Lesa: On Being Female and Homeless

A speech from the Transitional Housing Program’s 2017 Women’s Equality Day Celebration.

Imagine ghosts in the darkness, darting into the shadows to avoid being spotted by police driving by.

Imagine when night falls, the daunting realization that you have nowhere to go. There is no place you call home.

Imagine the overwhelming feeling that you belong nowhere.

This is what it feels like to be homeless. In my mind, belonging nowhere meant I was nothing, I was nobody. Insignificant, less than zero.

What would Cedar Rapids be like with no homeless women and children? Imagine a city where domestic violence is an isolated incident, not the norm. Imagine if enough support existed for women to break free of the violence and oppression; break free of the prison that domestic violence is.

Poverty, despair, hopelessness, learned helplessness. These are just a few of the characteristics women experience as they live with an abuse- and leaving frequently means homelessness.

We celebrate women’s equality. The right to walk down the street without being assaulted or threatened. The right to vote. The right to be a homeowner. The right to be your own person. The right to NOT be punched, kicked, slapped, pushed, sexually assaulted or any of the abusive behaviors that take place every day to women among you. Where are they to go?

Women need safe housing, equal pay, medical services, and transportation. Survivors of domestic violence turn to homeless service programs because they lack the economic resources to obtain housing after leaving an abusive relationship. These women need supportive services that can help them heal from the trauma of abuse and improve their financial security and well-being.

Living in darkness and fear causes brokenness and low self-worth to the women who face domestic violence and homelessness. It is baffling and terrifying to escape the clutches of the one who hurts you, yet claims to love you. These toxic relationships damage the victims, heart, soul, mind, and psyche.

We must celebrate women. Embrace their challenges, get involved, reach out. Invest in women. Yes, we have achieved equality in many areas. But there is still lack of shelter, services, and funding in comparison to the need.

Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfill their potential, society as a whole benefits.

Celebrate women, those who are successful, as well as those who are struggling.

Women’s equality means NO MORE FEAR!

Find additional Women’s Equality Day speeches from Ann and Carly on our blog. 

20 Instances of Community: A Reflection

The Catherine McAuley Center celebrated communi-TEA at the 20th Annual Catherine’s Tea on Sunday, October 2, 2016. In honor of this 20th anniversary, Laurie, a resident peer leader at CMC, shared 20 ways that she and other residents see their community actively working in their lives. Find the full transcript below!

Laurie shared 20 ways that the residents in the Transitional Housing Program see their CMC community at work in their lives.

Laurie shared 20 ways that the residents in the Transitional Housing Program see their CMC community at work in their lives.

Good afternoon, my name is Laurie Cramberg and I am the senior peer in the Catherine McAuley Transitional Housing Program.

I’ve been at CMC since February 2015. I came to CMC after substance abuse treatment. I was homeless afterwards and needed guidance on how to live my life as a productive, healthy, responsible adult. My needs were not only housing, but also a safe place to live and grow in my sobriety and mental well-being.

I am now sober over 2 years with the help and grace of God, lots of prayers, and of course the community and help of the Transitional Housing Program.

About 6 months ago the housing program manager Jennifer came to me with the proposition of becoming the senior peer at CMC. I accepted and now I help the other women in the program build a strong community.

As a senior peer I’ve been given the opportunity and challenge to lead a group in our program. This is a group we have named “Community.” In our group we plan times to spend together as a community as well as time to give back to CMC and Cedar Rapids.

In honor of this being the 20th anniversary of the Catherine’s Tea, the ladies in the housing program, staff, and I would like to share with you 20 ways we see our CMC community in action in our lives:

As you all know, last week Cedar Rapids prepared for the flood. In this sad and frightening time, we saw how our CMC community comes together.

  1. Last weekend, one woman at CMC organized a group of women to help at the sandbagging stations.
  2. We welcomed five women who needed to be evacuated into the program. One of the current residents has been a gracious host for the evacuated women—sharing her living space and has helped show them where things are at in the house and helped them get settled in.
  3. One the first night of evacuation, one CMC resident prepared quite the feast for the evacuees with us. She made homemade spaghetti, garlic bread, and a salad with items from the garden. We had great conversation and full bellies that night!
  4. One resident led a group meditation on Saturday night. The response from the women was so appreciative, and it really seemed to help make everyone feel more safe and calm.
  5. And on Sunday, the women who moved into CMC after evacuating made dinner for all of us. It was so awesome seeing everyone work together and being so giving.
  6. Many of us have worked hard in our community garden all summer. We have had an abundance of produce to share. During the flood, we used some of the produce from our garden to make meals together with those who were evacuated from their homes.

