Women come to Sarah’s Circle with incredible strength and resilience. Most have shown deep fortitude and resourcefulness to survive desperate circumstances. They have also demonstrated a willingness to ask for help and work to rebuild even after so many people in their lives have turned them away.
Women also have unique individual strengths. An important part of the case management process involves conducting an assessment to determine each woman’s individual strengths and challenges. Service plans are then tailored to the circumstances and goals of each woman. If a woman has skills and interest in food service, the case manager might try to connect her to an employment program focused on that sector. If a woman struggles with a mental illness but has a strength of being able to connect with others, a group therapy setting might be a good fit.
An important component of Clinical Services is often helping women recognize their own strengths. Homelessness can contribute to depression and a loss of a sense of positive self worth. By coming to appreciate their own strengths, women improve their self-esteem and ability to use those strengths to rebuild their lives. In addition to generating the words used in the “word cloud” pictured on the cover of our annual report, women in an art therapy group created the collage shown above to illustrate their strengths. While women listed many specific strengths, there is an overarching theme of hope, faith, and the ability to stay positive despite so much adversity.
Since our founding in 1979, Sarah’s Circle has been an organization with deep roots in the community. Supporters share their time, skills, financial resources, and social capital with Sarah’s Circle to work towards our mission. That social capital has been crucial in gaining community approval for zoning changes needed for our facilities, increasing online fundraising from new donors for our Winter Walk, and spreading awareness about the complex causes of homelessness in our community.
Our significant growth and tremendous success in completing capital projects in the past several years was only possible with your support. With this growth, we have more staff and expanded services, but community support continues to be critical to accomplishing our mission. Private donations support our essential programs, ensure the Daytime Support Center is open to any woman in need, and help us provide services tailored to the specific needs of women. Individual volunteers present workshops, staff our front desk, serve on committees, and lead on our board. Groups as diverse as the Diversey Yacht Club, Edgebrook Lutheran Church, and Robert Morris University - Illinois Volleyball team have served meals, assembled beds, painted walls, hosted program events, and raised funds. Our community is expanding with our programs, but the mission remains the same. Together we help women rebuild their lives.
Clinical Services, including art therapy, are provided at the Daytime Support Center to address the trauma, domestic violence, mental illness, and substance abuse which are contributors to and often a consequence of housing instability among the women served. In order to address these issues, Sarah’s Circle provides individual and group clinical counseling, including art therapy, to women in the housing and daytime programs. When “Flora” was released from jail in 2013, she knew alcohol abuse had caused many of her problems and was determined to change, but didn’t know where to start. Homeless and without anyone to turn to for help, Flora was relieved when a stranger pointed her to Sarah’s Circle. Through art therapy and individual counseling, she realized why dealing with her drinking problem had always been such a challenge. She had started using alcohol to cope with childhood trauma and continued using it as an escape from the pain of domestic violence, losing custody of her children, and homelessness. Flora was able to gain a better understanding of her own reasons for using and find more constructive ways of dealing with emotional challenges. With newfound strength, Flora worked with her case manager to find a transitional housing program that would best support her personal goal of sobriety.
Our longest running program, the Daytime Support Center provides a safe space, physical services, community, educational programming, and case management to any woman in need. Women who are street homeless, doubled up with friends or family, housed but at risk of homelessness, or formerly homeless may all participate. “Kate” is in her early 20s. She aged out of foster care and has struggled with housing instability ever since. Kate was usually able to stay with a cousin around her age, but when conflicts arose, Kate had to sleep somewhere else, which was often in a homeless shelter. Because of the unique openness of the Daytime Support Center, it didn’t matter where Kate happened to be sleeping; she could come to Sarah’s Circle during the day for services. Kate wants to work, but with a low education level and instability in her personal life, she has had difficulty keeping a job. Kate had just begun case management when she realized she was pregnant. Kate’s case manager helped her connect with prenatal care while researching and applying to programs designed specifically for young moms and their children. Kate was accepted into one of those programs and now she has her own apartment, is enrolled in school, and is preparing for her baby. Kate is committed to giving her child more security, stability, and opportunity than she had growing up.
Jennifer feels she has been silenced throughout too much of her life. She was silenced through child abuse, human trafficking, and many years of homelessness. Despite all this, Jennifer is firm that she was never a “damsel in distress”; she used her own strength to escape and survive. She is now a resident of Sarah’s Circle’s permanent supportive housing program. In addition to maintaining her apartment, seeing a psychiatrist regularly, and addressing chronic, debilitating back pain, Jennifer is pursuing a long-time dream of creating a line of natural skin care products. She has been researching production methods, experimenting on a small scale with lotions and astringents, and developing a business plan. While Jennifer is still in the early stages of starting a business, she feels empowered, explaining, “I’ve finally become more of who I am”.
Other stories like Jennifer's can be found in our 2013 Annual Report. Click here to view Sarah's Circle 2013 Annual Report.
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