Have you heard the news? Calvary launched the Step Up DC Job Placement Program this month! We also welcomed a new staff member, Robinson Cook, who will oversee Step Up DC as our first-ever Job Developer. Even though he has only been with us a few weeks, Robinson has already been making big strides as the program gets underway. He shared a little more about himself, including some goals for this exciting new program.
How did you hear about Calvary and what motivated you to work here?
I heard about Calvary through an announcement on a nonprofit jobs site. As I began to read and learn more about the organization, I became excited about the prospect of working here. What attracted me most about the position was that the entire organization had identified a gap in services and was committed to addressing the need. Having total organizational engagement and committed resources when taking an initiative from the idea phase to actual implementation is an exciting place to be in.
What have you enjoyed the most about your work so far?
I’ve enjoyed the daily interactions with residents. Because I work in close proximity with them, they often stop by my office to make small talk. It is through these daily, informal interactions that I am learning more about womens’ past lives and future ambitions. The welcoming atmosphere and energy from the entire staff has allowed me to find my space quickly within the organization.
Is there any upcoming project that you are especially excited about?
I am very excited about starting to have Calvary residents participate in Step Up DC. Soon we will begin taking a limited number of residents through the enrollment, employment planning and job placement process to test and refine our model.
What is one of your goals for Step Up DC?
My goal is for Step Up DC to be the preeminent resource for other organizations looking to implement a job placement and retention model for similar populations.
Share a fun fact about yourself!
I once served as the president of the Twin Cities Badminton Club and helped organize one of the largest annual competitive badminton tournaments that to this day still draws 100+ players from around the upper Midwest for two days of competition.
Good health sometimes starts with gaining knowledge and asking a lot of questions. A group of four enthusiastic volunteers from the George Washington University School of Nursing are helping women increase their health knowledge in the new “Your Health” class that started this week. Over the next several weeks, women will learn about topics including diabetes, menopause, dental hygiene, podiatry and breast care.
The first “Your Health” class offered women a lesson on anatomy. Nursing students pointed out various organs in the body and their vital functions. One woman who attended the class said she was surprised to learn the location of the gall bladder (under the liver), and said she plans on going to the class next week to pick up other interesting facts. She also spoke about the importance of drinking plenty of water to help regulate bodily functions.
Women are not just learning more about common diseases and how to better manage their personal health; they are also increasing their comfort level with asking questions that could be helpful during visits to the doctor’s office.
Classes on women’s health issues and wellness topics have always been a core component of the Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP). “Your Health” follows up on the popular “Ask a Nurse” class that was offered at Calvary on a monthly basis. Over the last year women have also been enjoying Nutrition Education Program classes that help guide them in making healthier decisions about what they eat.
Thank you to GWU School of Nursing students for teaching this week and helping women become more comfortable talking about their health!
One of the things that makes Calvary unique is the Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP), which happens every afternoon during the week. Women participate in classes that teach practical skills like how to put together a budget or computer basics. Other LEAP activities like meditation, writing or painting provide opportunities for internal reflection and expression. It’s also a time every day when women can socialize with one another and build friendships.
During a recent writing workshop, one resident reflected on her experiences at Calvary and positive outlook for her future. Her writing shows that there is always time and space to keep learning.
I enjoy art. Being able to learn how to knit, crochet, paint, and use beads causes me to interpret emotions that are deep inside. Engaging in art brings relaxation, peacefulness and contentment. These make me feel a sense of my individuality and wholeness.
I enjoy having the freedom to pursue my future. I’ve been meeting people and learning the importance of interacting and making friends for life. This way I’ll be there for others and they’ll be there for me throughout my life.
I enjoy being able to participate yet follow my own needs like everyone else does. This is why it’s important to respect others and mind my own business so we all have space to enjoy life in our own ways.
I’ll be moving into my own space soon. I’m very happy about that.
Grace Hansen started volunteering at Calvary in December 2013 and has logged an amazing 230 hours of volunteer service since then! She faithfully volunteers for overnight shifts almost every Monday night and has become a familiar face to staff and residents alike. Calvary staff note that “Grace is always on time, consistent and open to learning. She engages with the residents and takes initiative in a gentle way.” Thank you, Grace, for the energy and consistency that you bring to your overnight volunteer shifts. It is nearly impossible to imagine the last year of overnight coverage without you!
Where are you from?
I’m from Portsmouth, VA.
Share a fun fact about yourself!
Some of the residents already know this, but I’m a really good knitter! I’ve mastered hats and made a few sweaters. I’m learning to make clothes as well.
How are you involved at Calvary Women’s Services?
I’ve been an overnight volunteer for eight months now. I love coming to my shift at Calvary—everyone is so warm and welcoming.
How did you first hear about Calvary?
I just did a Google search for shelters in need of volunteers and Calvary popped up! I like that Calvary is specifically for women, and that it focuses on helping women regain economic independence instead of just providing them shelter for a night or two.
Why do you volunteer at Calvary?
When I moved to DC, I was struck by the degree of economic inequality that is visible in the District. Opportunities for financial security and stability are unfairly distributed in our community. I want to be part of the solution to this problem, so I spend some of my time at Calvary, where women are building a brighter future.
What do you like best about your work with Calvary?