The flood is a strong example of our CMC community, but I’d like to share with you some other ways we can see our CMC community in action in our lives throughout the year

7. This past spring we invited our neighbors, students, tutors, and family to a Garden Party in our community garden to celebrate our pollinator garden where we share not only in the beauty of the flowers we’ve planted but the hope for an increase in the population of the Monarch butterfly.

8. Which reminds me of the CMC picnic where we share in fellowship with the students, teachers, staff and family members.

9. During cooking groups at the Center, we share recipes, mistakes, and successes that’s the food, of course—and laughter and fun.

10. We share in fellowship cooking out in our back yard. It’s not always just a cook out. On National Night Out in August, we stayed out to play games as part of a national protest against violence in our community and to encourage our neighbors to help us create a safe neighborhood.

11. On Women’s Equality Day, we take time to remember the women who won our right to vote and honor three women in our community who we feel are an example of courage, commitment, and service.

12. Being engaged in activism and social issues is an important part of our community. We invited a representative from both the Democratic and Republican party to teach us how to caucus and other ways to use our voices to make a difference.

13. We like to find ways to build community in greater Cedar Rapids too, like taking opportunities to volunteer at our local food banks.

14. During our weekly Community Groups where we not only share a reading to help us reflect on our lives. We share our successes and challenges with each other. And we brainstorm for upcoming events.

15. In the future we plan to have a baby shower for one of our alumnae, and who doesn’t love babies or a reason for cake?

16. This upcoming Tuesday night we are planning a board game night with a dose of homemade nachos on the side.

17. We each have an opportunity to share and maintain our communal living areas. Different residents add decorations or do projects to improve the spaces and help create a comfortable home.

18. We listen to each other and help each other whenever we can. We help carry groceries in for each other and help people move in and out of the houses. I am grateful for one woman in particular for helping me when I am in need—cat sitting.

19. Our support for each other is especially important around the holidays. We have dinners together on Thanksgiving and Christmas and celebrate together.

20. Our fall retreat—where we are offered the opportunity to explore who we are, our needs, or just plain regroup—is one of my favorite times we have been blessed to share.

So what is community? The dictionary says that community is “bonds of harmony and brotherly love.” And that’s the kind of community we strive to be at CMC.

Thank you.

Community: José’s Story

In celebration of communi-TEA, José shared stories of how he first relied on others when he came to the United States and how he now helps his friends and community thanks to skills he learned at the Center.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is José Hermosillo, I’m originally from a small town in Jalisco, near of Guadalajara, Mexico. In Mexico, I studied animal science, and my family and I ran a farm there. Many of my ancestors were farmers.

I would like to introduce my family: my wife, Margarita, my daughter, Fernanda, and my son, Christopher. Right now, Fernanda is a sophomore at Xavier High School, and Christopher is attending 5th grade at St. Joe’s in Marion.

I first came to the US because I needed to work back in 2003. When I first came everything was difficult. For example, at that time I had a car. I knew how to do maintenance and some repairs, but I don’t have the knowledge to order brake pads. To get the pads I need to have a friend to go with me to the auto parts store. He ordered the parts for me. I was always asking for his help when I needed something.

Later another friend of mine recommended to come to the CMC to enroll in the English classes. I decided to come to CMC because I needed to learn English and be more independent and self-sufficient.

When you first start learning a different language you are afraid to do some things. People might start laughing on you, and you are afraid to ask some things. The community at CMC is very helpful and friendly. My teacher Linda back in 2003 invited me to dinner at her house. She is from Wisconsin and her husband is from Brazil. We had a good dinner. We started a friendship. CMC also helps me with other issues like immigration, health insurance questions, and other concerns.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

I started work at a dairy farm in Marion in 2003. When you work on a farm you don’t need high level English. But back then if I don’t know some word, I asked my boss with a translator or a white board to write the word and tell me how it sounds. That way I learned a lot too.

