City Mission and Citizens Library Partner to Build a Better Community

Washington, PA - Citizens Library exterior view

Working with the Resources of Our Local Library to Improve Resident Opportunities

City Mission is working with the Citizens Library to expand the resources available to help restore their residents to sustainable, independent living.  The collaboration is a natural one.  “Our primary goal is to help prepare people for life outside these four walls,” said Steve Nicholas, the City Mission Director of Career Training and Education.  “Partnering with Citizens Library helps us provide more support, resources, and tools to more people.”

“I was ecstatic when Steve came to us,” explained Diane Ambrose, the Executive Director of the Citizens Library.  “We were very excited to know that the Mission is helping train people for local jobs.”

staff members at the library

Kathy Pienkowski , the Circulation Services Manager at Citizens Library, gave Nicholas several electronic cards, which could be used by City Mission residents to access all of the library’s resources, including their job search database, Gale courses, and media center.  “We’re more than happy to collaborate,” said Pienkowski.  “City Mission is right in our backyard.  A stronger community is made through collaboration.  And people and businesses, everybody is made better by a stronger community.”

welcome area of the library

In the world of non-profits, where organizations compete over a small pool of donor funds, it would be easy for City Mission and Citizens Library to see each other as competitors.  “We really appreciate that Citizens Library doesn’t view us as a competitor,” said Nicholas.  “We’re working together to build each other up and to build up the community around us.”

“We’re not here to compete,” explained Ambrose.  “We’re here to serve people.”

City Mission residents are taking advantage of the Gale courses offered by Citizens Library.  Gale courses are free, online courses focused on professional development, technology skills, and personal enrichment.  They cover a wide range of topics, from Accounting to Writing and Publishing to Teaching, Technology, and Healthcare.  “We’ve had 14 certifications through Gale courses for our residents in the last 3 months,” said Nicholas of the online courses available through the Citizens Library.  “This is something that builds resumes and builds focus.  It’s been awesome!”

Ryan M., a current resident of City Mission, has completed eight Gale courses and achieved six certifications during his time at the Mission.  “I started taking the courses to keep my mind engaged and focused while I’m preparing to transition back into college,” he said.  “And I’ve also been able to gain some certifications I can put on a resume.”

rows of bookshelves

The Gale courses have also helped Ryan to give back to the City Mission community and to mentor fellow residents.  His experience has allowed him to guide other residents through the process of selecting courses that best fit their needs.  Recently, when City Mission staff selected him as a Resident Assistant to supervise and mentor other residents, Ryan took an Assertiveness Training course to help him become a better mentor and role model.  “I’ve always struggled in that area,” he explained.  “I’ve always been more passive, and I looked at that as a positive trait.  But this course is helping me see assertiveness in a new kind of way.”

City Mission’s Vocational Assistant, Brianna Kadlecik, has taken four Gale Courses so far and plans to take more.  The first course she took was Introduction to Microsoft Excel.  “By the second lesson, I was already implementing my new skills into my work.  The course really helped me understand the logic behind the system.  I highly recommend Gale courses to any staff person.  I’m already seeing applications in my everyday work.”

City Mission is also utilizing the Citizens Library’s Media Center, which enables participants to record audio and video sessions.  Steve Nicholas is using the Media Center to record mock interview sessions with the residents to help them prepare for job searches.  “We were able to watch the sessions with the residents, which allowed me to coach each individual through the playback.  Without the library, I would not have been able to coach them through the mock interviews.  When you get to see yourself, you see more clearly your own strengths and weaknesses.”

“This isn’t your Grandmother’s library anymore,” said Kathy Pienkowski of the Citizens Library.  “We’re trying to turn around the perception of the library through collaborations with other organizations that are doing great things in the community.  We’re selling literacy and life-long learning.  Books are just the beginning.”

Nicholas added, “We’re looking forward to a continued partnership with Citizens Library.”

