City Mission to Hold Expungement Day
Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services and the Washington County Bar Association will Come Together to Provide Expungement Services
The Legal Clinic at the City Mission in Washington, Pa., as well as Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services and the Washington County Bar Association, are coming together Friday, March 29, to host a free criminal expungement clinic for residents of the City Mission homeless shelter and income-eligible members of the public. The “Expungement Day” program will take place at the City Mission from 9 a.m. to noon. The Mission is located at 84 West Wheeling Street in Washington. City Mission residents will have an opportunity to meet with the volunteering attorneys beginning at 9 a.m., and eligible members of the public will be able to receive expungement assistance beginning at 10 a.m. Pre-registration is requested, but walk-ins will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
An expungement is a legal court order that destroys a criminal record and removes it from public view. The court will also consider requests to shield from public view non-violent misdemeanor convictions and non-convictions, so long as the person making the request has received no additional convictions for the past 10 years. “The opportunity for criminal record expungement is so important for the homeless at the City Mission and for many others,”says attorney Mary Bates, who founded The Legal Clinic at the City Mission more than 10 years ago to help the homeless overcome some of the legal issues that hinder them from achieving productive, independent lives. “Often, even lower-level misdemeanor criminal offenses committed years ago can become a major barrier to getting a job and attaining adequate housing. Our goal is to help them navigate the expungement process and free themselves from these burdens.”
As Brian Gorman, executive director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Aid, explains the dilemma, all criminal and summary cases filed with a court in Pennsylvania, including those cases that do not result in convictions, are posted online, making them accessible to the public. These cases also may be reported publicly by consumer reporting agencies.
“Almost one in three adult Americans has been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in his or her life,” Gorman says. “Not nearly that number of our fellow Americans, however, should be treated as criminals. “Expungement Day is designed to help our families, friends and neighbors get back on their feet, particularly with housing and jobs.”
Bates’ Legal Clinic hosted its first Expungement Day in 2017, attracting more than 300 area residents to the event.All told, nearly everyone in attendance received expungement petition assistance, and the petitions of well over 200 people were granted by the court as a result of this volunteer effort. “Thanks to all of the volunteer attorneys from the three organizations, the first Expungement Day was a great success,” says Bates.
In addition to residents of the City Mission, members of the public also are welcome to attend Expungement Day provided they have a total household income of at or below 187.5 percent of the federal poverty guideline. Still, volunteer attorneys from the Washington County Bar Association will be available at the event to discuss other legal resources and referral options for those who are not income-eligible for assistance.
For information and to pre-register for the March 29 Expungement Day program, contact SW PA Legal Aid at 724-225-6170 or visit 10 West Cherry Avenue, Washington, Pa.,15301. Also, the Washington County Bar Association has made available a brochure, “Understanding Expungement and Limited Access to Criminal Records. Contact the Bar Association at 724-225-6710 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on removing criminal records also is available at www.spla.org or by contacting Southwestern PA Legal Aid by email at email@example.com.
opportunities to serve your community.
