" or "hang out". Samaritan House is requesting homeless shelter with the restriction that there be no beds at the facility. "Homeless Shelter" with no shelter aspect.
Monday, February 14, 2011
John Dunnigan is a Musician, Songwriter, Entertainer, Baseball Coach, Pancake Maker, Lawn Mower and a very funny man.
He has been fortunate to play music for a living almost his entire life. Pick any stringed instrument and odds are he can pick it - guitar, banjo, pedal steel. He also blows a mean harp. For more about John you can visit his site here.
Here are the details about the event:
Who: John Dunnigan
What: Samaritan House Fourth Friday Lunch & Concert Series
Where: Samaritan House Admin Building
1110 2nd St West
Kalispell, MT 59901
(the former US Army Reserve Center on the corner of Meridian Rd & 2nd St., across the street from Peterson Elementary School.)
When: Friday, February 25th, Noon-1:30 pm.