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The Lighthouse

Friday

My intention was to get into work early on Friday and so I could get out in lots of time to go to the gym.  I also wanted to get into my office before the plumbers came in (no heat at all in my office this week) and get some work done in some peace and quiet.  The good news is that the plumbers are gone and I have a brand new cutting edge radiator.  The bad news is that I still have no heat.  If there is some good news is that Chris’s office has heat (according to some) but it was still colder than mine which has no heat.   Then again I think we call that a lose, lose situation.

We did rearrange our office.  Both Jeff and I have our office set up so we are less approachable and harder to talk to according to experts.  That didn’t work out so well as we still had a plethora of staff coming in to chat.  We may need to install a moat.  One idea we did have was to install a Les Nessman type wall in our office.  The only staff that got the WKRP reference put on up and now we have a green tape line going down the middle of my office.  The bad news is that my fridge is on Jeff’s part of the office now.

As I was about to leave our two complex needs support staff wandered in as they host a coffee house on Friday nights for our clients.  Since they don’t actually report to me, the conversation is always pretty stress free.  Our conversation moved over the other side of the building where I decided to stay for coffee house.  After we were done serving I took an hour to sit down and talk with some residents who were all loitering around.  I had helped all of them over the last couple of weeks and all had made some really significant process towards housing (they all had found jobs and were working).  Over the next hour we just talked about hunting, cars, guns, rural life, how to cook wild game (I am told that you cook it in bacon), and life at The Lighthouse.  I was also criticized for not liking the coffee at The Lighthouse.  I criticized them back for liking the coffee at The Lighthouse. 

I forget sometimes how much I enjoy this part of the job.  There is paperwork, reports, and plans to make but they don’t really give anything back to you.  Sitting down and chilling out with some residents and listening to them is what gives back.  It’s not always like this, many times there are crisis’ and problems but on a night where I just sat back and listened to some people working hard and making progress, it reminds me that we are making a difference.

Fitness on 25th

So with DeeAnn gone from the Lighthouse, my new office mate is a psychologist who loves to run.  Jeff started to pester me about joining a gym non-stop and I was ignoring it until I decided to take this hike through the backcountry.  As part of the training, I decided to get a Nike Fuel Band to monitor my movement and get myself motivated.  Well that didn’t work out too well.  Well actually it worked too well as it showed me missing my goal of 3000 Nike Fuel every day.  This is how a Nike Fuel Band works.

Basically it taunts you for being inactive.  It’s clever.  It’s not rude as to be mean spirited but it sits there and reminds you that you are no where close to your Nike Fuel goal (for me it’s 3000) and I am surprised how much it bothers me.

After several days of not hitting 3000 (or even coming close), I decided to head down to the YWCA and hit the gym at Fitness on 25th.  Three of my co-workers also came and for 30 minutes we hit the elliptical or the treadmill and had a pretty good work out.  The problem is that it still didn’t get me enough Nike Fuel so tomorrow I am walking to work, walking to the gym, working out, and then walking home… all in the pursuit of the magical Nike Fuel.

I don’t know how long my level of motivation will last the Nike Fuel Band got me to the gym and is making me walk a lot more.  I still hate doing it but lazing around on the sofa isn’t doing a lot for me either.

Now back to Fitness on 25th.  I decided to join there because I believe in the work that the YWCA does in Saskatoon (and know some of their staff).  We have a good relationship with them at The Lighthouse and it’s kind of on my way home from work.  It has 4 treadmills, a bunch of ellipticals and stairclimbers for cardio, a bunch of free weights and stationary bikes.  I spent some quality time on the elliptical which gave my legs a brutal workout and got my right shoulder moving.

The YWCA gym is older but it was quiet and not very busy when we go at 4:00 p.m.  It does offer a free two week trail which I would advise you to check out.  I am not thrilled with having to sign up for a year but I understand why they do it.

Give the Gift of Hope This Christmas

Backpack for the homelessIn case you are wondering how you can make a difference this Christmas, click here and see how you can partner with The Lighthouse and help those that are homeless and in our supported living facility this holiday season.