Homelessness is a growing problem in Southwestern Pennsylvania, with more and more individuals and families struggling to secure stable housing. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, over 15,000 individuals in the state experience homelessness on any given night, and this number continues to rise. To address this issue, it is essential to implement wraparound programs that provide homeless individuals with the resources and support they need to restore their lives and achieve independent living. Housing First Initiatives to end homelessness have largely proven to be ineffective, because they de-emphasize the need for supportive services to address the root cause of homelessness in the lives of individuals. In his article, “Housing First is a Failure,” Judge Glock, a Senior Fellow at the Cicero Institute explains, “[Housing First] is expensive, ineffective, and, often, counterproductive. While some individuals may benefit from Permanent Support Housing, as a sole strategy for ‘ending homelessness,’ it has and will continue to frustrate the cities that pursue it.” He adds that states and cities that have adopted the Housing First approach have seen the homeless crisis actually rise in their communities. “The state of Arizona has built over 7,000 permanent homes for the homeless since 2010,” he writes, “enough to house every unsheltered person when they began, but the number of Arizonians living on the streets has increased by 50% in recent years.” If we are going to combat the homelessness problem, we must embrace and invest in each individual, helping them find their way and achieve their potential. Wraparound services help people build confidence, construct their identities, and discover ways to be happy and productive members of society. What are Wraparound Programs? Wraparound programs are a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing the complex problems of those in need. These programs provide a wide range of services: case management, mental health services, job training and placement, healthcare, educational opportunities, and much more. The goal of these programs is to provide a holistic, individualized, and coordinated response to homelessness, helping individuals overcome the unique challenges they face in their quest for independence. Housing assistance is just one step in the process, one small part of a larger web of support. “One of the unique aspects of City Mission is the quantity and scope of services we offer,” said City Mission Chief Development Officer, Dr. Sally Mounts. “Homelessness is a very complicated problem. Generally, several factors create a perfect storm that cause someone to be homeless. It’s not a single circumstance. So the more services we offer, the better chance we can eliminate more barriers to homelessness.” “Our goal,” added Director of Programs, Leah Dietrich, “is to create a safety net or supportive network around each resident, so they are receiving services during their stay and as they transition into independent living. These supportive services help them to address mental health, drug and alcohol, medical and other basic needs. We are blessed to have such wonderful partners in the community.” At City Mission, we pour out the love of Christ onto each and every person who comes to us for help. We approach them with love. We guide them with love. We believe in their future. Why are Wraparound Programs Needed? Homeless individuals in Southwestern Pennsylvania face a barrage of challenges, including poverty, domestic violence, lack of affordable housing, and limited access to resources and support. Supportive services managed with a coordinated and individualized approach are essential to overcoming these challenges. Wraparound programs offer the support and resources necessary to overcome these barriers and achieve independent living. “Wraparound services increase an individual’s chances of success by creating touch points and supporting a resident who is facing challenges,” explained Dietrich. “Each service provider is working with the individual to remove barriers. They might help the person to manage their medications, address concerns with a landlord, navigate a custody situation or find a new psychiatrist. Each of these challenges might be overwhelming, but with supports they are manageable.” The Benefits of Wraparound Programs Wraparound services are crucial to combatting homelessness, because they offer each person the support they need to overcome their own unique barriers to independence. “If a resident has a goal of independent living, we provide support as they complete housing applications, develop a budget and save towards that goal,” said Dietrich. “If a resident is facing a barrier in their health, we can help them to schedule appointments and get follow-up care and help them to navigate the healthcare system. Our medical team also provides a supportive service as they can explain health information, review medications, and help get answers from providers when needed. Providing this 1-to-1 care makes a big difference in the success of the residents that we serve.” Homelessness is a growing problem in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and it is essential to address this issue with a comprehensive and integrated approach. By implementing wraparound services, we can make a positive impact in the lives of those in need and help to make a brighter future for us all.
Healthcare Needs for Homeless Men and Women
Helping the homeless can take different forms — food, shelter, and donations in kind, for example. However, another aspect of homeless aid comes from free and accessible healthcare. Homeless people are at risk of physical, mental, and social burdens that impact their morbidity and mortality compared to the rest of the general population. A Nature article on healthcare for the homeless attributes factors such as extreme poverty and harsh living environments as causes of poor health for the homeless, not to mention the prevalence of alcohol and drug dependence within the demographic. In fact, according to the World Bank, the average life expectancy for people experiencing homelessness in the US is 50 — approximately 28 years or less than the overall life expectancy. At our Medical Clinic, some of the most common health issues experienced by our residents range from mental health to diabetes, hypertension, and COPD. In a previous City Mission post about common ailments, we discussed how homeless people who live outdoors are more exposed to elements, making them vulnerable to wounds and skin infections. On top of that, homeless people are prone to malnutrition due to a lack of steady access to food — healthy food in particular — as