What I Know Now…Behind the Scenes at CHC

Linda J. Emerick

CHC Volunteer, Donor, GEM

     I am going to be honest. My support of Cornerstone Community Housing began as an uninformed, unthinking, holiday-inspired act of generosity over 10 years ago. I saw a card on a church bulletin board asking for items for the residents of Earl’s Place. That was the beginning. Fast forward several years. I am now a monthly donor (GEM), attend fund-raising events, and help Sheila in the Cornerstone Community Housing office with donation management entries once a week (online volunteering during COVID19). As my involvement has grown, I realize I have been the “student”, learning about the issues of homelessness, addiction recovery, and the importance of non-profit organizations like CCH. Here are four things I have learned I would like to share with you, my fellow volunteers, donors, and donors-to be.

Lesson #1. The men of Earl’s Place and Prospect Place are the best teachers about the issues of homelessness.

Many residents of Cornerstone Community Housing are among the hardest working, most dedicated men I know. I never before realized the incredible difficulties of recovering from homelessness and overcoming its causes—physical disabilities, unemployment, addiction, and more. Former and current residents’ have shared their stories and I appreciate learning about their individual paths to independent living. At CCH, they have the structure, privacy, and safe environment needed to implement their individualized plans of action and goals. And there is clear evidence of their progress and successes: From the excitement of receiving a voter registration card to the successful completion of a community college program, from becoming a mentor for others in recovery to becoming employed after a long time out of the workforce, from finally getting the physical and mental healthcare desperately needed to reconnecting with family members after long periods of estrangement. These are just a few of the examples of the men’s accomplishments.

Lesson #2 The staff and director of CCH are tireless and unwavering in their support of program residents and the fight against homelessness.

It takes dedicated people to operate a non-profit and address homelessness in these times of under-funding, bias toward the homeless, and economic uncertainty. I often feel we donors and supporters do not really understand how difficult it is to run a successful program like CCH. Being on site, I have learned the true extent of Sheila, Jim, Pam, Renard’s and the additional staff’s duties and responsibilities. First, there is no typical day at Earl’s Place or Prospect Place. In addition to fund raising and communicating with supporters like you and me, they deal with an unending list of responsibilities on a daily basis. Here’s a short list of what I have seen them do on a typical day:

Create and maintain individualized case management plans for residents,pay bills and utilities, maintain financial and resident records, apply for grants, deal with government agencies, follow up on the residents’

progress and needs, attend CCH board meetings, meet with former residents, visit churches and organizations, coordinate groups visiting Earl’s Place or Prospect Place, hold group meetings with residents, and more.

Emergencies always arise so add these to their activities: Call in

plumbers for water leaks, appear in court on a resident’s behalf, rush

a resident to a healthcare facility, wait for the fire inspector, track down a

resident’s lost documentation, implement COVID19 health and safety

protocols for 29 residents and the staff..

You get the idea. It’s overwhelming and the men of CCH appreciate everything they do.

Lesson #3. A steady income stream is critical for the programs of non-profits like CCH.

Sometimes we hate talking about money and fund-raising for non-profits. Here is something I have learned first-hand while volunteering in the CCH office—money is important and knowing what I know now, I am not ashamed to admit it. Financial support for transitional housing and housing for the homeless in general has become precarious. As Federal and State monies have shifted to Housing First programs or evaporated entirely, the core of funding for programs like CCH comes from grants and donations from supporters.  Changes in the economy and changes in the focus of funding agencies means CCH is in a constant hunt for dollars annually. In the past, a lot of my personal donations to CCH were focused around-the-holidays and special appeals giving. Don’t get me wrong—these donations are very important and greatly appreciated! Don’t stop giving! However, a steady monthly income of funds for the day-to-day operations, facilities and utilities, and salaries of CCH are also very important. Having funds that can be counted on, month-to-month, year-to-year ensures consistent operations and even–just maybe–future expansion of services. “Steady monthly income stream” does not sound glamorous but it is vital. Yes, this is where I  thank you for being a GEM and encourage you to invite others to become part of that all-important “monthly income stream”.


Lesson #4. You, the CCH supporter, play a critical role in the fight against homelessness.

The last thing I want to share with you is this: Please understand how much YOUR support and donations mean to the residents, staff, and volunteers of Earl’s Place and Prospect Place. The men are amazed (and often surprised) when you participate in the annual dinner; show up for Resolution Run on New Year’s Day; adopt-a-resident at holiday time; pitch in for a newsletter or Father’s Day appeal; offer special classes or events through your organization, club, or place of worship; and donate to keep CCH in business. They are amazed because your support shows they are important, you care, and their quest to overcome the hardships of homelessness matters.  Thank you.

One more thing. A well-run non-profit needs a competent Office Cat. Sophie keeps things moving at Cornerstone Community Housing.



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