A Safe Haven

external street view of 'women with children' shelter building

City Mission Provides a Safe Haven in the "Women with Children" Shelter

"This place definitely does save a lot of lives”

On Friday, October 25, City Mission celebrates the first anniversary of their Women with Children Shelter.  Over the past year, the shelter has become a place of love, security, and encouragement for mothers and children who have nowhere else to go.  “The sense of community in the Women with Children Shelter is wonderful,” said Leah Dietrich, City Mission’s Director of Residential Programs.  “The kids love having their own space for their family, but they also love playing together.  There are best friends in the making all the time.  There is a lot of love in that building.”

Amber Miller is the Manager of the Women with Children Program at the shelter.  Her favorite time of day is the morning, when all the kids come running into her office before school.  “Good morning, Miss Amber,” they yell.  “I love you.  Have a great day!”  And she gets huge hugs from all the kids.  This isn’t just a job for Amber.  She is making a real difference in the lives of the families that call City Mission their home.  “We are here to support them and love them through it all,” she explained.  “Showing love and kindness can go a long way.”

Katherine came to City Mission in August of last year with her two daughters.  Her family was one of the first to move into the new shelter.  “I used to live my life in a victim role,” she said, looking back on the abuse she endured as a child and her years of addiction.  “But now I see myself as a survivor.  Every day I tell myself, ‘This is going to be a great day.  This could be the best day of my life.’”

Katherine moved from Mercer County to Washington for recovery, and she found a home at City Mission.  “I built a foundation of people here – church family, sponsors, really good friends,” she explained.  “And my kids love living here.  They love the sense of community here, love being around other kids their age.  They feel safe.” 

Since coming to City Mission, Katherine has been able to work on her recovery, build a support structure, and heal enough from her past trauma to no longer need medication.  She is also studying at the Shiloh Bible Institute and working on certifications as a Certified Recovery Specialist and Family Recovery Specialist.  “I want to build a career helping addicts, trauma victims, and people with mental health issues,” she said.  “Helping people gives me purpose.”  Katherine plans to move out into her own place with her children by the beginning of next year.

City Mission Staff Cut the Ribbon at the Women With Children Shelter
City Mission Staff and Sponsors cut the ribbon at the Women with Children Shelter

Tonya also found a home here at the Mission for her and her 4-year-old daughter.  She came to the Mission in December of last year after spending six months at a halfway house.  “It’s amazing here,” she said of the Women with Children Shelter.  “I tell a lot of people about this place.  It’s not just a job for the people here.  They actually care about us.” 

After leaving the halfway house, Tonya wanted to hurry up and get on with her life and reunite with her two sons, who currently live with their dad, but she realizes now that she needed this time at City Mission to heal.  “If I didn’t come here after the halfway house, I can’t say I would be clean to this day.   I would have had to go back to my hometown, and that would not be a good idea.  I would have gone back to my old ways.  I might not even be alive today.  This place definitely does save a lot of lives.”

Since coming to the Mission, Tonya has been able to work on her recovery, purchase a vehicle, and find a better job.  She also plans to move out into her own home in early November with all three of her children and pursue a degree in nursing.  “I came a long way since I’ve been here,” she said.  “When I leave here, the thing I’m going to miss most is all the ladies sitting out back at the picnic tables, just laughing and joking around.  And my daughter is going to want to come back every day.  There is nothing she dislikes about this place.”

“These mothers are an inspiration,” added Dietrich.  “They are working so hard and the fact that we have been able to build a program and supports around them is amazing!  I’m grateful for the childcare center and all it can do and Amber for her work with these families! It’s amazing how the program and volunteers and donors have come together to build something so great!”

Your support is changing lives at City Mission! Thank You!  DONATE TODAY!

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.

October 24, 2019
Susan Gartland - Social Media Manager
Sue Gartland
Social Media Manager
Sue has a vast career in gospel rescue missions adding great value to the City Mission team. Sue has been in many roles in the mission and is always filling in where she is needed - which is A LOT!
sgartland@citymission.org

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City Mission Vets Give Back

2nd Annivesrary Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House
July 8, 2020

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 New Lease on Life

Resident 'Tim' takes a smoke break
June 12, 2020

“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.”