Dianna is now part of transforming lives at La Posada. In 2011, Dianna, a wife and mother of three, became homeless after she was laid off from her job. Today, she is an employee of the same shelter that helped her and her family find stability.
“Being unemployed for a year was the longest time I ever went without a job,” Dianna said. She had always worked to provide for her family, but like many people during the economic recession, Dianna and her husband lost their jobs.
“I looked every day for a job, but back then, nothing would happen for me,” Dianna said. “People tend to characterize others who are homeless as drug addicts or lazy, but the job force in Toledo is hard and things happen,” she added.
Dianna and her husband maintained their housing for few months with money from their income tax return. Dianna thought the money would be enough to get her family through until she found employment – it wasn’t. The family lost their home. They lived in separate houses with friends and family.
“The thing that bothered me the most was that we were all separated. I had no other choice but to come to Catholic Charities La Posada Family Emergency Shelter. Finding a place to stay was too much, so I came here.”
Strange Place. Strange People.
Moving into the shelter was not easy for Dianna. “I was uncomfortable. Strange place and strange people,” she remembered. “The only thing I felt was determination to do what I needed to do to find a home for my family.”
Dianna stayed busy while she lived at La Posada. She spent most of her time searching for jobs, being active in her two sons’ sporting activities and taking counsel from La Posada Program Coordinator Jeanelle Addie.
“Jeanelle helped me a lot. She gave me the foundation I needed to find housing. Any advice she gave me, I listened.”
After living in La Posada for four months, Dianna and her family were able to move out and into their own home once again.
“My transition out of the shelter went smooth. I’ve learned that if you do what you need to do while you are here, the days will go quick. You just can’t wait for somebody to hand you something.”
Dianna and her husband are working again. Dianna still stays busy and works three jobs, including her part-time position as a Residential Specialist at La Posada.
“I wanted to work here because they helped me so much,” Dianna said. “I just wanted to give back. I thought, maybe I could help someone if I told them my story and told them, ‘You can do it.’”
“My advice to the current residents at La Posada is to stay prayed up. Prayer does work because there is only one person who can fix things.”
The Knights of Columbus Council 386 recently presented a check to La Posada for $250. The check was donated by the Knights of Columbus Ohio State Council.
“One of the four tenants of the Knights of Columbus is charity,” says Jonathan Boyle, Knights of Columbus member. “Catholic Charities reflects a lot of what we stand for. We are happy to serve and be a partner that helps make a difference for people in our community.”
La Posada Family Emergency Shelter provides temporary housing and supportive services for up to 10 homeless families a night in Toledo. While there, families work with staff members to achieve self-sufficiency through programs that help them identify goals and build on their strengths to attain them.
La Posada Housing Program Coordinator Jeanelle Addie said the money will assist with the renovation of guest bedrooms and other housing needs.
“We are very appreciative of the opportunity and of the Knights’ assistance to help us continue the work that we do,” said Addie.
“Knights of Columbus is about helping our community,” said Micheal Lambert, Knights of Columbus member. “We are called to serve, especially through the Church and our faith.”
It was right in the middle of the holiday season when Celeste arrived at work and found the doors of the salsa plant were locked.
“I got there and the plant was closed,” Celeste recalls. “There was no notice, no sign … nothing.”
For Celeste, that meant she was out of a job. As she left the plant, she began thinking about the uncertainty she faced. Celeste had four children waiting at home who were counting on the money she would have made that day. She attempted to pull together all of her resources, hoping to find some financial relief.
“I tried to get assistance from other agencies, but since it was during the holidays, their funding was low and demand was high. They were unable to help me,” she says.
“I was hurt. Christmas that year was terrible because I couldn’t give the kids anything. We lived off of noodles and hot dogs for weeks,” Celeste said almost in tears.
By the start of the New Year, Celeste and her children were completely out of food with no money to buy more.
“I was at the point where I had very little faith and nothing else to look forward to. I didn’t have anything, and I felt like I was drowning,” Celeste says.
