Preventing A Return To Homelessness

Since opening its doors in 2006, Justa Center has placed over 2,400 individuals in permanent housing. While it is always exciting to see our core mission leading to transformed lives for those who have been homeless, our success has also come with unexpected consequences. Those whom we placed several years ago have continued "aging in place," but sometimes their physical and mental health has deteriorated to the point where their care needs have become more comprehensive. In some cases, their health has deterioriated to the point where they have returned to homelessness.
We at Justa Center are looking more closely at this trend, which is why we are working diligently to extend our current aftercare services into a more comprehensive care program. Our immediate goal is to identify these needs early enough to be able to create an appropriate wrap-around intervention, which would give our members the opportunity to age in place rather than having to endure multiple hospital visits, risk losing their home, and end up back on the streets.
Recently the need for this service was brought home to us in a very personal way. Elizabeth (pictured above) first came to Justa Center in December 2012 at the age of 56. She struggled with numerous health issues, including lung cancer, diabetes, and various respiratory problems. She was in a wheelchair due to the extremely poor condition of her feet as a result of living on the streets with uncontrolled diabetes.
Elizabeth also lacked health insurance, which compromised her ability to get adequate health care. She was forced to use the emergency room when her condition required it, and from there, she would be placed in the hospital for stabilization and then returned to the streets. This was a cycle that Elizabeth lived with for the entire time we knew her.
Elizabeth's ONLY income was monthly food stamps. One of the first things we did was try to establish additional revenue for her through Social Security Disability. This proved to be an endless cycle of application, denial, and appeal. During the course of this time-consuming process Elizabeth was unable to obtain any income, which in turn meant that she was forced to stay in the shelter. In spite of the multiple setbacks that Elizabeth endured, she was always smiling and showing concern for others, including staff. She would even donate her things to others whom she felt were needier than she was. Elizabeth worked hard to get out of homelessness, and finally through a program run by the City of Phoenix, she was able to move into her own apartment last November. Sadly, several weeks later, she was found unconscious, and after being transported to the hospital, she passed away.
Elizabeth's last months were a struggle for her, and we were not able to fully address her needs. Her life, however, was not in vain, as her circumstances have challenged us to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Movin' On Out

In spite of the summer heat, we have been able to move many of our members into permanent housing. Most moved into either independent or assisted living, while a couple went to MANA House, which is strictly for veterans, and a few were reunited with family.
One especially uplifting story involves "Anne," who came to Justa Center over a year ago. Born in France, Anne received her U.S. citizenship as a child, but with that paperwork lost, she couldn't prove her citizenship, so she could not receive her earned Social Security. While at Justa Center, she worked closely with the staff and our attorney, and after a very long year, she finally obtained her citizenship papers, as well as her Social Security. In July she moved into her own apartment and is elated to have her own place.
Another exciting move involved Joni and Bertha (pictured above), who became close friends while at Justa Center. They stayed together at CASS (Central Arizona Shelter Services) and supported each other through their efforts at job hunting. Eventually Joni found work at the airport, while Bertha obtained her Social Security. Together, they made enough to move into a very nice apartment together. It was so much fun watching the two of them count down the days until they could move into their new place. We were able to assist them in obtaining items for their new apartment, as well as help with stocking their pantry with groceries. They are thrilled to have found each other during such a hard time in their lives and are overjoyed with their new home.
While we're happy to celebrate our members' new living arrangements, our attention has quickly shifted to helping other individuals who are in dire circumstances. All are facing the same struggles as others in the homeless community -- uncertainty, fear, and indignity. If you would like to help Justa Center continue its mission of moving one person out of homelessness each day, please consider making a donation.

Transformation Leads To Success

Many incorrectly believe that people choose to be homeless, because they are lazy. But we, at Justa Center, know differently. A case in point, is "John," who is a veteran and came to Justa Center in 2009 after he lost his job. He had worked his entire life and suddenly, through no fault of his own, found himself without employment and unable to maintain his home.

During his time at Justa Center John worked closely with our Employment Resource Specialist and eventually found work as a long distance truck driver. He has been very successful in this capacity and now drives all over the country. Whenever he finds himself back in Phoenix, he always stops in to see us and makes whatever donations he can. He feels strongly about giving back to the community that helped him get back on his feet.

