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In Our House’s family environment, it’s easy for the kids to get most of the attention from the community, especially during our exciting summer youth program. In our Learning Center, however, there are great things happening for our adult clients all year long, including the summer. New classes help residents in our Job Training program. Local businesses have found a class-full of qualified applicants all in one place: Our House. You met her in our November 2011 newsletter. See how much she has accomplished in the last eight months. How did this long-time sports journalist end up at Our House, & what could be left for such an experienced writer to learn in our Learning Center? Sam allows us to publish one of his blog entries in honor of one of his favorite Little Rock locations. Our House’s Learning Center makes history in the early ’90s.

302 E Roosevelt Rd; Little Rock, AR

Our House’s new program: The Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute.

Meet two of our 64 team members in each issue.

Shop for unique items at My Favorite Thrift Store.

Find out how your bird drawing can help homeless kids.

Look here for one-click access to every issue of our newsletter.

newsletter design & all photos by Amanda Woods, an Our House VISTA except pgs 24 & 25 from Our House’s photo archive; pg 31, 38a, 39b by our supporters; pg 36 & 37 by David Measel, VISTA; pg 36-37 ad design by Felecia Cagle, VISTA © Amanda Woods / Our House 2011-2012

by Lara Assaf, Education & Workforce VISTA The Learning Center at Our House was excited to roll out a brand new Job Skills curriculum last month. Residents who have significant obstacles to employment can apply for the Job Training program, where participants develop employability, communication, and hard skills. The educational components of this program are our new Job Skills classes, which take place every morning, Monday through Thursday, in the Shelter. Classes cover dozens of different workplace topics such as Conflict Mediation and Resolution; Giving Notice and Requesting Time Off; and Sexual Harassment.

Left: In addition to the Job Skills classes led by CAHRA, Job Trainees meet daily to discuss workplace issues with Director of Client Services Justin Sanders. Above: Graduates from the Job Training program continue to be eligible to use the Learning Center to improve their education & job skills even after finishing their Job Training term. Learning Center Teacher Brenda Reagan helps Carl, who completed his Job Training position in 2009, prepare for his Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE).

But then came the worry: How can we bring in qualified experts to speak on these important topics every day for three months? Enter an amazing partner of the Learning Center, the Central Arkansas Human Resources Association (CAHRA). CAHRA’s Workforce Readiness Committee, dedicated to supporting community initiatives focused on workforce readiness, gladly stepped up to the massive volunteering commitment. In their meeting last month, CAHRA members enthusiastically filled every slot for the Job Skills classes. continued on pg 6

The Learning Center’s classes aren’t only for Job Trainees. Above: Parents, like Ashley, who live at Our House take parenting classes. Right: Hayse Q. Miller from Family Service Agency teaches a night class about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to parents, child care workers, & other interested students.

Their expertise has not gone unnoticed. The classes have become highly popular among the Job Trainees. “The classes have been interesting. I’ve learned a lot,” says Angel, a participant training in food service. “The class I liked most was ‘What Is A Good Worker?,’ which was about being on time, always being prepared, and being held accountable.”

The Learning Center is grateful for the eager generosity of the HR professionals from CAHRA that made these classes possible, and our Job Trainees feel the same. “I’m really looking forward to the topics coming up,” Angel added. “It’s going to be a good summer for us in the trainee program!” If you would like to volunteer in the Learning Center, please contact Michelle Salgado Allen, Learning Center Manager, at 501-374-7383 ext. 210 or at

by Melanie Brady-Hay, Family Life Summer VISTA The Learning Center works hard to connect our clients with potential employers. In the past, several wonderful companies have partnered with the Learning Center to link job hopefuls with employment, including U.S. Pizza, UAMS Campus Environmental Services, Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro, and Catering to You. These partners of the Learning Center recruit candidates for employment from the Our House residents and community members that use the Learning Center. The Learning Center supports our partners by pre-screening and preparing candidates for the workplace. We offer practice job interviews and advice, resume workshops, and job skills classes to prime our clients for a healthy, productive working environment. After this process, the Learning Center refers qualified clients to our employer partners with open positions. The Learning Center is excited to continue developing partnerships with employers in the community. Many of our job seekers are interested in the areas of housekeeping, child care, security, retail, customer service, and clerical work. The Learning Center will connect local employers with qualified individuals looking to further the goals of your company or organization. If you are an employer interested in tapping into a ready pool of applicants, please contact Michelle at 501-374-7383 ext. 210 or

