It’s Hard to Ask for Help

Tanya has always loved animals. After high school, she turned that love into a career and became a veterinary technician. “It was really hard to give that up…but when I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor I had in 2006, I had no choice.” Even after surgery and radiation, Tanya remains mobility impaired, getting around only with the use of a wheelchair. Because of this, she still couldn’t return to work and she began the long process of getting on disability. “It took two years and because of the medical bills, I had to declare bankruptcy.”

Each month, Tanya relies on disability of $756 and $16 of food stamps. She inherited her house which is “a blessing.” But it’s still hard. “I go to food banks two to three times a month and come here once a month. My daughter helps out when she can, but I don’t like to ask for help, and I don’t want to take things unless I have to. There are people out there who need it more than I do.”

St. Francis House is more than just a place to get help. Often the staff are the friendly ear when things seem too tough to handle. “I was raised to work, to pay into Social Security, to give back to the neighborhood. It’s hard to keep from feeling frustrated and depressed sometimes. The people here always take time to talk”.

Sometimes Help is Just Information Away

Jimmy Perry served in the Army Infantry from 1978 to 1981 as a material supply clerk. He is justifiably proud of being responsible for a quarterly budget of $200,000 and “never losing a penny”. After he left the Army, he moved to Florida, working in general maintenance and metal shop work.

When his parents became ill, he returned home to Virginia to care for them. After their deaths, he moved to Texas for work. He had come to Hot Springs on vacation several times and fell in love with the town, eventually finding a job there. He bought a house, and for a time things were going well. “But then I lost my job, then my car, then my house, and ended up homeless.” As often happens, during that time, he also made some poor choices. “I got dependent on alcohol.”

Jimmy was going through a soup line when he noticed some people asking the clients if they were Veterans. That moment was a turning point. The friendly faces were caseworkers from the Veterans Day Treatment Center here in Little Rock. “They asked me if I knew about the services available for Veterans. I had never heard of such a thing. They definitely saved my life.”

Two weeks later Jimmy was sitting in the parking lot of the courthouse waiting on a van to take him to St. Francis House. An officer asked him what he was doing there. “I explained and later that policeman came back and had brought me breakfast!”

Jimmy has been at Saint Francis House for five months now. While he has been there he has worked in the kitchen and has gotten a reputation for being willing to help whenever he is needed. Director of Veteran Affairs, Ken Mace, describes him as “the kind of guy you can ask to help with anything, and he will lend a hand.” He is currently working through the Compensated Work Therapy program and is looking forward to being on his own again soon. “My voucher for housing is approved and my deposit is done. I’m just waiting for the inspection.” He hopes to move into full-time employment at the VA hospital in housekeeping and work his way into the maintenance department.

Mr. Perry, we’ll miss you, but we wish you “God speed” and know that you’ll continue to bless those who need a hand!

Still Here When He Needed Us

James never thought he’d be back at St. Francis House. He and his wife came to St. Francis House in the early 1980’s when they were a young couple with children still getting on their feet. As his construction skills grew, so did his income and he never thought he’d have to ask for help again. Over the years he has donated clothes and other goods “just giving back when we could”.
The children are grown now and it looked like it was time to enjoy a more care-free lifestyle. Unfortunately, congestive heart failure meant he had to leave his job and recovery is taking longer that he expected. “I’m use to taking care of myself and construction is what I know. It will be another four to five weeks at least before I can get back to work and now I’m not sure if I can ever do that work again. It’s scary and frustrating all at once. I’m starting to get behind on my bills, paying what I can and juggling. I’m here today to see if I can get help with my water bill.”
Luckily, thanks to your help, St. Francis House had the funds to help James with that bill, but we get calls every day for needs we can’t meet.

