Hope Stories: Debbie

Debbie had been through her share of struggles before she moved to Bishop Sullivan Residence, one of two permanent supportive housing sites in Brooklyn. In the space of a few years, Debbie had lost her mother, her marriage, and her home. A deep depression set in, and she could see no way out of homelessness.

Today Debbie is finding her footing at Sullivan Residence, with ongoing involvement of on-site clinical and case management staff. “Everyone has been so nice,” she said. “They help with budgeting, medical issues, counseling, referrals, whatever you need.” Debbie also worked with a volunteer tutor for several months to prepare for her GED test. “She was very patient and sweet,” she said. “We still keep in touch.” Over the summer, Debbie even got very involved with a community garden across the street, growing everything from onions to lavender.

Debbie’s time at Providence House has been a journey from isolation and depression to community, stability, and hope.

Origami Art Workshop

On Saturday, a group of passionate volunteers came together to run an origami art workshop for our moms and kids at our Providence House in Jamaica, Queens. This group of volunteers specialize in working with children, running creative and educational workshops, to help them cope with and eventually break out of the cycle of homelessness. A special thank you to the members of this amazing volunteer group for being part of the Providence House community, Benjamin Chu, Jing Jing Chen, Michael Sim, Betty Lin, and Sunny Chen!

Hope Stories: Alicia

About 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve in 2009, just released after a 13-year prison term, Alicia arrived at Providence House V. “The very first thing they did when I got there was give me a present,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t looking forward to anything.”

“Sister Pat Mahoney said to me ‘Come on, just sit with me. Let’s eat something. Let me make you a cup of tea.’ I sat down and I just talked. And Sister Pat listened.”

Alicia told of her childhood in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, with conflict and strained relationships at home. “By age nine, I did what I wanted,” she said. “I was in and out of jail. I was in gangs. I ran away from home and just ran the streets recklessly.”

Later, after her father’s death, her mother moved upstate with Alicia’s twin girls. Alicia stayed in the city. Her life on the streets intensified, leading to a drug conviction and prison.

Alicia was troubled about how to write the next chapter of her life. She soon found at Providence House a supportive community of staff, residents, and sisters who both challenged and encouraged her to grow. “They did everything to make me feel like I could do this,” she said.

Alicia worked with staff to meet parole requirements and adjust to life on the outside. She grew in confidence, started working, and saved her pay. After a year with us, she moved into her own apartment. It hasn’t always been easy, and there was a period when Alicia was unemployed—but she held fast. She’s working and still living independently. Along the way, she paid off some debts and completed her parole. And she’s enjoying a closer, better relationship with her family—especially her daughters.

Volunteer Spotlight: Laura Weatherbee

“Yoga has totally transformed my life in so many ways,” said volunteer Laura Weatherbee, a yoga teacher and practitioner for over ten years.

“The daily practice keeps my physical body strong and nimble, but it also gives me a sense of peace and well-being when going through difficult times.”

After learning of Providence House from a fellow yoga instructor and volunteer, Laura quickly reached out and became involved. Since September of last year, she has held monthly classes for residents at our Bishop Sullivan Supportive Housing Residence in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. She adapts the classes to engage energetic children, adults with disabilities, and everyone in between.

“I hope to bring a little peace and calm to residents, and encourage them to use their bodies to their fullest potential,” she said. “It has been such a pleasure getting to know the different residents. The positive energy they bring is what motivates me to keep teaching.”

Hope Stories: Tiffany

“I feel at home here,” said Tiffany, looking around at the familiar dining room, remembering her turbulent reality before coming to Providence House.

Last fall, amid family turmoil and broken ties, Tiffany and her two year old daughter were forced to enter the shelter system. When she became homeless, Tiffany was not only a mother but also employed and one semester away from completing her associate’s degree.

She was referred to one of our Providence Houses, where she was given a chance to put
her ambition to work. Despite being incredibly driven, balancing her responsibilities was far from easy. “It was very hectic,” she said. “I had to make sure I could manage my time between work, school, and taking care of my daughter, who was in day care at this time.”

Tiffany was not deterred. Over the past year at Providence House, she completed work toward
her associate’s degree and was accepted into York College’s bachelor’s degree program in social work. She even took on a second job to save more toward getting an apartment and living independently. With the support of our Housing Specialist, she’s now searching for a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.

What drives her? “I have a daughter, Simone. She’s two. I love her. She keeps me going,”
Tiffany said. “She’s just a bundle of joy. I think she’s why I push so hard. I want her to have
everything I never had growing up.

“Life doesn’t stop because you’re in a shelter. You can still accomplish anything, don’t let
people feel like you can’t. I’m 22 and I’ve been through a lot but I’m not going to let it stop
me.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Eytan Kurshan

Volunteer Spotlight: Eytan Kurshan

New York is far from the cold, impersonal place that’s too often depicted in books and movies. In fact, it teems with groups and individuals eager to share their gifts to promote the well-being of their neighbors.

