Hope for theWays to Help
In Southwestern PA
City Mission is a Christ-centered rehabilitative homeless shelter. We facilitate the transformation of those who have descended into homelessness, hunger and despair by providing food, shelter, case management, Christian based counseling, and life-changing programming. Our goal is to help each person who walks through our doors to become a healthy, productive member of society.
The City Mission offers two branches of service - Compassionate Care and our Life Recovery Program. Compassionate Care reaches out to those most in need by offering basic services such as meals, shelter, and medical care. The Life Recovery Program assists men, women, and children who are in crisis and looking for life transformation. Our philosophy is to meet people where they are and to lead them towards their God-given purpose.Learn More
City Mission’s work is only possible by the community and businesses of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s generous donation of time and treasure. If you, your business, or church would like to be part of bringing hope to those hurting in our region, or partner with us to deliver the same - please take action today.Learn More
Michael always knew he wanted to go to college. It was his best opportunity to live out a calling to help people. He wanted a job he could be passionate about, one that truly made an impact. But he felt stuck. “He was hoping for a future path that included a career in the medical or counseling field,” explained Colleen Riker, City Mission’s Manager of Medical Services, who worked closely with Michael during his time at the Mission. “His desire was to attend college, but he wasn’t sure that was even a viable option since he was living in a homeless shelter and had no income.” Michael had a very difficult few years. In 2016, he lost a close friend to suicide. “We really didn’t know how he was feeling,” he said of his friend. “I want to be able to help prevent that from happening to someone else.” He even volunteers as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line to provide support for those who have lost hope. But his opportunities to help people are limited, and he has long dreamed of earning his degree and becoming a nurse or a social worker. When Michael graduated from Wash High, he began the process of completing his college application, but he hit a roadblock completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). He and his family also had a falling out at that time, which resulted in him getting kicked out of the house. For several years, Michael moved around and hopped from job to job. “I was couch-surfing for a while until I ran out of options,” he explained. When he had exhausted all other options, he made a call to his longtime friend, Brianna Kadlecik, who happened to be the Career Training and Education Center Coordinator at City Mission. “Michael and I met in the youth group for West Washington and Jefferson Avenue United Methodist churches,” Kadlecik explained. “We ended up becoming part of a praise band called the Fools for Christ, where we both sang.” It was a life-changing call for Michael. “I don’t like asking for help,” he said. “I always like to do it myself. When I had to reach out, it was a big step for me.” In May of last year, he moved into City Mission. At first, he was not at all sure that City Mission was the right fit for him. “The first day was really scary,” he said. “There are a lot of people in one room. Disagreements are going to pop up. I tried to stay out of it.” Many of the men around him were much older and in drug and alcohol addiction recovery, which was not one of Michael’s struggles. He felt out of place. “When Michael first came to City Mission in May of 2019, he had a lot of anxiety issues,” said Riker. “But he worked with our Medical Clinic and Drug-Free Pain Management Team to establish a doctor and utilize Alpha-Stim technology to manage his anxiety.” And he managed to stick with the program. He had some meaningful conversations with City Mission staff and his fellow residents, and he eventually decided to stay. “The Mission taught me to not be in a rush, to just let the process work.” He started going to the Career Training and Education Center at the Mission, and he used the computers there to work on his college application. Now that he was living at the Mission, he could complete his FAFSA application form as an independent, and that helped him out tremendously. “We were able to help him finish his application,” said Kadlecik. “This was a barrier that I had seen Michael run up against for years with no hope of getting past it, and It was so rewarding to see him finally get past it. Michael was filled with hope where there had been so much disappointment and frustration.” Kadlecik also helped him write a resume, which eventually helped him get hired at Gabe’s in Washington, where he was able to save up money toward the additional costs of college that his loans would not cover. He was even able to save up enough money to purchase his own vehicle. Then, one day, a letter from California University of Pennsylvania came in the mail at the Mission with Michael’s name on it. “The moment when I was accepted into college, that was a fun moment,” he said. “Everyone was excited!” “There were high-fives and tears of joy when he received his acceptance letter,” said Riker. “Michael was excited when he got the acceptance letter,” remembered Kadlecik. “He made the rounds to all the staff that he’d been working with, and we were all so excited for him. His dream was finally going to become a reality.”
Family homelessness can be devastating and have a lifelong impact on mothers and children, but lives are being transformed at City Mission’s Women with Children Shelter. Kazmiere and her family are living proof of that. “Without the Mission providing me the opportunity to keep my kids, this journey would have never started for me. It means everything to me. I’m forever grateful--for real.”