Top right: Lara Assaf, Education & Workforce VISTA, points out some opportunities on the Job Board for Shundreka & explains how the Learning Center can help her meet the jobs’ requirements. Right: Michelle Salgado Allen, Learning Center Manager, studies resume samples and job search advice with Micah.

by Michelle Salgado Allen, Learning Center Manager The last time you read about Cynthia was when she was featured in our November newsletter. Cynthia had just taken on a Job Skills Training internship as a preschool teacher in our Little Learners Child Development Center and was working her way through the Moving UP education program. Participants of the program, or Job Trainees, connect with educational and hands-on opportunities to practice these skills in a realistic setting on the campus of Our House. Through this program, we provide trainees with the experience and education they need to launch their careers and rebuild their lives. And Cynthia has done just that. Thanks to her internship and hard work, she is developing valuable work skills, cultivating new life skills, and pursuing her educational goals. Cynthia says that she’s gained many great skills while here, but the most important thing she’s done for herself and her family is attend the Learning Center’s Money Matters course. “You pay yourself first. My grandmother used to say that to me all the time, but I never understood its importance until continued on pg 12 Photo: One of Cynthia’s favorite locations at Our House is the Family House backyard with its relaxing vegetable garden, planted by Our House’s own youth, next to a vine-covered pergola built by Eagle Scout volunteer groups.

Above: While Cynthia spends her summer serving Our House with AmeriCorps VISTA, her teenage son, Tarrance, enjoys his second year of My Picture Perfect Summer, an Our House youth program. Right: Cynthia completed her Job Skills internship as a preschool teacher in Our House’s Little Learners Child Development Center.

now.” Cynthia explains, “You have to do it every month, even if it’s just a few dollars. It all adds up.”

Today, Cynthia is a Moving UP graduate and has completed her Job Skills internship on campus. Now she is a full-time AmeriCorps Summer VISTA and serves the youth programs as part of the Summer Feeding Program. This new position allows her to apply her extensive knowledge of nutrition and menu planning to create healthy, delicious food for our littlest clients.

After her summer of service, Cynthia plans to shift her attention to pursue a degree and career in nutrition. “I know that I have the support and the ability to make it through college. It’s been a long road, but I’m ready now. Our House really does give you the chance to succeed, but it’s up to you to take advantage of it.”

by Michelle Salgado Allen, Learning Center Manager Sam arrived at Our House in the fall of 2011 after losing his job due to cutbacks at a local paper. After a long unsuccessful job search and the death of his younger sister, Sam found himself falling into a deep depression. He says those were some of his darkest days. “I had simply lost hope. I was a dinosaur in the writing world where everything had gone digital, and I wasn’t entirely sure I could repurpose myself.”

Sam came to Our House and embarked on another unsuccessful job search. “I left no stone unturned, but it seemed I had been ousted by a younger, more tech-savvy generation.” He knew he needed to connect with a new skill set that would open up other employment opportunities, so he decided to enroll in Job Skills and became an intern as a guard attendant on the Our House campus. He took part in the Moving UP education program as well and attended a 3-week computer skills course called Hands-On IT offered through the Learning continued on pg 16

Top left: Sam uses a computer in the Learning Center to keep up his blog. Left: Last fall, Ruth Scroggin donated a bike, in honor of her commuter-cyclist physical therapist, for a resident in need of transportation. Sam was the chosen recipient.

Joe Locke from Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management teaches Money Matters, a financial literacy class that is included in the Moving UP program.

Center. Although Sam was pessimistic about the impact of his efforts, he slowly began regaining confidence and fell naturally into a leadership role among his peers. The change in Sam was evident to the people around him, including the Our House staff. One day, during a mock job interview, Sam found himself being challenged to think about new career avenues. He mentioned that he loved to write but didn’t have much of an opportunity or an audience. Someone casually suggested he look into blogging. Sam wasted no time in pursuing the new writing opportunity and sought help from his computer skills teacher, volunteer Denise Palmer. He was soon set up with his own blog titled “Sam at 60.� The title seemed appropriate as he finally had a way to make his 60 years of life experiences work for him instead of against him.

by Sam, Learning Center Client Sam at 60 is a blog I began after my 60th birthday. It was designed to chronicle my life at age 60, along with my innermost thoughts and experiences. Subjects covered include sports, as I was a sportswriter for most of my 40-year media career; entertainment, especially movies past and present and my favorite music, usually country; and just everyday situations I would come across in my job as an observer in security here at the shelter or living at the Family House. I was good in the guard shack because I am an excellent observer. Still am.

