Our first interview with you was in January 2016; we featured your story in VENERATE and a few months later it was made into a short film, From Harlem to Kansas City.” Both have inspired many people, right? Yeah and I was able to send them to my son. I haven’t seen him for 30 years, we’ve been estranged! It enabled us to have a connection! This year has been a good year. 

Your story tells how you came from being homeless, struggling with substance abuse, foraging for food in the garbage, to a full recovery, graduation from UMKC with an MA in Social Work and a job at Reconciliation Services. That’s right, on December 15th 2015, after working on a temporary basis for 5 months, I started full time work at RS. In September 2016 I became a Case Manager helping clients to get documentation, mostly, birth certificate’s ID’s and social security IDs to help them get re-started in life. As Fr. Justin, points out in his recent blog people are vulnerable and helpless when they don’t have an ID. Without an ID they’re cut off from basic services and the basic rights that most of us take for granted.

Why do people come to RS for IDs? Last week a Veteran came to the RS Cafe in his late 40’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was homeless from using drugs and alcohol. At rock bottom, he finally sought help from Swope Park Health Services. Unfortunately he’d lost his ID and couldn’t prove who he was. No one can get an ID without a birth certificate and a permanent address so, they sent him to City Union Mission for temporary housing and to us at RS for document assistance. It’s a lot of paperwork on the computer and he needed help, but now he has his State ID and he can apply for housing and move out of City Union Mission. His little state ID Card is his passport to applying for his VA card and benefits— psychiatric care, rehab’ medication and housing. Now he has a new start—and like I was back in the day—on his way to recovery and self sustainability. 

Another example is a mother who moved to Missouri from California with four young kids. Having lived with violence and abuse for years she finally found courage to bring her kids to safety at her sister’s house in Kansas City. Her California driving license had expired and she had no ID so she couldn’t enroll her kids in school or apply for a job or housing. We sent away to California and went through all the processes of proving her identity. It’s a long procedure - 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, we helped her with clothing, food pantry and Friday night meals for her and her kids. On her 34th birthday she received her ID! A new life for herself and her kids was about to begin. You should have seen the smile on her face!

Then there is the local, young, single mother, who was offered a job. Her company needed her ID to process her enrollment paperwork. Unfortunately her wallet was lost, possibly stolen whilst on the bus, the same day she was offered her job. When she called Lost and Found at the Bus Company nothing had been handed in. Her employer agreed she could come in and work but they needed her ID the following day or she would lose her job. Desperately she scrambled to meet the demand. RS was recommended to her and she came into the Café. We got her on the computer and sent off for her birth certificate. Her identity was approved and we gave her a voucher for her ID. Her job was secure! My job was done!

Many may not be aware that the majority of people RS serves are those suffering from varying levels of trauma, instability and poverty. Most rely on public transport to get their kids to school and to get to work. Many are on minimum wage. Our Document Assistance Program is often the bridge to accessing basic needs and services. It’s the first step toward self sufficiency and to becoming stable.

What do you enjoy about your work at RS? I make a difference in the lives of the people I serve and, I work with a team who are committed to helping the community become self sufficient.

What’s next for you? Enjoying life, and getting my LMSW. I’m still studying and looking forward to taking the exam. Watch this space!

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Read more stories of courage from Troost
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Story and Photo by: Lyn Morse-Brown