City Mission’s Career Training and Education Coordinator, Brianna Kadlecik, and volunteer instructor, Dee Dee Zinn, have been working alongside the residents as they pursue their GED, and it has been very rewarding for them to watch the residents learn and grow as people. “It really builds their confidence,” Kadlecik explained. “When everyone is cheering them on, they start to see that they can really do it.”
For the fifth consecutive year, Northwood Charitable Foundation is hosting the Mission Possible 5K Run/1 Mile Walk, benefiting City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House. Due to COVID-19 and for the safety of all participants, volunteers, and staff, the event will be held virtually this year. Runners can register at www.missionpossiblerun.org between now and August 8. Then, they simply map out their own 5K or 1-mile route anywhere they want and run any time between August 1-15. Runners are asked to wear red, white, and blue and post photos on social media, tagging City Mission and using #missionpossiblerun. All proceeds from the race, with Northwood Charitable Foundation matching up to $10,000, support life-transformation for the 22 veterans who live at City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House. The house opened in 2018 to provide services and programs targeted specifically to meet the unique needs of homeless veterans. "In this trying and troubling time, we know two things,” said Jeff McCartney, a local realtor and member of City Mission’s Board of Directors who has chaired the Mission Possible event for the past five years. “One is that the homeless Veterans need our help more than ever. And second and most importantly, we know through spirit and truth that all things are possible in Christ Jesus. He is our rock and our Redeemer." Many of the residents of the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House suffered a great deal before arriving at City Mission, but after entering the veterans’ program, many have been able to restore their hope and confidence. “City Mission gave me a sense of self-worth and put me back in touch with the Lord,” said Tim, an Air Force Veteran who came to City Mission after breaking his hip. “At the Crabtree House, we have confidence and self-respect. We’re all brother veterans, all working together for the betterment of all. I’m grateful to be able to have a sense of pride in something. And we take pride in that house.”The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that over 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night in the United States, and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans are 50% more likely to be homeless than other Americans. “The Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House is a critical component to the healing process for our veteran population,” said Dean Gartland, President/CEO of City Mission. “Having our veterans living together and supporting one another is the best way for veterans to obtain lasting results.” Register at www.missionpossiblerun.org between now and August 8 to help homeless veterans.About City Mission: For over 75 years, City Mission has sheltered, healed, and restored the homeless to independent living—without discrimination. City Mission’s comprehensive program addresses both short-term needs like food and shelter, and long-term needs, including drug and alcohol counseling, mental health and medical treatment, legal aid, and employment training. City Mission’s goal is to help each man, woman, mother with children, or veteran who walks through our doors to become a healthy, productive member of society. With your help, we can help our residents renew their lives.
On July 3, City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House celebrated two years of life transformation for homeless veterans. “This house is a testament to what can happen when a group of guys trust and believe in each other and work together to accomplish one another’s goals,” said Steve Adams, City Mission’s Manager of Veterans Services. Since opening its doors in 2018, the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House has helped restore 27 homeless veterans to independent living and helped 33 residents gain sustainable income. Boasting a 74% overall success rate for housing, employment, income, recovery, and spirituality, the Crabtree House is helping to restore hope and confidence for the 22 veterans they serve. City Mission’s program is about veterans helping veterans. The response from local veterans’ organizations who have donated money, clothes, food, and time to the residents has been overwhelming. “The donors have been so generous to this house,” said Tim, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in October 2018 after breaking his hip. “The amount of donations that come in -- it’s just an overabundance. For me, it’s important to find a good way to give back.” In addition to getting help for our veterans, our residents are also finding ways to give help to other veterans. Every day, they are helping, supporting, and encouraging each other. “Vets are more willing and able to open up to other veterans,” explained Adams. Tim agreed, “It’s a matter of taking an oath and making a commitment. We all held up our end of the bargain for our country. And maybe that’s what sets us apart. An oath really does mean something to each and every one of us.” Veterans helping and supporting each other is key to their recovery. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves.” But the veterans in City Mission’s program are also reaching out to the community and giving back. Wendi Kraemer is the President and founder of Angels Journey Home, a rescue shelter for animals. A few years ago, her organization partnered with the Veterans Administration to create the Angels For Everyday Heroes program, which rescues animals, trains them to be service animals, and then connects them with veterans in need all over the country. “There are so many homeless veterans in need,” she said. “So many suffering every day.” Her organization donates to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House every couple of months. “We’re here for vets,” she said. They were able to donate a nice suit to a resident who said he had never owned one. They even donated special shoes to a resident who suffered with foot pain related to diabetes. Last spring, a small group of residents from the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House went over to Kraemer’s 10-acre facility to give back. “They came and picked up trash, laid mulch all around the property,” Kraemer said. “We have a cat sanctuary, and they helped us out with that. It was great watching them laugh and joke around and just disconnect from their problems.” Joe, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in April of last year, was there that day, helping to give back. “It was a lot of fun. I love doing that kind of stuff,” he said. Joe replaced some roof boards on the cat sanctuary. Tim helped Kraemer sort through donated pet supplies. Joe and Tim both agreed it felt good to give back to an organization that is doing good in the world. “It’s good to feel productive,” Tim explained. “That’s rewarding in and of itself.”
