Before the summer transitional shelter began this year, Holly Rotman-Zaid, Manager of Outreach & Engagement and Dale Nowcki, Shelter Manager, and their teams, decided to add more content and learning experiences to the program.
With the help of staff and volunteers, clients were exposed to a wide variety of experiences intended to help relieve stress and share new insights.
Since 2009, space has been made during the summer months on a smaller scale. This year, between May 28 and Sept. 3, limited space has been available for a maximum of 15 people living in six rotating congregations in Oak Park and Forest Park. That group is comprised of 12 slots for a transition shelter program plus up to three emergency shelter clients accepted on a lottery basis. Volunteers sign up to provide groceries for breakfast and lunch, and bring food to share for dinner. After the meal, after completing their assigned tasks to clean up the kitchen, the evening is theirs.
Thanks to Holly and her team, clients who chose to participate, were offered monthly sessions with an Art Therapist, a seat at a Drum Circle, a workshop on Mindfulness, a Gratitude Journal and advice on how to use it, strategies for using humor to manage anger, tips for grocery shopping on a budget, and regular job readiness sessions with Shafaali Bindani, our Career Passport Specialist.
One of Holly’s favorite nights at the shelter was when medical students from Loyola arrived with foot baths to lead a workshop on daily hygiene practices. Foot massages, pedicures, manicures and soothing face masks were offered to all. “It was a real treat,” she said, “I’ll never forget seeing those happy, relaxed people walking around with bright blue facial masks.”
One offering still to come is a workshop by Miriam Ament, Founder and President of No Shame on U. Miriam’s life experience and certification in Mental Health First Aid fuel her dedication to ending the stigma around mental health by changing the conversations around it. Her aim is for people who need help, to seek it, for family members and friends to know how to provide proper support that can save lives. www.noshameonu.org
Asking for and accepting help is not easy. People at risk of, or experiencing homelessness are likely to be more in need of help and less able to access it. Creating unique ways to bring support and guidance to them wherever they are, is invaluable and definitely something worthy of writing in a Gratitude Journal.