October 23, 2018
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

Recent Articles

Common Ailments Among the Homeless

Hope for the Homeless
September 30, 2021

The homeless population in Pennsylvania is recorded to be over 13,000 people. This includes families, veterans, young adults (aged 18 to 24), and those experiencing chronic homelessness. These are people who may be experiencing problems like lack of affordable housing and poverty, among other things. This is a serious problem, but you can help. Homelessness also brings about serious consequences to overall health and well-being. And as it is very likely that those who are experiencing homelessness would not be able to afford healthcare, the smallest gestures and assistance can go a long way. As Director of Residential Programs Leah Dietrich explains, "One of the largest challenges is access. Homeless individuals are often transient and can't consistently access healthcare and mental health treatment. It takes time and resources like insurance and transportation. Many times, individuals will feel they have no options beyond emergency care, which doesn't allow for underlying concerns to be addressed as would be covered in a PCP or counseling appointment." One way you can help is by learning about the pervasive health issues among the homeless and understanding what you can do. Common Ailments It is very common for people experiencing homelessness to fall ill as they are exposed to increased stress, have unstable sources for food, and stay in unsanitary living conditions – all with limited access to healthcare. Here are the common ailments for those experiencing homelessness: Wounds and Skin Infections This can happen to people who have no homes because they are often outdoors and exposed to the elements. In turn, this leaves them vulnerable to wounds which can lead to infections if not cleaned and treated properly. Malnutrition When someone is homeless, they might not have a steady source of food. This can lead to them not eating enough or having access to food with enough nutrients to keep them healthy. That is why they are more susceptible to malnutrition. This problem can lead to more (chronic) health issues, such as liver disease, heart disease, and secondary malnutrition in the long run if not addressed. Hepatitis People experiencing homelessness who contract hepatitis tend to struggle to get the right treatment. "Hepatitis C cases occur consistently in our population. Lack of access to testing can often lead to positive cases going untreated. Individuals with hepatitis C can develop cirrhosis or scarring of the liver over time. As a part of our intake, we screen for Hepatitis C and connect anyone with a positive test to Central Outreach for treatment. This partnership also provides us with the testing supplies for HIB testing," Dietrich says. The CDC also recommends greater access to vaccines to control hepatitis from spreading. Mental Health Problems Homelessness can also cause extreme stress, trauma, anxiety, and depression. These are serious mental conditions that, if not tended to, can cause physical manifestations. Another way mental health struggles are apparent in those who experience homelessness is when substance abuse enters the equation. Dietrich explained how addiction can develop in our residents: "Self-medication often occurs unintentionally as substances seem to take pain away or give a leveling-out effect, and then the addiction takes off. Other times, our residents are introduced to medications that become habit-forming after surgery, and then the addiction grows." In many cases, seeking psychiatric care might be difficult due to reasons like cost, stigma, and inaccessibility. How You Can Help Give Donations Community lawyer Diane O'Connell says that donations allow the homeless to maintain their autonomy, and that providing them with living essentials preserves their dignity. Because people experiencing homelessness often lack a steady source of income, they may not be able to acquire essentials like food, clothes, or medicine. Being able to supply these basic needs may be able to tide them through tough times. These donations may seem like a simple act, but they make a huge difference, especially since the transportation to acquire such resources may be difficult to find. Connect them to a Medical Professional Being able to give medical care to the homeless is another way you can assist them. Though healthcare can be expensive, some places and people offer their services pro bono or at discounted rates. There are many resources on the internet to be able to find these services too. Most people who experience homelessness can have access to the internet via community resources such as libraries, shelters, and charities. They can go online and contact these health professionals found by you. Online, they can consult with nurses with doctorate degrees who are specially trained in advanced medical issues. More importantly, these nurses have adequate public health experience, so they not only treat ailments at a surface level but also address the health implications of homelessness. Similarly, they can also consult with a charity physician if their sickness requires more complicated treatments like surgery. In order to help them, you will have to set up the online meeting and guide them through it. But by simply giving them the chance to speak to a medical professional you will be offering a great service. Specifically, people who are homeless can get in touch with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). Dietrich highlights how these centers are "federally funded to allow for an access point for the uninsured and underinsured in the community. They serve as a bridge from homelessness and other underserved individuals to the health care system. Because of the transient nature of the homeless, medical providers can become frustrated with the lack of follow-up from the patient, but FQHCs and their providers are more flexible and understanding. Our relationship with Centerville Clinics has allowed our residents to build their comfort with medical providers and discover and address underlying conditions in a safe environment." Doing Volunteer Work If you are looking for ways to be proactive in helping those who are homeless, volunteering is a great way to do so. You can volunteer for organizations like City Mission whose main goal is to care for homeless people as they aim to make a real difference in their lives. These organizations may do different things like offer shelter, have soup kitchens, and hold fundraisers intended to help those in need. By joining, you can assist them in these charitable efforts and initiatives in your community. Helping out those who are affected by homelessness is extremely important and necessary. These are people whose circumstances may be dire and the little bit of assistance you give can go a long way. Written exclusively for citymission.org Written by Jessie Calix