Getting the Kids to School

Every parent knows that getting the kids to school can be a challenge even on a good morning. However, for Janice, it’s been a true struggle.
Janice is a single mother with three children. Illness has left her unable to work and the monthly disability check doesn’t always cover her expenses. Generally she comes to St. Francis House for food and clothes to help make that check go further, but this month it still didn’t stretch quite far enough. Out of cash, she called St. Francis House for a gas voucher so she could get her children to school. “School is important and if they’re not there, how can they learn?” St. Francis House was there to help Janice fill her tank…and get her children to school.

Miracles Do Happen

They’ve been happening for Tara and Todd for a while now. Tara has been coming to St. Francis House since she became homeless three years ago. An injury left her unable to work and getting her disability payments approved took some time.

In the meantime, with no help, no job and no money, she became homeless. But Tara doesn’t dwell on that. “I would come to St. Francis House and every time I came, they always had what I needed. Snack packs of food to get me through the day, clothes, once a big purse that could carry all my things.”

Once her disability came though, things got a little easier and when she met Todd, life got even better. They married, and though Todd is still going through the paperwork for his disability, they’ve managed to find a house and a car.

The biggest miracle however, is baby Jessica! Todd has been told he could never father a child due to a previous accident. Tara, that she couldn’t carry a child through pregnancy, but Tara got pregnant. “This was a miracle baby. It was hard, but I made it through the pregnancy.”

Baby Jessica was born after a hard delivery, and it was touch and go initially. She couldn’t breathe at first and spent time in an incubator. “St. Vincent’s was another miracle. We didn’t have insurance, but they were there. When Jessica began to breathe on her own we were the happiest parents ever.”

Todd, Tara, and Jessica still come occasionally to St. Francis House. Money is still tight, and sometimes they need help. But Jessica is thriving,  and Todd and Tara are happy.  They will both tell you that life is filled with miracles.

It’s All God

We haven’t known Hugh for very long. That’s because once he came to St. Francis House, he immediately showed us he was determined to make things better. Employment coordinator Carol Chastine, describes him as “a positive attitude combined with perseverance”. And yet Hugh doesn’t see himself that way. He describes it as being “all about God”.

Hugh served in the Air Force from 1984-1988 as an air freight operator. After he left the military, he spent several years working as an airline contractor both in the United States and as far away as Uganda and Kenya. He eventually became an independent businessman, opening a variety of businesses including restaurant and a cleaning service.

A strong Christian, during this time Hugh also became an ordained Baptist minister. Hugh has three children, all college graduates and today his oldest son is a captain in the Air Force, his daughter a teacher in Virginia and his youngest son works for Nationwide insurance. You can see the pride in his face when he speaks of them and the grin grows even bigger when he talks about his grand-baby.

Success doesn’t always last however. After a large theft by a business partner, Hugh lost everything. He became depressed and attempted suicide. He sought help from the VA in Memphis and was referred to Woodland Research facility. Even though he didn’t really meet their criteria for treatment, they allowed Hugh to stay for ten days. It was then he realized that though materially successful, he had felt empty inside for quite a while. “It’s a hard thing for someone who‘s a minister of God to realize that he has drifted away from his relationship with God. It took losing everything for me to notice”.

He was told about the resources for Veterans in Little Rock, and the facility gave him the money to get here upon his release. “I went to the VA Day Treatment Center, and they were so kind and helpful. They referred me to St. Francis House and the people here have been great. God has led me to the right places all along the way”.

But as Hugh tells it, the “God things” didn’t stop there. He began immediately looking for work and had inquired at Fuller and Sons about positions only to be told they had no openings. On his way to an interview with another company, Hugh got a call from Mr. Fuller saying he’d like to talk to him. Hugh went straight from one interview to another and was hired by Fuller and Son that day.

Hugh has great to things to say about the company. “The people treat you with respect and value what I do. I love working here.” That admiration goes both ways. In speaking with JR Fuller, he stated, “Hugh is a doing very well. He’s a wonderful employee always finding things to do to keep busy and always trying to excel.”

Hugh has also rekindled his relationship with God. He now attends greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church and presides under Pastor JJ. Richardson Jr.