With little hope left, she called United Way’s 211 and asked for help.
“They referred me to La Posada,” she says. “I was scared and really did not know what to expect.”
Celeste and her family moved into La Posada three weeks after Christmas. “I told the kids, ‘this is where we’re going to stay until Jesus finds us a new home.’ ”
Life at La Posada
With the help from La Posada staff and other residents, things began to look up for Celeste and her children.
“We were like a big family,” she says. “It was safe, clean and the kids were able to make new friends.”
While there, Catholic Charities connected Celeste with resources and programs that would help her get back on her feet.
“I started to receive financial assistance, found a job, received counseling for depression and parenting, and started taking classes at a local college.”
Celeste even attended her home church regularly.
“The staff was very supportive of me through everything. They made sure I was still in school and going to counseling.”
Celeste made such great progress that case workers Jeanelle and Vickie thought Catholic Charities’ Permanent Supportive Housing would be a good fit for her.
The program helps clients who are homeless by providing tools to become self-sufficient through government subsidies for housing and support services such as job referrals, financial education and case management.
“I guess they saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time. It was motivating, and it made me want to do more,” Celeste says.
Since entering the Permanent Supportive Housing Program, Celeste is back on track and living on her own.
“Celeste has made tremendous progress. She is employed and has maintained housing for over three years. She is an outstanding mom because being single and raising four children is not easy, and she is very successful,” says Vickie Williams, program coordinator.
Celeste is now settled and lives in a four-bedroom home with her children.
“I have a job with the county, and I am ten credits away from graduating with a degree in business,” Celeste shares.
“My goal is to open my own business and raise enough money so that I can give back to the program that helped me.”
With constant motivation from Catholic Charities staff and others, Celeste and her family are in a better place.
“The kids are progressing in school. They love it here. I’m happy now and at peace.”
“To the donors, I just want to say thank you so much. I don’t know where my life would be without the help of these programs.”
When KC and Danny moved to Toledo, they hoped that the city would give their family a new perspective on life. “We’re from Alabama. We decided to relocate, thinking we would find better jobs,” says KC.
Danny spent ten years incarcerated in the south and found it hard to find stability after being released. “KC and I struggled to get our lives together as a family,” Danny says.
“I have nobody as far as family to support that,” he added. “There were no real opportunities in Alabama. The only thing we could do was risk trying to go somewhere else and hope there was something better.”
With few options left, KC and Danny moved north with their son, DJ, in search of a better situation.
“I have family in Toledo, and we came here to give Danny a better start,” KC adds.
In an unexpected turn of events, KC and Danny’s living arrangement fell through, and they were in need of housing. They found help at La Posada where the family could stay together in their own private room.
While at La Posada, KC and Danny attended several classes and workshops for guests of the shelter. Topics included self-esteem, tenant readiness, budgeting, saving for the future, nutrition and parenting.
“Our son has ADHD and one doctor suspects Asperger’s, but they’re going to do more testing to be sure,” KC explains.
Help for DJ was slim in their hometown and the couple found it hard to find special schools and programs for him to attend.
KC says the staff at La Posada found ways to support DJ and helped them find the right school program. There is even a tutor at La Posada who works with DJ.
“Jeanelle is our advocate. She helped me understand that there is more help out there for DJ than I realized.”
“The staff are great with him. Most people don’t take to DJ like that or understand his limitations. The staff here get down to his level because they know that’s where they need to be. I think that helps him because he doesn’t feel different.”
Where to go from here
Thanks to your support, the family found at La Posada what they had so desperately needed – hope and a new beginning.
“You can’t go wrong with supporting a place like this,” Danny says. “If one door closes, they always show you where one is open. They keep hope and give us great motivation to keep moving.”
Mothers relax on couches in La Posada’s common room while students from Bowling Green State University watch the children play outside on the playground. This evening, one-year-old Christopher stayed inside with his mom and entertains the Bible study group with his antics.
