Staff Spotlight: Empowerment Through Outreach
Guy Johnson began working at the Poverello Center as direct care staff in 2019, however, that wasn’t his first time at the facilities.
Johnson has experienced homelessness in Missoula, and is now two years into addiction recovery. In January 2021, Johnson got the job as one of the expanded Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) members and through that outreach work, he has expanded his impact on the Missoula community through one-on-one interactions with people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
“I’ve run into people I knew (from before, when I was homeless) and it gives them hope to see that if someone can make it, it gives them hope that they can make it. That’s where it’s at. That’s what I want to show people – if I can do it, you can do it,” Johnson said. “I was an IV methamphetamine user, I was 165 pounds, I had endocarditis, I was homeless and running from the law. I was everything in that negative aspect and to see me turn my life around and show them it’s hard work, it’s not easy, but it’s possible. It’s a huge possibility … It’s cool to see the 180 you can do.”
Johnson is passionate about hearing people’s stories and building relationships with clients. Although he got to do that working in a direct care position, he was drawn to HOT because team members are able to meet clients where they are physically and mentally.
“Whether in addiction recovery, housing ventures, or their employment ventures, you get to see people where they’re at in their life and you get to make the connection to resources”, Johnson said.
Over the course of 2021 so far, the Homeless Outreach Team has been working hard to connect people facing unsheltered homelessness with resources to ease transition out of Winter Shelter and homelessness as a whole. Although the work looks different on any given day, the work of getting out into the community to connect people with necessary supplies remains consistent.
“I know there’s going to be good days and I know there’s going to be bad days, but when I come in and put on my orange sweatshirt and throw my pack on and go meet somebody and ask what’s going on, how can I help you, can I give you this … I’ve seen some peoples’ faces light up as soon as they see orange. For me, it’s empowering to know that I can make somebody’s life better and give them that one piece of happiness,” Johnson said.
Johnson is a self-described people-person because of his love for meeting new people and getting to know their stories. Through those connections, he is able to connect people to meaningful resources through working on HOT.
“HOT makes me a better person. I am two years in recovery, I was homeless, I know what that is like, to see that and get to do those things to better someone, it makes me a better individual to promote excitement and all around prosperity,” Johnson said.
First of all, I want to take a moment to celebrate how many Pov staff and clients have gotten vaccinated. With 29 staff members, 97 clients, and 33 community members vaccinated, spring 2021 is off to an optimistic start with regards to the Pov community’s risk of COVID.
Although there is a peace of mind that comes with the vaccine roll-out across the country, we continue to take serious precautions to ensure the safety of our staff and clients. The Pov has a continuous commitment to adhere to CDC guidelines for congregate settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pov will continue these heightened cleaning and social distancing protocols until the CDC changes guidelines.
The impact of the pandemic is more relevant than ever. The projected long-term economic consequences and realities facing the Missoula community will disproportionately impact individuals and families facing poverty and homelessness.
In November 2020, the United States had over 18.8 million unemployed and under-employed workers. The economy directly ties to incomes, and the risk of homelessness increases as earnings decrease. The odds of becoming homeless are 23 times greater for a worker at the bottom of the wage ladder than for someone earning $28,000 a year. Eviction rates during the pandemic have been low due to the CDC’s memorandum on them, however, 23,000-31,000 households are estimated to be at risk of eviction in Montana. As a result, there could be an estimated $306,138,464 in select public costs related to eviction-related homelessness.
Compounded, these shifts will greatly impact Missoula and the Poverello Center community at large. Rising rates of poverty and homelessness, as well as Missoula’s challenging housing market, make the resources Pov programs provide extremely valuable services that reach an expanding number of Missoula residents.
In order to best continue the Pov’s mission of providing food, shelter, help and hope to Missoulians facing hunger and homelessness, bolstering Pov resources and programs is crucial at this time.
Together we must continue to serve those in crisis while taking on the systemic challenges that are causing homelessness and food insecurity in our community. Thank you all for being the Poverello Center’s partner in providing food, shelter, help, and hope to all who ask.
Building Up the Community with You
You matter and You are amazing. Everything about You matters. With the heart to care, goals to be great, fears and weaknesses to relate; You are the unique and driving force that matters so much.
The past thirteen months have been a challenge, bringing us isolation and upheaval in routine and lifestyle, it hasn’t been natural. It’s been awkward, oh so hard, and downright frustrating. You and I have struggled through it, though. We have made the best of it and now we’re at a point where we can say, “What’s next?”
Hopefully next will bring a return to somewhat normalcy. It would be great for You and I to easily meet, share and connect on ideas, and continue towards a more fulfilled life, not just for ourselves, but for those around us, too. I guess the best part of thirteen hard months is having time to think. I realize how much I miss You, how much I love You, how much I need You, and how much we can do together.
We have a great opportunity to come out of this pandemic much better than going in. You and I can lead a mission with our hands extended to others to build up our community through love, support, and care. Living with a disability has taught me that nothing is earned and gained just from my own hard work and sacrifice. Support from others is needed, too. My abilities to graduate college, gain employment, and become a homeowner came with the aide and support of hundreds of caregivers who have lent me a hand in my journey.
Now my journey has led me to You. I ask for your hand in support, your love, and your care to build up our community stronger than before. There are many ways to support and give back to our community, many of which you may already serve. Here are three ways to support and give to the Poverello Center.
- Donating to the Pov is a great way to support the work of serving those experiencing homelessness.