Hanging out with the ladies in the evenings is my favorite part of a shift. Whether it’s watching Law & Order, playing Uno or just chatting, it’s always a relaxing, pleasant time.
What has been your most memorable experience at Calvary?
Overnights during all the snow days this past winter, with everyone crowding around the TV, seeing if the news station would announce a snow day, and whether we would be going to work or not!
What has surprised you most about volunteering at Calvary?
The sense of mutual support and community that you feel at Calvary is continually inspiring. Everyone is from different places and some of the residents have had difficult periods in life, but people treat each other with such gentleness and kindness.
What would you tell someone considering getting involved at Calvary?
I would tell them to do it and not let the commitment of an overnight shift deter you. With the help of a Calvary staff member, it’s no problem. You’ll have a great time!
If you had to choose one word to describe Calvary, what would it be?
Overnight volunteers like Grace support our staff and residents by supervising our programs from 9:00 pm until 7:00 am every night of the week. If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Calvary, please contact Catherine Bisson at email@example.com or (202) 678-2341.
National Recovery Month celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. Organized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this year’s National Recovery Month theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out.” Throughout September, Americans everywhere are encouraged to speak openly about mental health and substance use disorders. National Recovery Month is first and foremost a celebration of individuals who have committed to recovery and taking control of their long-term health. It also honors the many service providers in the U.S. who offer prevention, treatment and recovery assistance.
Although not true for every individual, substance abuse and mental health disorders are prevalent among those who experience homelessness. At Calvary, we develop holistic strategies with women so they can focus on improving their mental and emotional health, building positive relationships and using effective coping mechanisms. Women regularly meet with their case managers, engage in individual and group therapy, attend daily Relapse Prevention Group meetings and participate in activities that can promote healing.
This month and every single day, we celebrate women at Calvary like Tamara and Paula who faced anxiety or drug addiction with courage and determination. We recognize women who re-commit every day to staying sober when it might be the hardest thing they do. We also thank the dedicated employees and volunteers who support ongoing recovery by counseling, teaching and connecting women to easily accessible resources.
The National Recovery Month website includes a library of helpful resources for anyone interested in learning more about addictions, treatment and recovery.
Thanks to Calvary I’m finally learning who I really am.
Terri*, a Calvary resident, has reached the other side of a painful past. She suffered trauma as a child, and as an adult experienced physical and mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness. Despite some of these obstacles, Terri maintained a steady job back in her home state. All the while she was dealing with a relationship marred by mental and physical abuse.
After sustaining serious injuries due to physical abuse, one of Terri’s co-workers discovered her, unconscious, in the bathroom at work. She woke up several days later in intensive care. Terri knew she needed a change. While she recovered over the weeks that followed, Terri began imagining a different life for herself. Finally, at the urging of her daughter, she packed a bag and left.
Coming to Calvary was a turning point. “I was so relieved to be here. I knew I could get back on my feet,” she remembered. At Calvary, Terri started talking to a therapist for the first time in her life. “Having a therapist on-site is huge. Not worrying about how to pay…it’s such a blessing. I learned about co-dependency and healthy relationships. I realized I had never healed from my past traumas.” With the additional support of her case manager, Terri is receiving the medical attention she needs to continue stabilizing her health.
Attending Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP) classes has also helped Terri heal. Through LEAP, she learned that writing can be a helpful coping strategy. “I’m healing and learning how to deal with my feelings,” she said.
These days, Terri continues to look forward and plan for her future. Her goal is to finish her undergraduate degree and start a nonprofit organization that serves children and youth. She recently applied for a scholarship to attend a local university.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality.
Calvary is known for its transitional housing programs and services, but we are also proud to help women achieve one of the most significant goals they set for themselves: permanent housing.
Sister Circle was established in 1997 to make permanent housing a reality for homeless women. Some facts about the program:
- When it first began Sister Circle provided housing specifically for women living with HIV/AIDS or those struggling with substance abuse. Today the program maintains a strong commitment to supporting women who are overcoming substance abuse, mental health issues and chronic health problems.
- Sister Circle accommodates 11 women. Some of the women share their space with a roommate who is also in the program, while others live alone.
- In order to be considered for Sister Circle, clients must demonstrate their commitment to sobriety and their ability to live independently.
- There is no expiration date on the housing provided, and living costs are largely covered through the federally-funded Shelter Care Plus program.
- Since 1997, Sister Circle has helped more than 60 women.
Some women who move into Sister Circle units have been homeless for many years. It may have been a long time since they were able to experience the joy of living in their own home and having family members over to stay the night. In their own apartments, they can enjoy the kind of space and freedom that many of us take for granted.
Women in Sister Circle continue to receive long-term support from Calvary. Each resident is assigned to a case manager who provides substance abuse, mental health, medical and employment services. Residents attend Relapse Prevention Group meetings to help them maintain sobriety. They also participate in Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP) classes, as well as the Nutrition Education Program. A six-week wellness series specifically for women in Sister Circle recently started at Calvary, with sessions covering topics like building healthy relationships and improving self-esteem.
Calvary accepts donations of new and gently used furniture that transform Sister Circle residences into comfortable homes. Please contact Operations Coordinator Janae Detwiler if you are interested in making a donation.