well as mental health problems due to costly psychiatric help that is often inaccessible to them. Another critical point in the struggle for appropriate healthcare is that most people experiencing homelessness choose to ignore their health issues for a long time. They only seek help once in severe pain or showing symptoms of advanced medical conditions. Our Medical Clinic Manager, Rich Moore, observes that many of the homeless "have a fear of getting a diagnosis because it would be just one more problem" for them, from how to afford medicine to how to store them. Today, we want to highlight some of the ways we are making healthcare more accessible to the homeless: Ways to support them At City Mission, our Medical Care services include new medical facilities that offer free preventive, primary, and urgent healthcare to those who may need it. This includes drug-free pain management as well as chiropractic services. When residents first arrive at City Mission, our first order of business is helping them get Medical Insurance before setting them up with a Primary Care Physician through our partners at Centerville Clinics. Residents also receive free cell phones through Lifeline to communicate with medical providers and referrals to providers and services. On top of healthcare necessities, we also provide them with the tools to help themselves, such as access to nutritious meals, hygiene items, and clean, comfortable beds. However, we can still do a lot to make necessary healthcare accessible to those who need it. Here are a few: Connect them with telehealth professionals While on-site healthcare and free clinics contribute significantly to providing medical care for the homeless, an alternative that can widen the program's reach and impact is helping them connect remotely to healthcare professionals. During the pandemic, remote nurse practitioners here in Pennsylvania and across the US were well-equipped to prescribe primary care services like erectile dysfunction, birth control, UTI, and similar treatment areas – which are essential for the quality of life among homeless patients. Today, telehealth services remain effective for mental health services, connecting patients in need to qualified and trained professionals who are available on more flexible schedules than their in-person counterparts. Services from telehealth nurse practitioners are accessible and essential, given the rapidly aging population in PA. In some cases, telehealth services can be helpful in place of physical hospitals and clinics as the homeless may need immediate care or advice. As they are more vulnerable to certain diseases, having remote, 24/7 access to qualified healthcare providers can help them get medical advice and care when needed. Provide access to self-care interventions Aside from telehealth access, providing accessible healthcare to the homeless can include self-care interventions. Research from the World Health Organization defines self-care as the ability to maintain health with or without a health worker. This ranges from eating a healthier diet to varying ways of managing stress. Self-care interventions include evidence-based devices, diagnostics, and digital technologies provided outside formal health services and used with or without a health worker. For example, self-administered injectable contraception or self-tests for HIV and pregnancy can address common medical concerns for homeless people. As you can see, there are many ways to help make appropriate and free medical care accessible to the homeless. These are made possible thanks to advancements in digital technologies. With the collective effort of volunteers and communities, we can continue to find new ways to bring quality healthcare closer to homeless men and women.
Samaritan Care Offers Resources for Residents and Community
Dress for Success On the first Tuesday of every month from 11am-3pm, Dress Success Pittsburgh comes to City Mission to help “empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” If the weather is nice, they setup outside of our Porter Pillow and Peggy Beaver-Pillow Chapel. Any woman can select one full outfit (including 3 accessories and a pair of shoes) each month. They have outfits for church, work, job interviews, or hanging out around the house. “We love coming to City Mission,” said Heather Howe, the Mobile Services Coordinator (South) for Dress for Success Pittsburgh. “It’s a good spot. On average, we help about 20 women each time we come.” And the residents of City Mission look forward to Heather’s visit every month. “We love Dress for Success Day,” explained Sheila Namy, City Mission’s Manager of Women & Children Services. “The ladies get excited. Getting new clothes that are of very high quality makes them feel good about themselves. They’ll run into my office and show me their new outfits – they’re so excited.” “It makes the women feel special,” added City Mission Manager of Samaritan Care Services, Anne Wightman, “that we think enough of them to help supply them with clothes, shoes, and accessories. The clothes are being brought to them, and they can pick the items that best suit their personality.” Dress for Success operates exclusively through donations. You can schedule an appointment to donate clothing items. You can also help by attending one of their clothing sale fundraiser, which they host three times per year to raise funds to purchase specialty items like scrubs and steel-toed boots. Check out their website for details HERE. Free Cell Phones from Lifeline Brian Fuller from Lifeline comes to the Mission about once per week to provide qualifying City Mission residents and community members with free cell phones. Lifeline is a federal program that offers free phones with free service to qualifying individuals. “I love being able to help people that really need a way to communicate with their employer, their doctor, or the family,” Fuller said. “A lot of the people we work with either don’t have a phone at all or have service plans that they can’t really afford.” When new residents come to the Mission who don’t have cell phones, Anne Wightman, our Manager of Samaritan Care Services, calls Fuller and schedules a time for him to come for a visit. “We’ve been doing it for at least 6 months now,” Fuller added. “I’ve probably given out over 100 cell phones to City Mission residents and people in the community.” Our residents are very grateful for the opportunity to get free phones with free service plans. “It’s huge for them,” Wightman explained. “When they first come to us, many of them don’t have a phone at all. The Lifeline program helps them contact their family or call about employment.” Click HERE to learn more about the Lifeline Program.