- The Pov has an Amazon Wish list so supporters can ship needed items directly to the Pov.
- Signing up to volunteer is always an awesome way to support and give back.
The opportunity to build up our community doesn’t need to start with donating or volunteering. It can be a smile and a pat on the back to let someone know they matter and are amazing, too.
With my hands held high, I’m excited for “What’s next.” You and I are set to do amazing things and I’m excited for that. Thank You for all You do and please find me online, so we continue this conversation on my Facebook page, @dlbloggermt.
Volunteer Spotlight: Sandwich Sermons
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola serves as a blueprint for Jesuit prayer to help people discern God’s presence in their lives. It is a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St.
Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God, but it is also inspiration for gatherings such as Saint Francis Xavier Parish’s men’s prayer group.
Saint Francis Xavier Parish members have been assembling up to 200 sack lunches at the Pov each Thursday since the end of January. Parish and prayer group member Mark Brown was inspired to get involved through his faith, but the work quickly expanded beyond any one person.
“Through prayer, it kind of just came to me,” Brown said. “I was talking to Father Hightower on the phone about how we talk about Jesus and all the work and all the miracles and everything he does but that’s all we do, we just talk about it. So why don’t we take what we’re talking about to the community?”
Mark began organizing volunteers from the parish men’s prayer group, and connected with the Pov to secure a plan and workspace. Since the program began, the seven core members from the parish men’s prayer group have expanded to include the entire parish and a second weekly volunteering opportunity to make sandwiches on Fridays as well as Thursdays, beginning in March.
“I think we were all called to do something. This is filling a void for a lot of us, it brings a lot of joy to us, and hopefully we’re spreading the joy to everyone else and we’re doing some good, too,” Brown said.
The work has been quickly elevated through donations of goods and funds for this work. The group’s goal is to make 400-500 sack lunches per week. Ultimately, Mark has goals of producing up to 10,000 lunches and being able to eat with Poverello Center clients.
“I didn’t get struck by lightning or thrown off a cliff or anything like that, but it was a subtle whisper to make some sack lunches. You just have to listen in your prayer life,” Brown said.
Missoula Gives: Supporting Pov Programs
Help us meet our fundraising goal during Missoula Gives and join us in providing food, shelter, help and hope to all who ask! Through Missoula Gives on May 6-7 and other fundraising efforts this spring, the Pov is working hard to keep the Homeless Outreach Team staffed at its current capacity of seven once CARES Act funding expires on June 30th.
This year, the Poverello Center has formed staff-led fundraising teams to help reach our goal. Teams include each Pov program, administrative personnel, and more.
Unsheltered homelessness has grown by 22 percent in Missoula over the last five years. The Homeless Outreach Team addresses this statistic every day through getting into the community to build rapport with individuals and deliver needed resources to our most vulnerable neighbors. More HOT members mean more capacity for one-on-one relationship building to help get our most vulnerable community members housed, more people connected to potentially life-saving services including nutrition, gear, and additional public resources, and more people experiencing chronic homelessness moving into housing.
The long-term realities of the pandemic will greatly impact Missoula and the Poverello Center community at large. The Poverello Center’s Homeless Outreach Team works to address this changing landscape through building relationships with homeless men and women living on the streets, providing guidance and support for unsheltered individuals to find safe, permanent housing, supporting residents and businesses in creating a healthier community for all, and educating about the complex nature of chronic homelessness.
Rising rates of poverty and homelessness, as well as Missoula’s challenging housing market, make the resources HOT provides extremely valuable services that reach an expanding number of Missoula residents.
For every $50,000 we raise before the end of June, we can keep one expanded Homeless Outreach Team member on the streets to build relationships, provide basic needs, and get people into housing as it becomes available. You can make a meaningful, positive impact on Missoula residents experiencing homelessness and poverty by supporting HOT’s work financially. Learn more about how to get involved by visiting our Missoula Gives webpage.
Planned Giving: A Lasting Legacy
You. Family. Community.
Your legacy priorities for yourself, your family, and your community can be reflected in a simple will or trust. If your priorities change over time, so can your will or trust. A legacy gift doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. It can look many different ways, and the Poverello Center is committed to supporting you in this process. What’s important is that your will or trust reflects your story, and what is meaningful to you and the people and places you love.
What can having a will in place mean to your family? Poverello Center supporter, John Hess, shared about a recent gift to the Pov from his mother’s estate:
“The goal was to not only be helpful to the population served but to also bring cheer and encouragement to the staff and board in their work,” John said. “Gifts given are measurable. The consequences of the intent and goodness of gifts given are immeasurable. As the money is used, we don’t know the lives it will touch and the stories it will tell. But, because we know where the money came from and what it cost, we know it will be meaningful and of value.’
To learn more about how you can leave a legacy of help and hope for Missoula’s homeless and hungry neighbors, please contact Jesse Jaeger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 532-6686. We welcome the opportunity to work with you and your trusted advisors for each step of your planned giving journey. If you have included the Poverello Center in your estate plans, we would appreciate you letting us know so we can share our thanks and talk to you about recognition opportunities in a legacy society we are establishing.
On behalf of all those served and serving the Poverello Center, thank you. The work we do at the Poverello Center is made possible through the aid of donations, now and into the future. Thank you for joining us in providing food, shelter, help and hope to Missoulians facing hunger and homelessness.
Poverello Center ~ 1110 W Broadway St., Missoula, MT, 59802 ~ EIN 23-7439391