Now things are more easy than back in the past.

I have met different people from other countries at the CMC, and now they are my friends. They are from Brazil, Congo, Vietnam, Syria, and my actual tutor is from the UK. Over the years, I’ve also worked with different tutors and several staff members. I have nearly completed 4 books. Learning English at CMC has given me much more confidence in my daily living in this country.

Now I’m helping other immigrants to find a job, taking them to apply or to interviews, look for a car or apartment. I help them with the same problems I had in the beginning. And all these things thanks to the English I learned here at CMC.

I want to say thank you to all the community at the CMC for the great job they’re doing transforming lives one at a time.

National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

Homeless Persons' Memorial Day

Last night, Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) staff, residents, supporters, and other community members gathered in remembrance of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day at the sites of the murders of Raymond Ursino and Sharon Mead, who were both homeless at the time of their deaths in Cedar Rapids in September.

National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, promoted at the national level by the National Coalition for the Homeless, has been hosted on December 21, the longest night of the year, since 1990. The day serves as a time to “bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember those who have died while living without a permanent home” (NCH Organizing Manual). The Cedar Rapids memorial was hosted by the CMC Transitional Housing Program, which provides housing and individualized, gender-responsive case management services to women who have experienced homelessness.

Raymond Ursino memorialAt the memorial sites, friends of Raymond and Sharon spoke of the qualities they most admired in the victims, “They always put a smile on your face.” Many CMC residents, not far removed from homelessness themselves, explained to the group, “It could have been me.”

The Catherine McAuley Center thanks everyone who attended the memorial for demonstrating the spirit of our foundresses, the Sisters of Mercy, by recognizing the dignity of each individual in the Cedar Rapids homeless community.

To see more highlights, please see the broadcast from KGAN. Please note a correction to the broadcast: the overflow shelter system that is noted is a coordinated effort of agencies and shelters across Linn County, including but not limited to the Catherine McAuley Center. If you or someone you know is in need of immediate housing assistance, please call 319-366-7999.

No one at CMC stands alone

As Transitional Housing Program manager, Jennifer Tibbetts, shared at the 19th Annual Catherine’s Tea:

“The women of Catherine McAuley Center’s Transitional Housing Program come from all walks of life, yet there are many common threads of experience among those entering the program. One of the most common is that of being a survivor of trauma. Trauma can take many forms including abuse, neglect, and instability. The experience of trauma has been shown to effect mental health, physical health, and emotional well-being. Here at CMC we seek to provide a safe and nurturing place to heal and grow. One of the first steps in this process is to learn that no one is alone.”

Each woman entering the program completes the Adverse Childhood Experience survey, which measures traumatic experiences and identifies the risk for barriers later in life, including an increase for substance abuse, chronic mental health issues, suicide, and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. In the following video taken during the Transitional Housing Program group testimony at Catherine’s Tea, women step forward and backward to demonstrate the percentage of CMC residents who have experienced traumatic situations that are included on the survey.

The Catherine McAuley Center exists to offer hope and opportunity to women who have experienced this kind of trauma, and provides tools for them to build a better future for themselves. To learn more about the Transitional Housing Program, click here. Many thanks to our volunteers who took the stage at Catherine’s Tea to present this group testimony!

Dine Out for the Sleep Out

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The CMC team constructing their shelter at the 2013 Sleep Out for the Homeless event

Tomorrow, October 8, 2015, Granite City Food & Brewery will be donating 10% of your bill to the Sleep Out for the Homeless, an annual event that benefits CMC’s Transitional Housing Program, as well as programs across the Cedar Rapids community that work to prevent homelessness and alleviate the needs of those experiencing it.

At the Sleep Out, participants experience homelessness for a night as they construct temporary shelters out of cardboard and spend the night outdoors. The event is a chance to raise awareness and learn about homelessness across the nation and in our own community.

Stay tuned for more info about joining the Catherine McAuley Center team for this year’s Sleep Out! In the meantime, we hope you’ll dine out to support the Sleep Out tomorrow! Simply present this coupon to your server. We thank you for your support!

Movin’ for McAuley 5K Walk/Run 2014!

