Where Your Treasure Is
Christina was just out of prison, but already back in the drug trade. When a drive-by shooting sent bullets flying into the car she shared with her two year old child, she took that as a wake-up call.
In this October E-News we hear from Christina about her journey to stability and how she and her son are doing now. We also check in with Director of Resident Services Tylinda Blackstock, who explains how providing shelter residents with financial management and instruction helps to break the cycle of homelessness.
Christina is a member of Inner City Mission’s extended family. She was with us about three years, before moving out on her own in 2010. This week she dropped by for a quick interview in the hope that her testimony will help other young mothers chose to leave chaos for stability.
“I had been out of prison for about a year. My son, born while I was incarcerated, was two. I was still engaged in drug dealing and manufacturing on the west side of Chicago.
“No one was shooting at us that day; it was just a drive-by. But the bullets came through my car, and if my son had been in a different seat he wouldn’t be here.
“I didn’t have a plan at all when I left. I just drove south out of Chicago. I came down to Springfield to stay with a friend, but that didn’t work out, so I used what money I had to get a room at a motel. When that ran out I didn’t know what to do. I called the shelters. Inner City Mission had room for us.
“I had no idea what to expect. I came down from my room that evening with my son, and everyone was singing and praising God. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. I didn’t think I was going to fit in, and at first I didn’t.
“My attitude was very bad. I was hostile. They considered kicking me out because someone said something about my son and I just went off on this other woman. This was while there was a ministry group on the property. It was Candace (lodge supervisor) who convinced them to let me stay.
“The people around here were amazing. They showed me the person I was, and all the mistakes I’d made. They taught me how the relationships I’d been in were toxic. I was a very dominant person and they showed me my softer side.
“Financially…I didn’t have anything when I got here. Basically, my attitude was so poor that I couldn’t keep a job. Anthony and I had been getting by on public aid, food stamps…all the assistance we could get.
“I learned about budgeting while I was with ICM, and that when I did have money I didn’t need to spend it all right away. Really, if I hadn’t had all those life-lessons and classes, I don’t think I would have made it to where I am today.
“Now I have a good job working with children that are severely handicapped mentally. I’m a rehabilitation specialist and I like doing that. Anthony is turning ten on Wednesday. He’s doing really well. He’s doing good in school.
“We don’t need public aid. I work for everything I have and that feels kind of good. Real good.”
A Staple of Life
Director of Resident Services Tylinda Blackstock manages client finances. Her office is one of the first stops for a new shelter resident. She makes it clear that with all their basic needs provided for, they have a great opportunity to pay off debt and save for the future.
“Money is a staple of life,” Tylinda says, “So we teach it along with nutrition, parenting, spirituality…all the things necessary for stability. People willing to stay with the program can learn how not to be here for the rest of their lives.
“I have come across residents who do very well with money, but the majority are living day to day. About a quarter of them have debt that needs paid off.”
ICM’s financial management program requires residents to disclose all income and deposit a set percentage—usually 75%—with the facility. “We write up a personal budget,” Tylinda says. “If they need more than 25% of their income for personal items, gas money, work expenses or whatever else that isn’t provided here, we adjust for that.”
The money turned over for financial management is used to pay off any debts the resident has. “We’ll figure out a payment schedule for what they owe. A current bill might be something like car insurance. Most bills we get are closed accounts or court fines.
“I have them bring me all their bills. I’ll sit with them and write out those checks, then give them to the resident to mail.
After the bills are paid, everything left out of that 75% is kept in a non-interest drawing account. “If someone wants additional money out of their account, they have to speak to me,” Tylinda says. “I try to limit those appointments to Mondays and Thursdays. That’s one way to help them learn to plan ahead.
“If there is an emergency or a big purchase, we discuss it, then it can come out of savings. I always remind them, ‘Isn’t it nice that this money is here when you need it? What would you do in this situation if you had spent this money instead of saving it?’”
One-hundred percent of resident savings are returned to them when they choose to move out. This provides a blessing to someone starting over in a new home, and emphasizes the importance of budgeting and saving.
Big Block Bash
The Jeff Higginson Band is back! JHB appeared at the Big Block Bash at Southside Christian Church September 28. Over the years, this rockin’ praise and worship band has raised over $40,000 in donations to Inner City Mission.
- Heartbreak this month as someone we knew years ago passed away. We pray for the family of Donna W., and ask the Lord to protect her children and keep them close.
- Join us in praying for improved health for resident Gail, who continues to struggle with mobility and hip pain.
- Praise God and celebrate! Leroy has been working hard to get his two younger children returned to his custody. At the end of September they came to be with him here at ICM.
- Kayla’s job hunt has resulted in a baby-sitting job.
- Evelyn and Carlos, with us only a short time, have met their goal of getting into affordable housing.
- Resident turned Staff member Michelle announced that her daughter, from whom she’s been estranged for eight years, is now ready to reconnect. We pray blessings on that reunion.
Here are the top needs of the mission this month:
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Dish Soap
- 35 gallon and larger trash bags
- Coffee and Creamer
ICM gratefully accepts donated items any time at our North 7th Street shelter. For a complete list of our current needs (which is updated weekly), click here