We’ve seen how hard Hugh works, his upbeat attitude and his true humility. All Hugh has to say is that “It’s all God”.

Making Ends Meet

It’s hard for some of us to imagine having a full time job and still not being able to pay the bills. Unfortunately, for many people that is a reality.

James is a full-time teacher at a local school. Teaching is tough job requiring dedication and calling as well as education and knowledge.  But as a single father of two teenagers, James sometimes finds himself a little short. The paycheck is pretty lean after taxes and insurance for three are deducted. He pays the mortgage and auto loan, but then things can come up short.

When that happens, he calls on his friends at St. Francis House. Over the last three years, St. Francis House has helped James with food, clothing, and this month, a utility bill, in order to get by. We don’t see James often, but we are so glad we can be there when he needs a little help.

Serving Military Far and Wide

Barbara Graham and her husband Rodgers are long-time volunteers for St. Francis House working the front desk every Thursday. They have two family members serving in Djibouti, Africa in the Army right now. Their great-nephew Benjamin just turned 21 and is on his very first deployment. He loves to read, but the library on post is very small, so he asked for books. Their niece Adrienne Weeks also loves to read and asked for magazines.

Thanks to St. Francis House, they were able to send Adrienne a box of magazines and Benjamin three boxes of books. Benjamin intends to donate them to the library on base after he reads them. It’s amazing just how far St. Francis House can reach. Enjoy your reading Adrienne and Benjamin, and thank you so much for your service!

When You Need to Keep the Lights on

Tanya is a single mom with one daughter who just recently lost her job. She’s been interviewing and has several prospects, but the gap between paychecks kept the bills piling up.

When she realized she couldn’t meet her utility bills, she contacted her various utility companies for alternatives. Her largest bill was the electric bill. Entergy suggested she contact St. Francis House.

Working with Entergy and Tanya, the Social Services staff were able to help pay a portion of the electric bill and also arrange a Deferred Payment Agreement with Entergy.

Thank you Entergy for your kindness and understanding in a tough situation.

Unfortunately, not all those who contact us are so lucky. Our funds for utilities is roughly $1000.00 a month and runs out quickly. We average about 30 calls a day that we can’t help. Make a donation today to help keep the lights on!

He’s Still Keeping Us Safe

Leslie Roby has spent his life keeping America safe. He was an infantryman in the Army from 1980-1985, and upon leaving the service, he began a career in security.

Leslie has been an armed security officer for several government facilities including the Department of Corrections and Juvenile Detention. When he had to resign his job at the Department of Corrections for personal reasons, he ended up unemployed for six months.

Leslie fell behind on his bills and eventually lost his home. He called the Crisis hotline and was referred to the Day Treatment Center. He had found a job once more in Juvenile Detention, but he still to had to pay off bills and find a new place to live. And that’s how we met Leslie.

He entered the St. Francis House program in April 2016 and immediately began working with Carol Chastine and Ralph Bellamy in the Re-integration program, a program funded by the Dept. of Labor to help homeless veterans find employment.

Leslie wanted a position with not only more income but also more responsibility and more opportunity to use his hard-earned skills. “At first I was embarrassed to be be here,” Leslie said, “but the staff showed me differently. You have to dedicate yourself to a new start, and if you’re serious, this is a good place to start over.”

Leslie was obviously dedicated to that new start. “Leslie wanted to find better employment and in his field that meant Federal. Even when we had to go through packets and packets of paperwork, he never got discouraged. Never gave up. He came in ready to go and never got discouraged,” observed Carol.

Leslie left St. Francis House in October 2016 with a new job as Armed Security at the Federal Building with his bills paid off and a new place to live. He continues to drop by about once a month to keep us up to date on how he’s doing. He was recently placed at the Hot Springs facility, a position of trust since he is the only Armed Security at that location.

“The job program is a great success. Myself and others have gotten a new start. Carol and Ralph really care for you and want you to succeed.” Thank you, Leslie for your continued service!