Take Brooklyn’s Eytan Kurshan. He became part of our work through Altshul, a vibrant and growing Park Slope group organized around traditional Jewish liturgy and a concern for social action. After working on an Altshul volunteer project with Providence House about four
years ago, Eytan began thinking about what he could do. With a degree in math and an abiding interest in teaching, he began tutoring residents one-on-one.

In between his statistics-heavy work as an airline pricing strategist, Eytan has so far tutored five residents for several months each, helping them not only ace high school equivalency tests but also prepare to manage their household finances and other tasks.

“I think giving these women the chance to spend time each week to work toward a goal is quite powerful,” he said. “That is the most rewarding thing for me, the idea that I’m helping someone grow their skills, hoping that will improve their lives in the long run.”

A Trip to the Zoo

A Trip to the Zoo

Our Child Care Center takes the learning outside again with a summer trip to the Prospect Park Zoo! With name tags gleaming on their chests, maps spread wide, their mothers in tow, and the sun slowly emerging from the clouds, the kids explored the various exhibits gasping and pointing at the many unfamiliar creatures. With the free roaming peacocks, sea lions racing through the water for treats, and monkeys dangling from branches, the Prospect Park Zoo served as the perfect classroom for the children to learn about many different types of animals and fish.  It's with many fun times and adventures had that we welcome the weekend, Happy Friday!

 

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Hope Stories: Aniana

Hope Stories: Aniana

We are so happy and excited for Aniana as she and her daughter move in to their own apartment! Aniana came to Providence House with her daughter fleeing domestic violence. While at Providence House she worked as a home health aid while also working tirelessly with our housing specialist, Natasha. With time and diligence, Aniana made incredible progress, making her dreams of a bright future, finally her reality! As Aniana and her daughter settle into their home, they can now harness their relentless spirit of perseverance and dedication in their new chapter of life.

Aniana and her 2 year old daughter 

Aniana and her 2 year old daughter 

Bishop Sullivan Second Anniversary Barbecue

Bishop Sullivan Second Anniversary Barbecue

Providence House residents and staff came together on a beautiful sunny afternoon to commemorate the second year of our Bishop Sullivan residence with a barbecue. Gathering in the backyard, the children played, while many others cooked and mingled, ending yet another week with delicious food and summer fun!

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Hope Stories: Jessica

Hope Stories: Jessica

Jessica came to our residence after leaving an abusive relationship two years ago. Finding a supportive community at Providence House, she quickly made progress toward independence. A mother of two, Jessica managed to save money diligently. She even managed to keep the same job during her bout of homelessness! This month, Jessica and her children have moved into an apartment in a safe neighborhood, with excellent transportation to her job. Though missed by the many who came to know her well, we’re so proud and happy of her accomplishments!

Summer Gardening

Summer Gardening

Today, the Providence House Child Care Center took the fun outdoors with some gardening! With help from our child care teacher Lynisha, the children gathered their tools and got right to work. 

Learning through the action itself, they filled the dirt plots with flowers and a variety of vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Amid laughter and squeals of excitement, the soil was turned with sturdy plastic spoons and plots gradually filled to an abundance. Another day of laughing, learning, and growing for our little ones at the Child Care Center!

Mommy & Me Music Workshop

Mommy & Me Music Workshop

Our moms and their kids had a great time bonding in a music workshop held at the Providence House Child Care Center. The workshop was created with an attention to sound as a mode of expression, encouraging our kids and moms to make some noise! The children worked together to make their very own musical instruments, and explored movement, rhythm, and pitch through dance, song, and a variety of engaging games. Through the music, crafts, and play there was laughter and quality time well spent for our families.

Hope Stories: Benedicta

Hope Stories: Benedicta

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Benedicta grew up an orphan in Nigeria and came to the United States in search of a better life only to find herself on someone else’s floor month after month. Soon after, Benedicta became pregnant. Still unable to support herself she became depressed at the prospect of raising a child without a stable home. “When I came to this country I thought I messed up. But sometimes disappointments are blessings in disguise,” she said as looked lovingly at her three-month-old daughter, Lakisha.

Benedicta’s healthcare provider referred her to New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, which directed her to Providence House. Benedicta grew close with Natasha, our Housing Specialist, as well as core community members Sister Mary Walsh, Sister Theresa Scanlon, and Sister Joan Gallagher. She quickly formed an especially close bond with Debbie Farrell, the Residence Manager. “Miss Debbie has been so wonderful because she is like a mother to me,” she said. “She is calming and she advises me to carry on no matter what.”
Debbie helped Benedicta through a very painful pregnancy due to a health complication. “She was in a lot of pain and you could see that but she was always pleasant, always a pleasure to be with,” Debbie said. “She mentors the other young women here and she is also working with our volunteer GED tutor, Melissa, so she can get her high school diploma.”

