Stephanie on art, life, and moving forward: "I glean from all my experiences to inspire my paintings"
Stephanie, one of our guests at ANEW Place, will display her paintings at New Moon Café, 150 Cherry Street in Burlington, from July through September. She came to ANEW after a series of setbacks left her homeless: her work hours were cut, her car was totaled in an accident, and sickness left her with stacks of hospital bills. Now, she’s rebuilding her life--and painting while she's at it. She said she plans to use the money she earns from painting sales to buy a new car.
She spoke about her artistic process, her goals, and her perspective on homelessness. The conversation has been edited for length.
Sometimes we encounter problems with no obvious solutions. For instance, maybe you’ve attempted to solve the following puzzle. Can you connect all nine dots, using only four lines, without lifting your pencil from the paper?
It seems impossible. There is always one dot left- usually the one in the middle. The problem is not unsolvable, but it does require thinking outside the box.
At ANEW Place we encounter similar problems with much greater ramifications. As we work with our guests to chart a path forward and find long-term housing, they often face daunting challenges. Though rarely unconquerable, their situations often require outside-the-box thinking. This is especially relevant to guests graduating our ANEW Leaf transitional housing programs they seek long-term housing: options are extremely limited and the system is frequently back logged.
When guests enter our transitional housing program, they’ve already hit several benchmarks which include…
Here’s the challenge:
*Vacancy rates hover consistently around 1.5%. Our guests often have spotty credit and rental histories, making it tough to compete with university students and young professionals for very limited number of single-occupancy apartments.
*The average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment exceeds $1200. With rental prices continuing to increase, the pay of entry-level jobs is seldom enough to cover the cost of living.
*Section 8 vouchers are in low supply and high demand. This situation will only worsen as the cost of living in the Burlington area increases and personal incomes remain level.
The situation for our guests can be deflating. Graduates of the ANEW Leaf transitional housing program average a 10-month wait for an apartment with some waiting well over a year. One conclusion seems obvious: we need to think outside the box of the Section 8 system.
How can you help?
We are searching for landlords with multiple-occupancy units who are willing to rent to ANEW Leaf transitional housing program graduates. ANEW’s two years of after-care case management includes a monthly onsite visit while we also manage each client’s rental emergency fund. In other words, we minimize the risk for the landlord by paying the rent from this fund if our client encounters an unexpected hardship.
If you're interested in continuing the conversation and exploring this opportunity, reach out to us at email@example.com.
On December 25 people around the world will celebrate Christmas. Many people of the Christian faith will go to cathedrals and chapels to reflect on the birth of Jesus and celebrate “God with us.” It’s portrayed to be a peace-filled and joy-filled time we share with family and friends. Sometimes,though, when we’re facing tough times alone and the future seems bleak, we can wonder: Is God really with me? Does anyone really care?
When we’ve hit rock bottom and don’t see the path forward, we need to encounter someone who truly knows us and cares about us. For many of ANEW’s guests, one of our evening volunteers, Jill Vespa, is that someone. Every Wednesday evening she comes to ANEW after a busy day as a realtor for what guests refer to as "game night." Over dinner and games of cards, Jill listens to their stories and shares some of her own. In her free time, she advocates for guests looking for jobs and apartments, often checking in to see how they're doing. She’s there to celebrate their highs and encourage during their lows. Many times after someone is facing discouragement or has messed up (again), they will come to Jill simply because they know she cares. Jill is a picture to our guests of what author Timothy Keller describes:
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known but not loved isour greatest fear. To be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self righteousness. It fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
Jill’s persistent presence is a reminder: God is with them. God is for them. Their story is not over. This Christmas, whether you’ve delivered a meal, made a donation, or taken time for a conversation, thank you for showing our guests they matter, they are not alone, and their story is not over.
On behalf of our staff, board, volunteers, and guests, we hope you enjoy a joy-filled Christmas and holiday season!
Every once in a while you meet a kind-hearted person who makes you want to be that kind of person yourself. Chuck is that guy. When Chuck arrived at ANEW Place in May of 2016, he'd experienced a tough few years losing his family home, living in his car and another shelter, while also seeking steady employment. He entered our ANEW Leaf transitional housing program almost a year ago, completed the requirements in 6 months, then had to wait, and wait some more due to a lack of both Section 8 vouchers and affordable housing options.
Through the victories and challenges, the one thing that has stayed consistent with Chuck is his kindness. Whether it’s offering to give other guests rides to important appointments and job opportunities, orienting a meal provider showing up for the first time, or sharing a word of encouragement to our staff, Chuck’s kindness often serves as a thermostat for the social temperature in ANEW's house at 89 North Street.
This next week will be bittersweet as we say goodbye to Chuck and celebrate him moving into a new Cathedral Square apartment. His patience paid off! I personally will miss grabbing a morning coffee in the kitchen as Chuck catches me up on the happenings around the house or a friendly reminder from Chuck as I leave each evening that what we do at ANEW matters. I will also be excited to see what path Chuck blazes as he’s free to explore his personal goals and dreams. Something tells me that wherever that path leads, people will encounter a heart of kindness.
"One thing we always strive to do here at ANEW Place is to let people know they matter no matter what their past is and that there is a path forward. We want to be a part of charting that path with them." Check out Jeff's new path and hear how his story has transformed! #ANEWpath