Peter began helping people in need by serving in soup kitchens in downtown Cleveland while he was as a student at John Carroll University. He later participated in the university’s St. Joseph Labre program. He and other young adults followed the example of the Jesuit priest by preparing meals on Friday nights and taking the meals to the homeless in the streets.
“Christ spent a lot of time with the poor – in solidarity with the poor – and we’re called to do the same,” Peter said. “We’re meant to have, as a Catholic people, a preferential option for the poor.”
“When we think about giving back or serving Christ, we should always think first and foremost about how to serve the poor. It’s in serving that we recognize we’re all in this together and that we’re not that much different from those who are struggling – whether that be materially or spiritually or otherwise. That we are one church, one family. And that we have one ultimate destination and that is to get to heaven.”
When he works with the homeless, Peter always feels like he encounters Christ. At La Posada, he wants the guests to hear the message that they are loved by God and have a purpose for their life. He shares his own story with the guests and invites the others to do the same. Guests are encouraged to talk openly about their lives and the struggles they have been through.
One evening, John* shared his story about getting off the streets and away from drugs and gangs. Another guest began to cry even before it was her turn to share her own story of escaping an abusive relationship.
Life is tough, Peter said, and the Bible study is a group of people who can be together while getting through those tough times and knowing what is important: God and each other.
“It’s kind of like a reassurance – just that Word in the middle of the week,” said Christina, a guest of La Posada. “You can be feeling down and come to the Bible study and hear something that will help you or lift you up.”
A couple of things that Peter pointed out in the Gospel of Matthew helped her. “I’m going to start reading that every day to help me – about not worrying about tomorrow.”
Peter believes he learns more from the guests than he teaches them. “You recognize that life is very difficult,” he said. “That life can be challenging, that you can feel like you want to give up sometimes, but there is always hope, and that hope is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ.
“Often I go down to teach them Scripture, but I learn twice as much about perseverance, about true hope in Christ,” he adds.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.
It’s moving day for Marquita – big time. After 90 days, she and her 8-year-old daughter, Miracle, are moving out of La Posada, the Catholic Charities family shelter in Toledo, and into their own apartment.
And then tomorrow she’s moving into a secure, well-paying job on the production line at GM’s Powertrain transmission plant on Alexis Road.
“I’m very excited,” she says, “None of this would be happening without Jeanelle and all the people here at La Posada.
“It’s going to feel great. We haven’t had our own place since November.”
Doing the unemployment shuffle
“I moved to Columbus to live with a cousin down there and look for work. But it didn’t work out, so I stayed with my sister up here for a while and then I was moving all around, staying wherever I could.
“It was bad for my daughter.I could see she was suffering from low self-esteem, probably because of how I felt. It’s hard depending on other people for everything, especially when you’re used to working.
“Finally a friend told me about La Posada. I came and I was surprised because it doesn’t look like a shelter. It looks just like a home.
“I was so glad when they told me we could stay. They’ve been so good to me. Honestly, none of this would be happening if I hadn’t been here. They’ve helped me so much.”
“No feeling sorry for yourself”
Asked what she would have done without La Posada, she pauses and her smile fades. “We’d probably be in the same position, living house to house, depressed, not able to get it together to look for a job.
“That’s the thing about this place and these people. They don’t let you just lay around and feel sorry for yourself. They’re after you to get out there and make things happen. And so you do.
“It’s going to feel so great not having to stay with anybody.
“I’ll always be grateful for what we were given here. I won’t ever forget it.”
Michael didn’t tell his two daughters – aged 13 and 9 – that they were moving into a shelter. When he brought them to La Posada, the Family Emergency Shelter run by Catholic Charities in South Toledo, he just said the family was moving to a new apartment.
He shrugs and says, “I didn’t want them making a scene. I mean, what kid wants to move into a shelter?
“Of course, it didn’t take them long to figure it out.”