Each December, staff go all out and ask each of our residents what they want for Christmas.  For many of them it is the first time they have ever been asked.  We then go out in a blaze of Christmas shopping and purchase gifts for everyone that wants them.  After a flurry of wrapping paper, Scotch tape, and bows, the gifts are given out on Christmas morning.

Partnering with The Lighthouse on this project allows you to make a big difference in not only making someone’s Christmas but also providing them with things that they need to make the transition from homelessness to their new home.

Communications/Public Relations Job at The Lighthouse

Employ

The Lighthouse is looking for a new Communications/Public Relations person to replace DeeAnn (who is moving on to a new position).  If you are interested, here is the job posting on SaskJobs and a more thorough job overview posted over at The Lighthouse’s website.  The job allows you to work with a great group of people (among them Chris Powell and myself) and make a difference in the community solving homeless while working in a pretty neat and diverse community. 

If you are interested, shoot me an email at jordon.cooper@lighthousesaskatoon.org with your resume and cover letter.  Yeah and we are never, ever dressed that well.  It’s a jean’s and t-shirt kind of place… unless it is game day and then it is jeans and a Rider jersey.

The job description

Elvis Lachance (photo from Facebook)As I got home, I was hit by the news that Elvis Lachance had been murdered in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.  I have known Elvis for years and he has been homeless or incarcerated for the entire time I have known him.  I saw him las Tuesday night as he wandered into the Rook and Raven after City Council was over and was trying to panhandle.  We didn’t have any cash for him and as he was on his way I was thinking that he would benefit from staying at The Lighthouse.  I made a not to talk to him this week before he heard that he had been picked up again and tossed back into the Correctional Centre.  I wrote a note to talk to the Community Chaplain to ask him when Elvis was getting out.   Then I heard that Elvis was found dead in his prison cell this morning.

To put Elvis’ murder in perspective;  he has a huge heart and was incredibly gentle.  He knew sign language at times came in incredibly useful at the Salvation Army when helping house deaf people.  Elvis was the guy that would help people with their plates and food and do everything that he could do to help out.  He was a small guy and was never ever aggressive with anyone.  Some guys fight all of the time on the streets but Elvis was a peacemaker.  In seven years I never saw him once make an aggressive or mean act.  It isn’t right that he is dead tonight and I suspect he is jail for something relatively minor.  As a colleague at another agency said to me tonight, “he was my bud”.

I don’t know how to process the murder of a client.  At one time I keep a significant emotional distance from most of who I deal with, yet at the same time it is guys like Elvis that motivate me to get out of bed in the morning.  I failed him years ago once and he got hurt and I have always carried that with me.  To find out that he is dead really hits me hard.

I get asked why I keep doing this and this year more than any other I ask myself the same question.   There are easier and more profitable ways to make a living than working in an emergency housing provider and I am told they don’t have the same level of stress that this does.  I spent much of the summer pondering a move to Calgary where I could go and see the Calgary Flames and Stampeders and more than anything, not have the stress of working with the hard to house.  In the end we decided to stay because I thought I could make a difference in Saskatoon.

I love Saskatoon and I love working at The Lighthouse but tonight I feel worse than I have in a long time.  It’s going to take a while to leave this behind while at the same time it’s the memory of this absolutely pointless and preventable death that will have me back at my desk tomorrow morning.

I will say that when people like Elvis die in prison, there is something wrong with the justice and correctional systems.  Elvis was maybe 100 pounds and 5’4 inches tall.  He wasn’t a threat to anyone and at the same time could not have defended himself.

Football and homelessness

McAwesome

Mark lost one of his Nike football gloves two practices into the season.  He thinks it may be at the cabin but it’s more expensive to drive out there than it was to get him another pair.  Wendy took him to Olympian Sports but the women helping him got him non-tackified gloves that were way too small so that wasn’t going to work.  I told Mark to come down to The Lighthouse yesterday and I would take him to Sport Chek and we would get him some gloves that fit.

