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“Sometimes I hear stories from the people I am trying to help. They tell me about folks they are worried about and help me make connections,” Carlos tells me. “Sometimes, I find out about homeless people at the mental health clinic where I work during the day. Recently, I heard about a grandmother who was living in a car with her daughter and the daughter’s baby in the parking lot of a supermarket, and I went out to locate them.” Carlos found them, and after hearing their story, he was determined to get them to safe shelter. “They were living with a family member who moved to a new apartment, and there was no way that they could go along. They were sleeping in their car and going to other relatives and friends to shower and rest during the day.” The grandmother ended up having a breakdown and was receiving mental health treatment, but she had no stable place for her family to stay, and that made everything worse. Carlos was able to take the family to Crossroads, and now the situation is improving quickly. Mom, daughter and the grandbaby are living in an emergency apartment for now, and working with their case advocate and the rapid re-housing staff to rebuild their finances, apply for assistance and find stable housing.
“I met another woman who was living in an abandoned camper in the parking lot of a former factory. She was surviving in the unheated camper with no electricity or water. The property manager had allowed her to stay there for more than a year, but when the property was being sold, he told her that she would have to leave. The woman was a survivor of a brutal rape and suffered from extreme trauma. “It took quite a while to gain her trust,” Carlos says, “I would bring her food and other things to help her out. Finally, she agreed to come to Crossroads, just to take showers and wash her clothes. Gradually, she began to feel comfortable with me, and when the day arrived that she had to vacate the camper, she agreed to come to Crossroads for shelter and to work with a case advocate. “She is in a safe place now, and working with her case advocates to find housing and services she needs.”
“I was talking with some people, and they told me about a woman who was sleeping in a park at night, and I went out to find her,” Carlos says. He discovered Molly, a woman in her 30’s with a history of mental illness, who had spent a life filled with abuse and had been trafficked by family members for sex since she was a small child. She had moved to Woonsocket with one of her sisters after narrowly escaping a drive-by shooting in the city where she grew up. Molly’s sister left her in Woonsocket, and Molly wanted to stay their mother, who was living in a high rise. The mother could not have anyone else living in the apartment, so Molly was hiding in her mother’s house during the day and sleeping in the park at night. Finally, Molly suffered a mental health crisis and was sent to a mental health center for treatment, and it was there that Carlos learned about her predicament. “ I knew she had no permanent residence, so I tried hard to reach out to her and gain her trust, and finally I was able to bring her to Crossroads,” Carlos says. “She is getting the help she needs now, including mental health services, health care, some cash assistance, and she is well on her way to getting supportive housing. If I hadn’t been able to find her and bring her to Crossroads, I don’t know what would have happened to her.”
There are more stories, and lots of people still struggling to survive in hidden places in the city. Carlos doesn’t give up on a single person, and every night that he can, he gets in the Crossroads van and goes where most people wouldn’t dare tread. His dedication and caring continue to save the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. We are very grateful to Carlos for his work.
Lesly Joseph first came to Crossroads more than 13 years ago as a social work intern. His University of Rhode Island advisor had presented him with a variety of agencies where he could complete his internship, but Lesly admits he was most attracted to Crossroads (then Traveler’s Aid located on Union Street) because of the convenient downtown location. “At that time, I was just plain clueless about homelessness,” he says, “and I didn’t really know what to expect.” Today, we are proud to say that Lesly is still with Crossroads and has never regretted his career choice.
After the internship, Lesly applied for a 3rd shift caseworker position working with homeless and runaway youth. Gradually, he moved up to 2nd and then 1st shift work, and finally became a case manager and a supervisor in the Adult Services Program, where he worked under several directors. Two years ago, he decided that he found the greatest job satisfaction from providing direct services in a front-line position, and he chose to become a Case Advocate.
His years of experience working with both adults and youth have proven to be invaluable. “Today, homeless adults, especially the younger 18-25 year olds, have extreme challenges caused by serious mental health problems and substance abuse problems that were not so prevalent when I first started working at Crossroads. I used to be able to connect people rather quickly to programs that would help them manage mental illness and addiction, but today it takes a lot longer.” Lesly also says that he is seeing a lot more older adults today, especially in the 60 and older group, who have never been homeless before, and often it is very difficult to get them into appropriate housing quickly. “It is hard to keep up with the needs of my clients, and sometimes when I am leaving, I see someone who is waiting for help, and I stop and see what I can do before I go out the door. After all, I am going to my home, and that person may be sleeping on the floor in our Community Room. All the years at Crossroads have made me more empathetic and understanding of the plights of our clients, and I take the extra steps to provide help.”
When Lesly leaves Crossroads for the day, he does not leave behind his commitment to helping others. He is very involved in the Men’s Ministry of Ebenezer Baptist Church and helps with the Couples Ministry as well. He and his wife are busy parents and very proud of their active 16 month-old son. “He is my number one priority in life.” Lesly says that he does not need much else. “ I am a shy person and enjoy just being with my family.”
Lesly was born in Haiti but has lived in Providence, Rhode Island since he was a child. “I love Rhode Island,” Lesly says, “I like living in a small place where you know everyone.” At Crossroads, we are proud to have Lesly as part of our team and very excited that he has been named as the recipient of the “Spirit of Home Award,” for his work helping so many homeless Rhode Islanders find a better life. “I am really proud to get this award,” Lesly says. At Crossroads, we cannot imagine anyone who deserves it more.