Meet Our New Volunteer Manager
City Mission has a new Volunteer Manager! Jason Johnson has been employed at the Mission for almost 9 years and has worked in nearly every department on campus. “I just want to help people, and I want God to continue to grow my heart,” he said, explaining his willingness to go wherever he is needed at the Mission. “In whatever role I’m in, I just want to serve and honor God. Everything happens through God’s hands, and I just feel blessed to be a part of it.” Jason grew up in South Franklin and went to McGuffey High School. After graduation, he attended West Virginia University and Waynesburg College, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. Jason began his career at the Mission nine years ago as a Case Manager, working directly with residents. “I love working one-on-one with the residents and helping them walk through the barriers that are keeping them from living an independent life,” Jason said. “I wouldn’t be here if wasn’t for the residents. Everything I do, it’s always been about helping people.” After nearly a year as a case manager, Jason became the supervisor for the counselors on staff before being promoted to the Manager of Men’s and Women’s Services. From there, he moved into a position as the Director of Operations, where he oversaw our Samaritan Care Outreach Center, kitchen, maintenance, janitorial, vehicles, security, and pretty much anything involving the City Mission facilities. For a while, he was even the Director of our Vocational Training Center. The fact that Jason has worked in every aspect of the Mission is certainly an advantage for him in his role as our Manager of Volunteers. “Because I’ve worked in every department,” he explained, “I know the intricacies of what makes the Mission run, and I know what the residents need. And it helps me to know what people in different positions do and what help they need with.” What Jason likes most about working at City Mission is being able to help people. “I just love watching our residents find Christ and succeed. I love watching lives change and families change. I’m blessed even being just a small part of that story no matter what role I’m in,” he said. “And when you serve others, you always get blessed in return. You always get more back from the residents than you give to them.” And he is excited to jump headlong into his new position managing our volunteers. “My goal is for this department to become a ministry,” he explained. “I want to expand the volunteer base and create new opportunities for volunteers to partner with the Mission. I hope to have some upcoming outreach projects with volunteers helping us to do things out in the community.” Currently, our most urgent volunteer needs are help in our Thrift Stores, at our warehouse, and in the childcare center at our Women with Children Shelter. If you are interested in volunteering at the Mission, visit our website https://www.citymission.org/ways-to-help/volunteer. You can complete the volunteer application online and Jason will get back to you. “When a volunteer comes to the Mission,” Jason said, “I want them to feel loved and cared about and like they are part of the family at the Mission. And I want them to know who important they are to the work of the Mission.”
A Network of Support
City Mission’s Samaritan Care Center provides supportive services to low-income individuals and families in our community. Their food pantry is open to the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-3pm. Additionally, on the first Tuesday of every month, representatives from Dress for Success Pittsburgh and Blueprints will be available at that time to provide support and make referrals for those in need. Heather Howe is the Mobile Services Coordinator South for Dress for Success Pittsburgh. She is always looking for ways to help more women in Washington, Greene, and Fayette Counties. The mission of Dress of Success Pittsburgh is to empower women who are entering or returning to the workforce in Southwestern Pennsylvania. “It’s about helping women feel more confident,” Howe said at the City Mission Chapel this past Tuesday. “We help them find something good to wear that they feel good in whether they’re going to job interviews, starting a new job, or going to church. We want people to be happy.” Howe drives the Dress for Success van up to the City Mission campus. When the weather is nice, she sets up the clothes outside, and any woman can walk up, complete some paperwork, and pick out some clothes. Each woman also gets a voucher for a haircut. When the weather is iffy, she sets up inside the City Mission Chapel. Lexi Eloshway is a Head Start Home-based Educator for Blueprints. She can help you enroll your family in the Head Start program, which helps kids, ages 3-5, prepare for school. The program also works to build strong parent-child relationships. “The parent is the child’s first and most important teacher,” Eloshway explained. The program uses a “Parents as Teachers” curriculum to help build strong family relationships and create a strong foundation for a child’s education. Eloshway can also make referrals for Blueprints’ other supportive services like rental assistance and WIC. City Mission would like to thank Dress for Success Pittsburgh and Blueprints for helping to create a web of support for our residents and those in need in the community. You can also become a part of that network of support by giving of you time, talents, and treasure. Visit www.citymission.org to discover the ways that you can help.