Despite difficulties in Benedicta’s past, she had only relentless enthusiasm and gratitude about her stay at Providence House and hope for the future. “Providence House is a wonderful place. It is a place of hope and I can never believe that I live in a shelter because I always have it in my heart that I live with my family,” she said. “The sisters and everyone else – they are pushing you to be someone in life and I am so thankful to them for standing by me,” she added tearfully.

Hope Stories: Nakia and Teri

Hope Stories: Nakia and Teri

Nakia, Robin, our Job Developer, and Teri

Nakia, Robin, our Job Developer, and Teri

“I was incarcerated at 18,” said former resident Nakia during a recent visit back to Providence House V. “Coming home at 34. . . was like a baby coming into the world.” Many women in our re-entry program feel similarly. Though eager to return to their families and communities, many struggle with uncertainty and anxiety about how to live independently on the outside.

Another former resident who came back to see us, Teri, was in much the same position as Nakia as she approached her release date. Fortunately, both heard about Providence House from other inmates. They connected with staff and the Sisters of St. Joseph, were interviewed, and were accepted into the re-entry program, which consists of two residences in Brooklyn.

“Just because someone has made mistakes in their life doesn’t mean they can’t be a productive member of society,” said Teri. She and Nakia quickly proved that during their months at Providence House. Like all residents of these programs, they received case management services and life skills training to help them stabilize their lives and prepare to live independently. Working with Providence House’s case management and employment staff, Teri quickly found a building maintenance job, where she was later promoted to supervisor, then building manager. Nakia worked as a paralegal.
After they had established themselves and moved out into the community, Teri and Nakia kept in touch with staff and core community members at Providence House. Through grant funding from the Switzer Foundation, we provided tuition help as both women pursued their education. Both completed bachelor’s degrees, Teri in hospitality and hotel management and Nakia in legal studies.

Both women are actively reaching out to women now facing the same challenges they’ve faced. Nakia looks forward to assisting people who are not adequately represented or advised in legal matters. “So many people aren’t aware of their rights,” she said. “They need that assistance.” Teri, now an assistant facilities director for a multi-location nonprofit, stays in touch with our job developer, Robin Toyloy, and interviews and hires current residents who are ready for work and a good fit for one of her positions. “It’s a way to give back,” she said. “Now I can help them. I can repay Providence House a little bit.”

Hope Stories: Jessica

Hope Stories: Jessica

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Jessica thought tumultuous, violent relationships were behind her when her abusive partner left the United States.  Though relieved at the break-up, Jessica was overwhelmed by the financial strain of being a single, working parent.  Unable to afford an apartment, she moved in with relatives of her son’s father—an environment that soon turned violent.

Jessica had to leave immediately, both for herself and for her children.  “I was in a toxic home and my kids were aware of it,” she said.  “It was a messy situation.”  She took both her young children, entered the shelter system, and was referred to Providence House’s transitional apartment house.

Our Case Manager immediately partnered with Jessica to make a plan to stabilize her life and locate services to help her.  Despite what she’d been through, Jessica had great things going for her.  She is a terrific, caring mom and a motivated, dependable worker.  She even kept her restaurant job throughout the chaotic time with her partner and his family.  Those strengths became a strong foundation for her to build on, and she quickly progressed toward self-sufficiency.

Now, after six months with us, Jessica is preparing to move out into her own apartment.  In the New York City market, it is difficult finding a place she can afford, even with some funds she’s saved and a rental subsidy from the City.  However, with Jessica’s patience and motivation, along with help from her Providence House case manager, we expect she’ll find something soon.

“Even though we’re here temporarily, we lucked out because this place has really benefited us,” she said.  “This was actually a very good experience.  I have a place for my kids and we don’t have negativity around us.  I think I actually got to find myself while I’m here.”

Hope Stories: Shernice

Hope Stories: Shernice

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After going through a few short-term shelters, Shernice and her two-year-old son arrived at Providence House where she finally found the chance to heal, stabilize her life and make a plan to live more self-sufficiently. With the support from Tonisya, our Residence Manager, and others on the Providence House team, Shernice began to rebuild her life, pushing herself to stay motivated and positive.

“Miss T is like a mother figure to me…she is always giving me advice,” she said. “She will always motivate me and remind me that things often get more difficult before they get better.”

Our Job Developer, Robin, worked diligently with Shernice to help her find a job, searching for opportunities in the food industry in which Shernice had past work experience. Robin even accompanied her on job hunting outings. All of Shernice’s hard work and determination paid off when she was hired on the day of the interview at an upscale bakery in Manhattan. “This place is so great. It’s a blessing that fell right into my hands because they wanted somebody in the morning and those are the hours that I can have my son in school so it was just a perfect opportunity,” she said. “This June marked my one-year work anniversary…I love my job.”

In addition to celebrating her one-year employment milestone, Shernice also looks forward to another significant event this summer: moving into her own apartment in August. “I’m being responsible because whatever I do now has an effect on my son,” she continued. “I’m just trying to fix every mistake I made as a young adult so it’s time to do everything I need to do and Providence House is that stepping stone for a lot of women.”