"A Firm Place to Stand"

City Mission Chief Operating Officer, Brian Johansson
September 15, 2021

On Monday at City Mission’s weekly chapel service, Chief Operating Officer, Brian Johansson, paid tribute to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center first by honoring the veterans in our residential program who have faithfully served to protect our nation and then by telling the story of his own personal encounters in New York City on that day. On September 11, 2001, Johansson was the Director of the Bowery Mission, the third oldest Christian rescue mission in the US, just 10 blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. He was commuting to work that day, but the subways stopped running, all the bridges into the city shut down, and the traffic backed up for miles. Determined to help during the crisis, he found a place to park his car, and he walked over the 59th Street Bridge from Queens into the city while most New Yorkers were scrambling to get out. It took him nearly 4 hours to walk to work through all the chaos in the aftermath of the attack. When he finally made it to the Bowery that day, there were 50 people, covered in dirt, praying and crying inside the Mission’s historic chapel. He and the staff at the Bowery Mission ministered to and prayed with the victims, survivors, and the loved ones of those who were lost. Johansson, a native New Yorker, grew up the son of a pastor in a blue-collar neighborhood, playing stickball in the street with his friends. “We played stickball games where the manhole cover was first base,” he said, recalling those times in his life for the Mission’s residents and staff. “The Twin Towers were part of my childhood,” he added. “I saw them every day.” Many of those friends he played stickball with grew up to be New York City policemen and fire fighters who have their own firsthand accounts of that day. But Johansson’s story is a little different. He dreamed of becoming a New York City police officer, and after college, he even applied for entrance into the academy, but around that same time, he and his wife, Peggy, began to feel a calling to help the homeless. Every Wednesday, they would pack up some food and drive around New York City ministering to the street homeless. “In 1992, I got a letter of acceptance into the police academy – something I had been dreaming about ever since I was a kid,” Johansson remembered. But that very same week, he also received a letter from the Bowery Mission asking him to be the Director of their Transitional Center, which offers transitional housing for men who have graduated the Mission’s residential recovery program. After much prayer and soul-searching, he decided to follow God’s calling to serve the homeless at the Bowery Mission. By September of 2001, he had been promoted to the Director of the Bowery Mission, the position he held at the time of the attacks. In addition to his duties as the Director of the Mission, Johansson also volunteered as a New York state chaplain, a role he performed for 15 years. As a chaplain, he helped at both Ground Zero and the Park Avenue Armory. At the Armory, he prayed with families who desperately waited for news of their missing loved ones as the search for victims continued. Johansson recalled the despair and confusion of those days just after the attack. “Where there once was a straight and square building, there was now nothing but chaos and rubble. When you were standing at Ground Zero, you couldn’t tell east from west or north from south or up from down.” But he also remembered a message of hope from Psalm 40 that helped bring peace to many grieving families in the midst of all that chaos and suffering. “I cried out to the Lord, and He heard my cry. He lifted me out of the miry pit and set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand.” And he encouraged the staff and residents of City Mission with that same passage. “We’ve all had little 9/11’s in our own lives,” he said. “We’ve all had tragedies, challenges, difficulties – whether it’s losing a loved one or struggling with addiction. We’ve all had something. Our response in those situations must be to draw nearer to God. It’s an opportunity for us to come to know Him more deeply. Don’t miss that opportunity.” “You may be in the midst of it right now,” he added. “You can’t tell left from right or up from down. The glass is broken all around. The beams are melting. Your world is turned upside-down. But if you just cry out to God. He will hear your prayer.” There are men, women, children, and veterans at City Mission right now who are hurting. Find out what you can do to help them today at www.citymission.org.