Over the past three decades, St. Francis House has helped thousands of guests rebuild their lives.The following stories show some of the ways we have met people’s needs.
Kenny’s journey to St. Francis House began three years ago when a “little angel” he knew pulled up beside him on a street in Dorchester and asked, “Are you ready to go to detox?” Kenny told his friend “yes” and hopped in the car, eager to leave behind years of addiction and “running on the streets” that had started when he was a teenager, after his parents broke up.
Kenny spent five days in detox, then went to a sober house where he focused on recovery and prayed every day for guidance and direction. A staff member told him about the Moving Ahead Program at St. Francis House, and a few weeks later, Kenny enrolled in Class 112, the first MAP class to meet on the new fifth floor, which had been built out so MAP could double in size and capacity. Kenny hoped MAP could help him regain some of the confidence he’d lost in the previous 10 years, when addiction led to incarceration, the loss of a cooking job he loved, and estrangement from his father, grandmother, and son. “I needed someone to see something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” he recalls. “I needed someone to believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
MAP provided encouragement and unwavering support, along with crucial life and business skills, computer training, and help writing his resume. “For years I had thought, ‘What is there to smile about?’ The sun had closed on me and I had the weight of the earth on my shoulders,” he says. “But MAP gave me so much energy that I just took off on the positive plane.”
Two weeks after graduation, Kenny was offered a weekend job with a catering company and a part-time job opening and sorting boxes of merchandise in the back room of a major retail store. He accepted both positions. A few months later, he also became a house manager at a local sober house. Kenny worked hard, day after day and week after week, going from his job at the store to his job at the sober house, or to his job with the catering company. Lessons he’d learned in MAP kept him focused when it seemed as if his career progress was slow. Today, more than two years later, the “positive plane” continues to soar, and Kenny’s perseverance has paid off. The store promoted him to the position of back-room supervisor a few months ago, and recently changed him to full-time status. His catering job allows him to cook, something he really enjoys. And as house manager, he helps other people find and maintain their sobriety. “People supported me when I was trying to get back on my feet; I just want to give it back,” he says. More importantly, Kenny has reconnected with his family, who are thrilled with his progress and very, very proud. “MAP taught me to never give up on my dreams and goals, and to follow my heart,” he says with a wide smile. “Life is full of joy for me right now, and I’ll never give up the progress I’ve made.”
Krystal can’t believe how much her life has changed since she first came to St. Francis House six years ago. Back then, she had no job experience, no support from her family, and was staying in an emergency shelter – a motel room – with her two-year-old daughter. An abusive relationship, her parents’ divorce, and the death of her grandfather had left Krystal feeling lost as a teenager. She dropped out of high school and “hung out with the wrong crowd,” which only made matters worse. Her journey back to wholeness began in our Carolyn Connors Women’s Center. “I could talk to other women there and process what was going on,” she says. “I wanted better for my daughter.”
Krystal also met Corey Bisceglia- Kane, a licensed mental health clinician here at St. Francis House. “What Krystal lacked in self-confidence, she made up for in motivation,” says Corey. “She walked up and asked, ‘How can you help me?’” Corey provided guidance and case management, helping Krystal apply for permanent housing and teaching crucial skills such as budgeting and using a To Do list. “Everything I asked her to do, she did,” says Corey, who also encouraged Krystal to recognize her strengths and talents, and to apply to the Moving Ahead Program. The latter seemed daunting for Krystal, who still hesitated to make eye contact and talk with people she didn’t know.
When she was accepted into MAP Class 111, Krystal wondered if she could complete the 14-week program and find a job, given her lack of employment and education. MAP staff didn’t feel that way. “I knew she could do this,” says Ivor Edmonds, Job Coach. “Krystal is a very hard worker, and she retains everything you teach her.” Ivor and Corey became Krystal’s “cheering squad,” and midway through the program, they were thrilled to learn she’d received permanent housing. “Maybe I can succeed,” Krystal thought. Yet after two employment interviews – neither of which resulted in a job – her self-esteem plummeted.
Krystal continued to work with Corey and Ivor, but the tough economy didn’t help her job search. In August 2013, MAP began a new partnership with CVS to provide internships and jobs for MAP students and alumni (see story, below). Nicholi McLaughlin, Employment Services Supervisor, suggested that Krystal apply. Krystal did so well during the 12-week internship that CVS interviewed her for a job last spring. After two rounds of interviews, she was offered a full-time position, which provides health insurance. “My life has totally changed,” she says. “My parents and my daughter are proud of me, and I’m proud that I didn’t give up.”
Laura and Michael became homeless two years ago when she lost her job and he went on disability after being diagnosed with cancer. The couple had just gotten married a few weeks earlier. Yet instead of beginning a life together, the two ended up in different cities in Massachusetts because no one – and no facility – could accommodate them together. Both Michael and Laura had always been hard workers, and despite their struggles, he looked for low-income housing on the North Shore, where he was staying, and she looked for work near Boston. Last March, the couple received some good news: a small apartment was available. Laura was elated until she realized that “we don’t even have a cup, not a single cup.” One agency after another could not help her, until she called the Housing Resource Center at St. Francis House and spoke to Neysa Johnson.
Neysa listened to Laura’s needs- pots and pans, plates, silverware – and understood that household items allow people to do more than prepare meals. They help people regain their independence and a sense of normalcy. When Laura arrived at St. Francis House, Neysa was waiting with a suitcase full of dishes, silverware, sheets and blankets, and other necessities. “I felt like a kid at Christmas,” Laura recalls. “Neysa even said I could keep the suitcase.” Since then, the couple has begun to feel more hopeful about the future. “The help we got from St. Francis House has been life-changing,” Laura says. “In my past, I have helped a lot of people. I had never been on the other side of the stick. You were the only people who came through for us.”