Through focused and intentional collaboration, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton and its partners have made great strides toward impacting the root causes of poverty over the past 25 years. In 2022, the foundation made $3,084,378 in grants in three categories of need: foundation-led initiatives, strategic collaborations and responsive efforts.
The foundation recently released its 2022 annual report, which highlights examples of the programs it funds. Following is an example of one of the foundation-led initiatives funded in 2022. This category of grants focuses on the goal of developing and honing programs focused on systemic change.
We’ve all heard the adage about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, but for ICAN Housing’s Workforce Development Manager Keith Bialota, success is achieved by walking “shoulder to shoulder” with program participants. That includes participants like Vicky*, who came to ICAN at a very low time in her life. Keith’s support is helping her reach her full potential. Vicky had nothing: she’d lost her kids, her home, and her vehicle. ICAN housed her and helped her get everything she needed to settle in. For the first three years, Vicky found herself unable to leave her apartment at all, except to go to necessary appointments. Agoraphobia and anxiety had made her life very small.
Keith never gave up on Vicky. He stayed alongside her, shoulder to shoulder, encouraging and supporting her. While he never pushed her to do anything she wasn’t comfortable with, he made sure to let her know that if she ever decided to make her life just a bit larger, he would be right beside her to help.
Keith and Workforce Development Coordinator Dionna StokesEllis are the dynamic duo working alongside Vicky and the other participants in ICAN’s Stable Home, Stable Life program. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton has provided funding for the program; it’s part of ICAN’s permanent supportive housing programs, which have proven to be effective solutions for people experiencing major life challenges, including chronic homelessness, mental illness, and substance use disorders. Permanent supportive housing combines affordable housing with voluntary supportive services that help individuals live independently and seek their full potential. Those supportive services can make all the difference in cultivating long-term stability.
Keith feels the key to success is actively listening to determine which supports will help, so he takes the time to learn about each participant’s work history, skills, and life challenges. They then collaborate to create a plan that’s tailor-made to fit the individual’s unique situation.
As for Vicky, she woke up one day and just knew that she could suddenly move forward. She went right to Keith and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I want a job.”
Keith was surprised and impressed. He took Vicky to Dunkin’ Donuts, where he helped her fill out job applications. And after Vicky secured a job at a dollar store, Keith made sure she had the bus passes she would need to keep that job.
Those bus passes, and other retention services intended to help participants maintain employment, are sometimes provided for many months, or even longer than a year. That longer-term support is a uniquely effective feature of this program. Job retention can be a significant challenge for vulnerable individuals. Continued employment is key for fostering confidence, structure, and self-esteem, which are all necessary components of the main goal: the kind of long-term stability cultivated by the hands-on, caring approach of potential-seekers like Keith and Dionna.
Four months in, Vicky likes the job, is happy in her apartment, and loves spending time with her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Elgin. She’s transitioned into what looks like a pretty stable life indeed. She strongly feels none of this would have happened without Keith and ICAN.
When asked if she has advice for others experiencing similar challenges, she’s quick to answer: “Don’t give up. If it wasn’t for ICAN, I don’t see me being here. I would still be homeless.”
Next, Vicky plans to earn her GED, in order to reach her full potential. She knows Keith and ICAN will be beside her, every step of the way.
*Vicky’s name has been changed to protect her privacy
ICAN’s Stable Home, Stable Life program has three phases:
1. Stable Home (finding stable housing),
2. Income Gains (becoming employed), and
3. Stable Life (setting long-term goals and accessing the supports needed to achieve them).
To learn about ICAN Housing’s programs and services, visit ican-inc.org/services/
To read about the research and philosophy behind supportive housing, visit bit.ly/pshinfo
The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
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