Finding Ways to Help
Finding Ways to Help Although rising Covid numbers in our area along with some positive cases among our staff and resident population have caused us to temporarily close our Warming Center and Cold Weather Shelter, we are still finding ways to help those in need during these, cold, winter months. "No one is going to get turned away," said City Mission President/CEO, Dean Gartland. “We’re working diligently to keep people safe and warm.” For those in need of emergency shelter in the cold weather, we work to find alternative solutions. We refer them to county agencies and other shelters, make phone calls on their behalf, purchase bus tickets, and offer transportation for those we cannot keep in our shelters overnight. We also contact other local agencies who may be able to help, and when necessary, we secure hotel rooms for those in need until a long-term solution can be found. “But if it’s the end of the day, or the weekend, and they can’t connect with the county resources, we are the people who bridge that gap,” said Gartland. In addition to these resources, we also offer hot meals, warm clothes, blankets, toiletries, canned food, and possibly even medical care to those who come to us for help. The safety of everyone in the community is our top priority, and we are working hard to help those in need while also doing our very best to keep staff, residents, volunteers, and the community healthy and safe. “Unfortunately, the cold weather came at the same time Covid is spiking,” said Gartland. “But we’re still going to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.” If you or anyone you know need help to stay out of the cold this winter, please continue to reach out to us at 724-222-8530. We are here to help during this difficult time.
Common Ailments Among the Homeless
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"
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.
Legal Systems Support Services - Learn more
Learn more about getting legal help from Southwestern PA Legal Aid:
PTSD Awareness Story
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.
“Keep Looking Forward”
“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?”
City Mission Launches New Website
We have completely redesigned our website with you in mind - streamlining menus, simplifying navigation, and building a responsive layout across all platforms and browsers. We have also improved the structure and are increasing the volume of City Mission’s content.
City Mission Thrift Stores Reopen
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.
We’re All In This Together
These are fearful times, and a homeless shelter is probably the last place you’d choose to hunker down at a time like this. But the residents at City Mission are responding to this crisis with remarkable patience, compassion, and togetherness.“They are adapting to this challenging situation and doing so with a smile,” explained Leah Dietrich, City Mission’s Director of Residential Programs. “That is such a blessing. I’m proud of them for their response and impressed with all that they are acc
Happy Earth Day, Everyday at City Mission
When you donate to our City Mission Thrift Stores, your donation makes a far bigger impact than you might think. Whether you are looking to be kind to the planet this Earth Day or to help those in need in our community, donating your unwanted items to City Mission helps to make the world a better place, one small act at a time.
Stay at Home-School at City Mission is Working!
Just like you, our Women with Children Shelter families are staying home to learn. Our staff have created a structured, quiet, school room environment using our CTEC classrooms for our school age kids who study with their moms by their side. Our childcare center has been rearranged into a Head Start classroom where pre-school age children can learn together.
Operation Face Mask Protects City Mission Residents
When City Mission staffer Sue Gartland called professional quilter Melanie Scott to ask if the Martha Washington Quilter’s Guild could make masks for City Mission residents, she answered yes without hesitation. “I was just sitting around home like everyone else, watching the news and feeling depressed,” she reported. “But I kept thinking about our healthcare
City Mission and Citizens Library Partner to Build a Better Community
City Mission is working with the Citizens Library to expand the resources available to help restore its 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
City Mission Still Open and Helping Homeless and Community
Dear Friends,Thank you for your continued support of City Mission. With all that is going on today, we need you now more than ever. As a valued partner providing to those in need, we want to make sure we share the latest of what is being done, especially regarding the Coronavirus. You may have seen in our recent communications, City Mission is taking precautions to protect our vulnerable population of residents and to help mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.
