Do you know what it’s like to face homelessness? Being homeless is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. While it’s difficult to be homeless, it’s even more difficult to admit defeat and walk through our doors at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky and seek help.
Fortunately, individuals come to us with a hope for change. Through the financial and volunteer support of the Celanese Foundation, we’re able to make a difference with the homeless community here year round.
The challenges faced by homelessness are most urgent in the Winter, when temperatures dip to hyperthermia levels. We opened our doors for the first time in the Winter of 2008 as the region’s only cold-weather shelter for adults. When it’s below freezing, we never turn anyone away. That’s when we live our mission of life saving. This Winter, 480 adults sought shelter with us. We gave them a safe and warm place to stay, a healthy dinner, breakfast to eat and access to laundry and shower facilities.
In the Summer months, our mission turns from life saving to life changing. We provide shelter during the warmer months for men who are working toward achieving housing, income and improvement of health. Up to 30 men at a time take part in our summer program to gain and improve life skills. They are committing to sobriety, opening a bank account and saving 70 percent of their income for stable housing.
We work in cooperation with local government agencies and organizations to help these individuals access information about and referrals to community resources like government benefits, financial literacy and employment skills. This past Summer we saw an incredible success with 74 percent of those who entered the program moving out within three months of their first day into permanent housing or assisted living environments.
There’s a saying in the shelter world that a good day is never seeing the same person again. But for me, when our graduates come back to volunteer, it’s because they want others to see it’s possible to turn their life around. Those are the best days.
That’s certainly the case with “PJ,” born and raised in blue-collar Covington, a high school graduate and positive contributor to society. Decades of manual labor in local factories caught up to his physical abilities and forced him into a cycle of employment instability and homelessness that eventually led him to our shelter in 2015. He worked hard to face his challenges, learned new job skills and found part-time work through a senior employment program. Today he’s a case manager and has stable housing and living conditions. He has returned to the shelter, but now it’s to volunteer and share his story. To see his self-worth and confidence increase has been miraculous and inspirational.
We don’t do our work alone. First and foremost, it’s important to recognize an individual’s own willpower to transform their own life. Thankfully, with the financial support of organizations, corporations and churches, we are able to keep our doors open. And with the resources, kindness and commitment of time by the hundreds who volunteer, we are making a lasting impact in the lives of those who walk through our doors.
The Celanese Foundation is changing the landscape of how companies engage employees to improve the world around them. Celanese encourages employees to focus their time on the charity of their choice, so they can get to know them and the staff and those who benefit from it firsthand. We are blessed to be one of the community causes they support.
On April 6, 2016, we received a special gift of $30,000 from the Celanese Foundation. This donation will go a long way toward continuing operations and programming expenses. Not only will it help cover the $17-a-night cost to shelter a guest, the dollars also will provide our summer guests with bus passes to help with transportation to work.
The support we’ve received and the inclusion into their culture is nothing short of extraordinary. Celanese employees volunteer at the shelter organizing and cleaning, filling requests for clothing or doing whatever is needed. One employee was able to get 10,000 T-shirts donated. When the shelter’s centralized computer unit went down, Celanese Florence employees jumped in and got a replacement ordered. These acts are great examples of what we call #sheltermagic, when magical things happen. That happens a lot with Celanese!
When you walk through our doors, you are our guest. When you walk out, you are our family. I’m grateful to call Celanese family.