John is a wonderful success story that illustrates how, with some assistance, individuals are able to get their lives back together. He is also a terrific reminder of what our mission is here at Justa Center and why we exist: Our purpose is to transform lives - not just of our members, but of all who come into contact with Justa Center. John reminds us yet again that people are not homeless because they choose to be, and regardless of the situation that brings seniors into homelessness, it is our role at Justa Center to provide the dignity and respect that is lost when living on the streets.

Sad Tale Has A Happy Ending

"Joe" came to us with a very sad history. Unwanted as a child and developmentally disabled, he ended up in an asylum at the age of five, where he stayed for seven years. While he couldn't read or write, he managed to start his own business and get married, but after his wife passed away, he lost the business and ended up living on the streets in California.

Joe endured severe illnesses and multiple stabbings before coming to Justa Center last year. He soon found a very small room to rent and started attending Bible study, as well as working with a volunteer who taught him how to read and write. Shortly thereafter, Joe started to experience memory loss, which, when added to his developmental issues, impaired his ability to live on his own.

Fortunately, Justa Center was able to secure a place for him to live at Immanual Care assisted living facility, where he will move this month. Upon taking Joe to visit Immanuel Care, he was amazed at how nice the facility is, and he stated that he intends to live there forever. The facility is a graduated care facility, so it will be able to assist him if his health and/or mental state declines.

We are thankful we were able to help Joe move into a safe home, where he will receive the care he needs for the rest of his life.

Phone Call Reconnects Relatives

People often ask why the families of those seeking help at Justa Center aren't more involved with their relatives' lives. Sometimes we don't think about the shame, failure and disconnect felt by seniors who are homeless. Because of this pervasive sense of failure, it can be very difficult for the homeless to call their families; however, during this past month we had a very happy outcome for one of our members.
"Mary" came to Justa Center depressed, not knowing where to turn, and reluctant to open up about her situation. Mike, who is in a job training program through Age Works and was once one of our members, sensed Mary's feelings of isolation and loneliness, and began talking with her. The empathy Mike showed to Mary gave her the courage she needed to contact her daughter.
Once Mary's daughter knew what had happened to her mother, she immediately came to the Center to find her. We are happy to report that Mary and her daughter had a very touching reunion and are now living together. This is just an example of one of the many happy endings we see at Justa Center.

Times Are Tough...

We are seeing some difficult cases at Justa Center these days, and highlighting this trend is "Maria" and her mother, both of whom recently came to us for help. The two women were living together when 58-year-old Maria lost her job. Maria immediately started looking for work but could not find anything in this tough economy. In addition, her 89-year-old mother became ill, and the medical bills started piling up.

Maria was forced into a very difficult position: Did she pay the rent or pay for her mother's medications? Did she continue to look for work, or did she care for her mother? Maria continued to look for work while trying to care for her mother, but the rent didn't get paid, and it wasn't long before both Maria and her mother were evicted.
The women are currently staying in a shelter but will be forced to leave on June 3rd and find another shelter if we can't help them before then. Maria is working closely with our Employment Specialist in an effort to find a housekeeping job, but so far she hasn't found anything. With no income of any kind, we won't be able to place them into permanent housing, which is why life is very sad for these ladies right now. It's our hope that someone will have a housekeeping job for Maria that will help them end their homelessness.
Please keep these women in your prayers.

Home For The Holidays

We would like you to meet 65-year-old Jackie, who first came to Justa Center last December. She became homeless after losing her job and her apartment, and then suffering a stroke. While her daughter lives in the area, she has a child with Down's syndrome and lives in a very small apartment, which meant that moving in with her was not possible. Jackie had no place to go except the homeless shelter, which placed her on a waiting list for affordable housing.
After coming to Justa and working with our housing specialist, we are happy to report that we will be moving Jackie into an apartment this week-end. She is very excited to get into her own place, so that her grandson can come and stay with her. She talks eagerly about being able to make her homemade cranberry sauce for family and friends this Christmas. And best of all, she will be home for the holidays.

Ted Goes Home

"Ted" came to us last year, a developmentally disabled veteran, who was sleeping on the streets. He was not diagnosed with his disability before the age of 18, which is required in order to obtain services through the Department of Developmental Disabilities.
Ted worked closely with the Justa Center staff in order to obtain benefits through Social Security, which now takes about 16 months. While trying to work his way through the system, he slept behind a pharmacy in downtown Phoenix. 
Fortunately, we were able to reunite Ted with his family, and he is now living with his sister and has a room of his own. He continues to wait on Social Security, but his waiting has been eased by no longer having to live on the streets.