Tips for De-Cluttering
Spring is only a week away, and as the temperature warms, many people are motivated to embark on annual spring-cleaning rituals. After several months of living with doors and windows closed, both dust and possessions have accumulated in our homes, and now is the perfect time to try to reduce both. Along with the typical spring-cleaning tasks, such as having rugs and draperies cleaned, laundering mattress covers and pillows, and clearing out unwanted items from closets, you might also consider the following clutter culprits as prime targets for removal during your cleanup.
Tax Strategies to Benefit both Donor and City Mission
If you are a high-income senior citizen who donates to City Mission, are you taking advantage of a great tax loophole to maximize your gift? Clients across the country are using this strategy to enhance their charitable giving, especially since the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act practically eliminated the need to itemize.As you know, once you have hit the "magic age" of 70 and 1/2, the IRS requires that you take a required minimum distribution on your IRA annually.
It's Time to de-Clutter and Donate!
Are you looking for a place to donate clothing to? Look no further! City Mission Thrift Store will take your clothing donations! You can drop your items off at any one of our seven Store Locations or in one of our City Mission Donation Bins in an area near you. Your Donations Help Change Lives!
“Such a Blessing”
“Our goal is to help people manage their pain,” said Cyndi Urbanowicz, a retired flight nurse and one of the medical volunteers at the clinic. “Unfortunately, most of the residents we see have chronic pain. We’re helping to decrease their pain and other symptoms.” Sadly, the need for a drug-free pain management clinic like the one at City Mission is overwhelming. More than 30% of all Americans have some form of acute or chronic pain, and pain-relieving opioids are now the most commonly-prescribed class of medications in the United States.
City Mission Lends A Hand to Government Employees
Over 800,000 workers and their families across the US are currently being affected by the Federal Government shutdown. No paycheck means no money for mortgage payments, groceries, or household items. City Mission has recently introduced a 'Show Your Government ID Program' for furloughed or out-of-work federal government employees in Southwestern PA. This program will continue for the duration of the shutdown. Just show your government ID at City Mission, 84 West Wheeling Street, Washington PA , for you and your family to receive:
City Mission Celebrates Grand Opening of Women with Children Shelter
Families with children are the fastest-growing homeless population in the US. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 41% of the homeless population is comprised of families, and 84% of these families are headed by single women. That is why City Mission has expanded their Women with Children Shelter, doubling their capacity to house women and children in need.
Twelve Steps & Biblical Comparisons
Did you know that each day, more than 700,000 people seek treatment for addiction? During the month of September, we celebrate with our program residents and the 23 million people in recovery who have made the brave decision to start their journey toward healing and renewal.At City Mission we offer Biblically-Based-counseling to the men and women participating in our Life Recovery Programs.
How Can I Help the Homeless?
Excerpt from Union Gospel Mission webpage - "How to Help People who are Experiencing Homelessness" 1. Give them food, coupons, or gift certificates, or refer them to a local social service agency. If a person is hungry, offer him/her food, coupons, or gift certificates to nearby restaurants or grocery stores. Or refer him/her to an agency that can provide food and shelter such as a local soup kitchen. Never give out cash. The money you give to “help” that person could be used to buy drugs or alcohol instead.
Recently a resident of City Mission's Life Recovery Program faced the reality of addiction in a letter: To my addiction: Today I realize for the first time with total clarity the damage you’ve done and the intention you have for me. You plan to keep me in bondage to failure, loss, hopelessness and misery, to finish me off in the ultimate bondage of death. For so long you have managed to convince me not to fight for more than anything you allow.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day
Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Our nation stops to remember our servicemen and women who served in the Vietnam War. As a nation, we didn’t do our part in welcoming home these war veterans from a conflict that continues to haunt so many of them.