A symptom of PTSD known as hyper-vigilance makes combat veterans feel constantly on edge or “keyed-up.” Many who suffer from PTSD have difficulty relaxing and enjoying everyday life. They struggle to sleep, so they are always exhausted, and they have difficulty maintaining work performance or building relationships.
“I love working at the Mission,” smiled Denny Kennedy, City Mission’s new Chief Financial Officer, who was hired back in late February. “It’s nice to be around people who have a passion for what they do. How could you not be inspired?”
“A New Lease on Life” In 2018, Tim, an Air Force veteran, was living in a hotel behind a bar. He had lost his Mom and his job of nearly twenty years in 2010, and his life had been slowly unraveling ever since. “Before I came here,” he said, “there wasn’t a single activity in my life that didn’t involve a drink – even taking a shower.” On July 6, he tripped over a pine root in the dark and broke his hip. “I was intoxicated,” he explained. “I haven’t had a drink since that night. That just woke me up. I firmly believe God laid His hand on me.” That freak accident eventually led him to City Mission, where, in August 2018, after hip surgery and eight weeks in physical therapy, he began the work of healing his mind, body, and spirit. Tim was born and raised in Monongahela. His Dad, who had been a Navy gunner in World War Two, was a crane operator for a steel mill in McKeesport, and his Mom was a Registered Nurse for a local hospital. He spent 12 years in Catholic School and received an excellent education. After graduation, he knew he needed a change of scenery after dabbling with drugs and alcohol his last few years of high school. Also, his dad foresaw the closing of local mills and knew that times would be hard financially in the Mon Valley for years to come, so Tim joined the Air Force, attending Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. After Basic Training, he trained to be an Air Crew Life Support Specialist. He would pack and maintain emergency items for the flight crew, such as flight helmets and survival kits – a job requiring significant attention to detail. In 1991, several years after leaving the military and returning home to the Mon Valley, he began working as a custodian for a school district in the South Hills, and he worked there for nearly twenty years. “It was the best job I ever had,” he said. “It wasn’t a high-paying job, but I really liked the people I worked with. It was very close-knit. And it was something different every day. It was the only job I ever had when I didn’t dread going to work.” Then in 2003, his drinking started to become more and more of a problem. “It was my own fault,” he said. “I can’t blame anyone but myself.” In 2010, he went to rehab, but he couldn’t complete the outpatient part of the program, because his mother, who had been ill, passed away. Completing the program was a requirement for returning to work, so he lost his job. Devastated, he moved to Oklahoma with his sister just to get away and start fresh, but that only lasted a few years. “This is home,” he explained. “The roots are sunk deep.” He moved back to the Mon Valley, but with his family all gone, he had nowhere to stay, so he lived for the next five years in a hotel behind a bar until the night he fell and broke his hip. He came to City Mission in August of 2018 and then moved into the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House that October. “This place affords you all the opportunities you need to heal,” he said. “It’s not a homeless shelter in the way you think. They offer career placement and medical care and classes. It’s a place to heal your mind, body, and spirit. When you heal physically, it helps with your recovery, and that helps you re-establish your relationship with Christ. And you’re just a walking shell unless you have a relationship with Christ. Mind, body, and spirit -- they all three mesh together.” “City Mission gave me a sense of self-worth and put me back in touch with the Lord,” he added. “Knowing that I could be of service is important to me. I just want to do something positive, effect positive change, and I know I’ve made positive contributions here.” “At the Crabtree House, we have confidence and self-respect. Perhaps it’s from our military experience. We’re all brother veterans, all working together for the betterment of all. I’m grateful to be able to have a sense of pride in something. And we take pride in that house.” “Thanks for saving my life,” he said to all the staff at City Mission. “For giving me a new lease on life.”
City Mission Thrift Stores were closed for retail shopping for over two months during the COVID quarantine, but they never completely closed during that time. All of City Mission’s seven thrift stores remained open to accept donations, and five of them were used as Pop-up Pantry sites to distribute food bags to those in need during the crisis. The Pop-up Pantry program gave away over 4,000 bags of food in eight weeks.