Like her colleagues at Crossroads, Michele is passionate about social justice issues and working with disadvantaged and challenged people. ‘’Most of my students have had hard lives,” Michele says, “and I want to open their eyes to new opportunities and possibilities.” Michele works to inspire students to do their very best and make them proud that they are learning one of the most important jobs in a health care facility. “I show students that I have done all the same tasks that they are learning, and still do them when necessary.”
Michele says that the students at Crossroads deserve a lot of credit for their efforts to overcome obstacles and succeed in the C.N.A. program. “They want jobs, not welfare, and I help them move on with their lives.” She reminds the students that she knows from her own experience how hard it is to juggle jobs, school, homework, child care and still get to class on time. “This past winter has been horrible, and students had to find a way to get to class on time. A lot of them don’t have their own transportation, and those that do have to contend with older vehicles, bald tires and no place to park when the streets are covered with snow.”
Michele acknowledges that many of her students have struggled in school and teachers did not expect them to succeed. She loves cheering on her students, urging them to stay focused. “The nurse assistant training represents a way out of poverty and provides students with the foundation to pursue higher-level health care training, such as nursing or medical technician. At Elmhurst Extended Care, where students receive clinical training, they have opportunities to meet and work with former C.N.A. professionals who have advanced to higher positions with better pay.”
At this time, Michele is working hard to help students achieve a higher pass rate for state C.N.A. licensing exam. She would also like to see the nursing assistant training expand to include home care clinical training as well as the current nursing home experience. And, she would like to make it easier for Crossroads residents in North Kingstown to participate in the C.N.A. training by expanding the programming to that site.
When we asked Michele what would help right now, she said that some of the equipment is getting old, like the mannequin, which is stiff and hard to manipulate, the hospital bed that is hard to move up and down, and the program really needs a professional doctor’s scale with weights. Also, students always need watches for their clinical training. Michele has managed to get a lot of donated uniforms from her friends in the nursing profession so the Crossroads’ students don’t have to worry about finding money to buy them. She would really love to get some donated watches, the scale, and a better mannequin and hospital bed.
Crossroads is lucky to have dedicated professionals like Michele that work very hard to help our clients succeed in their journey out of homelessness and poverty. It is obvious that Michele loves her work here at Crossroads Rhode Island.
Audrey Amado’s background in customer service, case management and conflict resolution has been very useful to her during her three years at Crossroads Rhode Island. Because she works in two program areas, Audrey has multiple opportunities to assist clients as they transition from homelessness to permanent housing. She provides case management to residents in our permanent supportive housing program as well as clients from all our programs who are working to improve their educational and employability skills.
“I believe in helping others to help themselves as they work to rebuild their lives,” Audrey says. “For me, it is important to take advantage of every opportunity to help people see themselves in another light. Homelessness can be a moment in time, not necessarily a lifetime.” She acknowledges that often it is hard to keep those that are homeless or facing homelessness focused on trying to get a G.E.D. or gaining employment, especially when their lives are filled with daily survival challenges. “It is very important to celebrate every milestone clients, residents and students achieve along the way to help them build self-confidence.”
Thanks to generous contributions from our supporters, we have hired a full-time chef for the first time in our history: Executive Chef Dave Rocheleau is professionally-trained, environmentally conscious, and certainly up for a challenge. We now provide hot meals at no cost to our clients five days a week, serving 110 people at each meal on average.
Chef Dave and his staff face unique challenges when preparing their daily menus. They often have to work with an unpredictable supply of donated food, and have only a very limited budget to fill in the gaps and purchase basic items that are always needed.
Most food served at Crossroads comes from organizations that specialize in making nutritious food available at a low or no cost to the poor and homeless, such as the Rhode Island Food Bank, Farm Fresh RI, Southside Community Land Trust and We Share Hope.
Dave, always striving to waste as little as possible, takes the excess food from these non-profits that they are unable to use. Building a relationship with these organizations has enabled us to provide our clients with high-quality nutritious meals and learn about new opportunities to grow our program within the community. Dave hopes to start a community garden in the near future so that Crossroads can grow our own food, and perhaps sell the surplus at local farmers’ markets.
So far, Dave’s home-cooked meals have garnered a positive reaction from clients; His potato salad is a particular favorite dish. He holds a high standard for food served to clients, and proudly declares that he would not serve them anything he wouldn’t eat himself. In the future, he is hoping to be able to make most of his meals from scratch.
When Thomas Hunold became homeless, he had absolutely nothing left. Long gone was his financial success as an entrepreneur who operated several successful martial arts schools. He used to pal around with sports celebrities, and he enjoyed a wonderful home, family life, and beautiful children. Bad decisions and bad associates led him to ruin, and eventually homelessness.
“I had hit bottom,” Thomas says. “I ended up in the Urban League homeless shelter. Luckily, I went to Crossroads to hang out during the day and meet with a case worker.”
It was in the Crossroads Community Room that outreach worker Luis Pinto met Thomas and asked him if he would be willing to join in one of Crossroads’ neighborhood cleanup efforts.
“I figured it was better to do something positive than to sit around doing nothing,” Thomas says. “I would have less chance of getting involved in something that might make my life worse. I just wanted to move forward, not get stuck.”
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