Nowhere to turn
“We were in a bad way,” Michael recalls. “I’d lost my disability, so I thought I’d better get a handle on things here. And I did. We kept it together for three months. But after that, the money I had ran out and the abject fear set in.
“I had nowhere to turn. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I have these girls to take care of. “Then, thank God, somebody told me about La Posada, and that kept us from falling into the abyss.”
Needless to say, the abyss is no place for girls as sweet, bright and talented as Michael’s daughters.
“You’d be surprised at how few options are available for single fathers. There are more shelters available for mothers and children – not so many for fathers.
“This has given us a chance to breathe, to get organized. It’s like a new beginning – stability when there was none.
“We’re all very grateful. You can’t even imagine.”
In late 2005, Tonya Brown-Munn and her daughter, Veronica, stayed for several weeks at the La Posada Family Emergency Shelter in Toledo. Her own home had burned down, and she had nowhere to turn and no funds to tide her over.
Now, fortunately, Tonya is doing much better, but she still remembers the time she spent at the shelter as a time of healing, learning and growth.
“Being there was humbling. It made me reflect on how tenuous our lives really are,” Mrs. Brown-Munn, now a Business student nearing graduation from the University of Toledo, said. “Those people made us feel like we were at home when we didn’t have a home. They were so good to us. Now whenever I drive by, I beep the horn just to say hi, just to say thank you.”
In fact, Mrs. Brown-Munn does much more than that. This past April, she organized a Build-a-Bear and pizza party for the 20 children who were staying at La Posada at the time.
Dogs, ponies and an alligator
The party’s sponsors – Build-a-Bear and Marco’s Pizza – were approached by Mrs. Brown-Munn, who wanted to do something for the children of La Posada.
“I was working with executives at both Build-a-Bear and Marco’s on a project for school. In the course of that work, I happened to visit a Build-a-Bear store, and I saw the smiles on the faces of children who were enjoying building their own animals,” she recalled. “I thought, I’d like to bring those same smiles to the faces of kids who aren’t as fortunate, who maybe can’t afford to go to Build-a-Bear.”
She approached both organizations about sponsoring a party at La Posada, and she got a green light. So, on Good Friday evening last April, parents brought their little ones into the front room at La Posada and opened the bags of assorted stuffed Build-a-Bear animals – fluffy dogs, a huggable unicorn, an alligator, a few ponies, and – not surprisingly – several teddy bears of different sizes, textures and colors.
The smiles took place as scheduled, as wide-eyed children, excited at their sudden good fortune, clutched their furry new friends.
It was a party worth remembering for both parents and children, Jeanelle Addie, La Posada’s Case Manager, said. “I don’t think any of them will forget it any time soon.”
“Doing things for people – paying it back, paying it forward, whatever you call it – just makes you feel good,” Tonya said. “The people staying at La Posada don’t have much, and they can’t always do what they’d like to for their kids. But they enjoy good things as much as anyone. I just remember that the people who took us in at La Posada were able to make my daughter and me feel really good at a time when we were feeling really bad. And I wanted to do something to make the people who are staying there now feel good.”
When LaQuita Hamilton and her infant son walked into La Posada Family Emergency, she didn’t want to be there and she didn’t want to talk to anyone. Staff members Robert Nalls and Case Manager Janelle Addie were persistent to change LaQuita’s mind.
Living in La Posada was a whole new world. There were rules and guidelines that at first LaQuita resisted. With the help of her case manager and the La Posada staff, LaQuita opened up and let go of her past. She credits the staff’s persistence and compassion with helping her start a new life.
After three months, LaQuita was able to find permanent housing for herself and her son. She says the experience at La Posada taught her how to set rules and boundaries. Now she says, “I make myself a better mother.” LaQuita knows that her journey is just beginning and that she is responsible for continuing what began at La Posada. Today she has a place of her own, and when her son walks out the door she says, “I want him to know that there’s still hope and that he has a chance.”