11th Annual Movin' for McAuley 5K Walk/RunGet ready to get movin’ at the Movin’ for McAuley 5K walk/run! The 11th annual Movin’ for McAuley is scheduled for Saturday, May 3rd from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Lowe Park in Marion. Put on your walking shoes and get ready for a morning full of fun!

A NEW LOCATION, A NEW DATE:lowe park Movin' for McAuley 5K Walk/Run

This year our 5K walk/run will be held at the beautiful Lowe Park in Marion. This new facility boasts a beautiful trail through the surrounding countryside. Because our event will be outside, it will be in May instead of March.

A NEW 5K WALK/RUN:

Movin’ for McAuley is now a 5K Run as well as walk. Runners will follow a certified 5K race path. Awards will go to the top runners in each age/gender category and the top male/female runners overall.

SAME GREAT FAMILY FUN!

Movin’ for McAuley continues to be a great event for the whole family. A kids’ fun run and a variety of games, activities, and inflatable playhouses will be available for children. All participants can enjoy breakfast and coffee. After the 5k walk/run, prizes will be awarded to runners as well as to the largest teams and highest fundraisers.

Help Raise Money for CMC Programs

Movin’ for McAuley is one of our largest fundraising activities at the Center, and its success is critical to our ability to continue our services. Last year, more than 350 people attended the event, and we raised more than $30,000! This time, we have a goal of 450 walkers and 100 runners. We need your help to make this year even more successful!

Join us for the 2013 CMC Picnic!

August 14, 2013 at Bever Park

After a year off due to 10th Avenue construction, CMC is bringing back our picnic tradition. We hope you will join us on August 14th at Bever Park for our annual celebratory potluck picnic. picnic page 4

CMC will be grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. Bring a dish to share! RSVP to Amelia Waddle by emailing amelia@cmc-cr.org or calling 363-4993, and let her know what dish you plan to bring. We hope to see you at the end of the summer!

picnic 5

Be Part of the Conversation!

Welcoming the Marginalized

Catherine McAuley Center is excited to invite you to be a part of a “Community Conversation” on Wednesday, May 22 at 3pm. Community Conversations WordleAt that time, we will be participating in a conference call with Peter Block. CMC is one of several area partners that are hosting conversations around “Welcoming the Marginalized.”  We are inviting you because, as a supporter of the Catherine McAuley Center, you have demonstrated caring for those who are marginalized in our community. And we know that your participation will enrich the conversation!

Welcoming the Marginalized: When we befriend those on the margins of society by practicing hospitality and welcome, we create communities where justice can be lived out. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

Beyond this Invitation Conversation, you may decide to participate in continuing conversations. If you would like to review the Six Conversations that will be held in the next six months, please review the Community Conversations Partnership Flyer for more information or contact Greg White greg@cmc-cr.org or Paula Land paula@cmc-cr.org. Please let us know if you plan to participate on May 22 so we can allow enough space to accommodate the group! Call 319-731-0442 and ask for Greg, or email him at the above address.

Background: On April 4 and 5, Prariewoods hosted a conference called,  Engaging Community, Narrating Change led by three nationally renowned speakers/authors. 500 community members participated and got a great introduction to the powerful tools and strategies to engage our community in narrating change.

Prairiewoods is committed to the creation of restorative, sustainable, abundant community.  The mission of Engaging Community, Narrating Change Phase 2 is to bring into conversation the collective wisdom present within each and every individual within the community.  This circle conversation process will facilitate collaboration among residents, churches, local civic organizations and institutions to lead to a greater sense of belonging and comprehensive, asset-based community development.

Movin’ for McAuley 2011 is a Great Success!

From The Mustard Seed, Summer 2011

The 8th annual Movin’ for McAuley Mall Walk held on Saturday, March 12, was another wonderful success for the Catherine McAuley Center! We had 364 walkers who, along with our wonderful sponsors and generous donors, raised a total of $17,500 for the Center’s basic education and transitional housing programs.

At the Walk, sponsored by Panera Bread, participants were able to engage in a variety of different activities for the whole family. In the family expo area, fifteen local non-profits and businesses gathered to share opportunities with participants for future community involvement. We also had inflatable bounce houses and exciting art activities for children and the young at heart!

With bubbling excitement from this year’s success, we at CMC are already excited about planning next year’s event and are looking forward to seeing returning participants as well as