Mark couldn’t find his cell phone and was late coming down which was okay because I was busy taking a benign interview into a controversial one and was tied up.  He did get down there, got harassed by our Housing Plus Coordinator, Chris Powell and we headed out.  Outside The Lighthouse, we ran into a couple of guys who I introduced Mark to and told them why we were heading out early.  They are both nice guys who started to give Mark a hard time about football.  I found out that one of them used to play for the Saskatoon Hilltops.  He told us some fun stories, gave Mark a simulated head slap (don’t worry, it’s a football move) and had a good talk about the difference that David Dube is making with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football game experience.  We all took some time to explain to Mark what stickum is.

As Mark and I walked to the car he asked me why they were at The Lighthouse.  I explained that with some it’s an injury, others it can be illness, or sometimes bad luck and places like The Lighthouse are the best places to start over again.

The Challenge

Darren Hill has spent the day on Twitter challenging Saskatoon City Council candidates to donate men’s underwear to The Lighthouse after he generously gave 108 pairs of socks himself.










I wrote about it here and on The Lighthouse blog last week and The StarPhoenix picked up on the story.  Some have asked why underwear and socks are such a big deal.

Here is my answer and it’s specific to the individual.

  • Sometimes it’s a domestic abuse situation.  A women fleeing domestic violence doesn’t always have a chance to pack.  
  • There have been times when a couple gets into an argument on a road trip where literally one person drives off while the other is in a washroom or gas station.
  • A fight between roommates and someone gets illegally tossed out.
  • Most commonly for men is that they have been homeless for a time and have had their belongings stolen while on the streets.

The oddest request ever was a guy who woke up after one rough night on the street with women’s underwear but that is not the norm.

I tend to believe that life should be hard but when you have nothing, it is so very hard to get to the next step.  A change in underwear and socks allows you to have clean underwear and underwear that doesn’t chafe.  Studies have shown that many homeless people walk on average 20 miles a day to get needed services, job hunt, eat, and find shelter.  A pair of underwear that fits well, is clean, and doesn’t chafe is a big deal.

As for socks; I was in Chicago a couple of years ago for a conference and the fact is that foot care is a big deal amongst homeless populations.  Shoes are often worn out, socks get holes in them, and they find themselves in wet conditions when you have a summer like we have had.   Many homeless are diabetics which means that it is worse for them.  In the U.K. they use the term, “rough sleeping” to describe homelessness as it denotes the lack of ability to pull one’s shoes off and put ones feet up.  Why can’t they?  My experience in shelters is that after cash (and drugs), shoes are the most stolen item.

So what does underwear and socks do?  They give some dignity, help keep people healthy, and are a small first step towards employment and a way off the streets.  They also go a long ways towards building a relationship with someone that isn’t trusting, may have been abused, and needs help.  It’s not a bad investment.  Thanks to the candidates, campaigns, and other inspired individuals who took up Darren on the challenge. 

Urgent need for The Lighthouse

Red boxer briefs.  These are the kind of things we need.When men and women come into either The Lighthouse’s men’s emergency shelter or women’s emergency shelter, they are often in the need of clothing and hygiene products like soap, deodorant, underwear and socks.   While we get in a lot of clothes donations, we generally don’t receive underwear and sock donations (for the obvious reason that people toss them out when they wear out)

New underwear and hygiene products that make a big difference in how people see themselves and makes a difference as people take the steps to find employment, safe housing, and start to put their lives back together.  When you only have the pair that you are wearing because you have lived on the streets or are fleeing domestic violence, your need is real and immediate.

While you are out and about this summer, we have men and women that would really appreciate it if you tossed a pack of underwear, socks, or some hygiene products (for men and women) into your cart and dropped them off at The Lighthouse.  We give them out free of charge to those in the shelters and for those that don’t have the ability to budget (we help them but sometimes the need is urgent).

Personally when I am in Walmart or Costco, I pick up some white socks and toss them in the cart.  It’s something that I have done for years when at The Salvation Army and now at The Lighthouse.  Even if there isn’t an urgent need (like there is now), the need will come sooner rather than later.

If you can, pick something up and drop it off at 304 2nd Avenue South.  It makes a big difference.