Randy had it rough. Battling depression, he began drinking at a young age and it eventually controlled his life.
He was 51 when he was placed in housing with the help of St. John Center and case manager Sarah Buckler. It was his first home in 20 years.
“Having my own place gives me a very, very peaceful feeling both spiritually and mentally. It gives me peace of mind because I can escape into my own world if I need to,” said Randy in an article published in the September 2011 issue of Daylight, the Center’s printed newsletter.
After getting his apartment, Randy never found himself homeless again. Tiny Herron became Randy’s case manager in April; just about the time he learned that he had a terminal disease. Unfortunately she found him unconscious on the floor of his apartment during a home visit.
Randy was rushed to the hospital where he died August 6 surrounded by family and friends. Tiny, SJC executive director Maria Price and Sarah Buckler (Randy’s first case manager at SJC) all visited him during his hospital stays.
“I was very glad Randy had a home when he died. He was my brother and I am happy he got the support he needed to get housing. It gave me peace that he had a place of his own,” said Rodney, Randy’s twin brother. “Thank God for you all. You provide a great service. Bless you for your help.”
According to Tiny and Rodney, Randy was very grateful for the St. John Center housing program. “He told me he thought St. John Center was a very friendly and helpful place with lots of resources. He said the staff worked with him to improve his life,” said Rodney.
“Housing allowed Randy to rekindle his relationship with his children. It helped him maintain sobriety,” added Tiny.
Randy didn’t like anyone to know he was homeless. “I was always embarrassed by being homeless. I hid it from my family. I kept my homelessness a secret from my brother and my daughters. The pain, shame and guilt of being homeless made me isolate myself,” admitted Randy, who after housing became much more involved in the lives of his children and grandchildren.
Randy sought to repay St. John Center by going outside his comfort zone to speak to others about his personal struggle with homelessness in the hope that his story might keep someone from ending up on the streets. He spoke to a large crowd during St. John Center’s 25th anniversary celebration.
“Talking about it helps me and it helps them,” said Randy. “I absolutely believe my story has touched some of the teenagers I’ve talked to.”
No doubt about it Randy. And your beautiful spirit lives on.
For Walter and his daughter, and hundreds more like them, St. John Center seeks to expand space and services
The combination of social services, housing counseling, supportive housing, and services of partner agencies under the roof of a day shelter is a winning combination. One indicator of success is this — 219 SJC guests moved from homelessness to housing in the fiscal year that just ended.
These 219 men, some on the streets for decades, are now in a stable situation in which they can move forward. Every story deserves telling, but here’s just one:
Walter worked as a dish washer at a popular restaurant for years. He typically slept in an alley or empty parking garage because his shift ended in the middle of the night. He’d come to St. John Center each morning to shower and work on his housing applications. He always stayed current with his child support payments. When he visited his daughter, she’d ask, “When do I get to stay with you, Daddy?”
“Soon, sweetie. You can stay with me someday soon.”
With the help of SJC’s housing counselor, Walter moved into housing this year, representing one of the 219. But to his daughter, he is the only one.
He stopped by recently to proudly introduce his daughter to staff and report that she stays with him a few nights each week.
St. John Center wants to do more of that kind of work. Simply put, though, there is no more room.
To address this lack of space, the board unanimously voted to renovate the building to modify existing space and expand square footage in order to increase services. The renovation project will cost an estimated $775,000. Those same board members have already committed the first $40,000 to the campaign.
The plan will expand the building to the south and make room for a net increase of six offices, as well as meeting rooms and work spaces for staff and clients. It is important to note that none of the three options compromise the statuary or windows that help make St. John Center a true sanctuary for 188 homeless men a day.
If you would like to see the plans for the expansion please call 568-6758, and ask for Maria at ext. 21, Keith at ext. 31, or Ron at ext. 29. Any financial support of the expansion will be yet another way to enable even more homeless men to tackle the barriers that stand between them and housing.
St. John Center is fortunate to get a lot of support from nuns representing several religious orders. These dedicated and compassionate ladies tackle a variety of tasks to help the many clients who visit the shelter every day.
Why do you choose to spend time at St. John Center?
Sister Jeanne Niehaus has been the social services coordinator at SJC since March 2000.
A Sister of St. Benedict, Jeanne meets face-to-face with just about every man that enters the Center. She listens to their stories, tells them what help is available at SJC, and directs them to additional resources provided by other agencies. Jeanne also makes hundreds of temporary IDs for the men.
“St. John Center is a place where a guy can go from having nothing to take advantage of resources that can help him get an apartment, find a job, improve stability, receive guidance and set goals,” said Sister Jeanne.
Brendan Conlon, an Ursuline Sister of Louisville, followed fellow sister, Elise Hovekamp, who did mending for the men of St. John Center. “I think being homeless, especially when no one cares, must be terrible. At St. John Center (and other local agencies) people really care. I think St. John Center is wonderful.”
Eva Kowalski – A Sister of Charity of Nazareth, volunteers at sign-in and the shower room to honor fellow SCN Sister Mary Kathleen Sheehan, founding director of St. John Center.
“St. John Center is a place where the wounded Christs seek recognition, comfort and services. As a volunteer I consciously attempt to treat each of the homeless men with dignity and respect. I also try to give positive feedback, and when warranted, anything to enhance their self-esteem.”
Nancy Reynolds – a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, visits St. John Center regularly (along with her friend Lynn Jarrell, OSU) to bring food and much-needed supplies for the men. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, which is operated by the order, just happens to be Maria Price’s alma mater. “The gentlemen of SJC are God’s people and as such deserve love, mercy and justice. I see myself as a loving and merciful person and I freely spread that to the men who come to St. John Center.”