Situations that I find particularly interesting are part of the plan, although for privacy issues I can’t name names or pinpoint certain locations, but if these walls could talk. Perhaps someday they will. I hope those clicking on the blog can be entertained as well as informed, and just maybe find a little of themselves and their experiences in mine.

I’ve done a lot of things people can only dream about, and I think it’s time to share some of those experiences. Come along for the ride, let me entertain you.

Told you before that in a past life, I was a sportswriter. I loved it. My mom once told me, “You don’t work; you just sit and type in an air-conditioned office and get in free to ballgames.” She may have been right. But it was good enough to do for about 25 of my almost 40 years in the media business. I’ve been fortunate enough to cover all kinds of pro sports around the Atlanta area and even got to cover Cardinal baseball at a paper in Little Rock. One of my plum assignments in Arkansas was daily coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals’ AA minor-league baseball team. Couldn’t wait to get to the ballpark most nights. In four years, we saw two Texas League championships. The ballpark itself was a special place, perfect for a summer night’s entertainment for folks six to sixty. Fun for all ages at the continued on pg 20

Photo: The former sportswriter likes to spend time on Our House’s backyard basketball court when he’s not on duty in the shelter.

right price. Some nights the promoter, a former big-league umpire, let people in free. I loved that old ballpark. Still do. But times change, and they built this new brick palace for the team, now an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, to play in across the river. Our old ballpark, once billed as “The Greatest Show on Dirt” and a place where it “never rained,” became obsolete, an eyesore overgrown with weeds. the local University hospital bought the land and planned to turn it into a parking lot. I wrote an award-winning column that borrowed from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi and lamented, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Obsolete. In the throes of great depression, I felt the same way. I, too, was obsolete, past my prime and out of time. So I had a wild dream one night that me and that ballpark would go out in a blaze of glory. I would sneak in there one night, douse myself in gasoline and set me and the park afire. Get rid of those weeds and maybe at least they would memorialize the stadium. I would likely be classified as just another nutcase, but you don’t care. You’re gonna be dead.

Kinda like the Adele song, Set Fire to the Rain. Ease the pain. Or at least pass it on. I will expound someday about how suicide, which took my sister’s life and sent me into depression, isn’t the answer.

Sam doesn’t limit his writing talent to blog entries. The quiet man also writes with a witty voice of leadership to encourage his housemates.

When I relayed that plan to the great folks in the local Mental Health Center, they put me in the Crisis Unit. You see, if someone has a plan to end it all, they have to take you seriously. En route, I was asked that by police, ambulance workers, hospital personnel. Not sure anybody took me seriously enough until I got to the Mental Health Center. Long story short, they got me into the Crisis Unit, which saved my life, getting me on the anti-depression medication I needed. That led to better days and on to this journey at the shelter, where I celebrated my year’s anniversary just this week. Leave it to my brother, though, to show me the biggest flaw in the whole suicide at the ballpark plan. continued on pg 22

The price of gasoline. I couldn’t afford it. Ah, my little brother, the sage. Something else noteworthy happened this week. I was working at the guard shack about 11:30 the other night, just a few minutes before the end of my shift, when a woman wandered in. She was 64 and had no place to go, seeming very disoriented. We also had no room at our inn, if she had qualified for the program. Normally we have to turn these people away, the worst part of our job, but as I got to gleaning information from her, I realized I was with her in the Crisis Unit a little over a year ago. Wow! What an eye-opener. We didn’t have many options with her, so I got her a Sprite and asked her if she wanted me to call the police to see if they could place her somewhere. I waited ’til after midnight when the police showed up and determined a trip to the hospital would be the best thing for her. She didn’t need another night on the streets. An ambulance came and took her away. Not once did she recognize me. It made me wonder what her life had been like the past year. And how lucky I was that someone was looking out for me. That I’m around people who care, family and friends. Definitely not obsolete. Don’t know about the old ballpark. There had been attempts to save it for the city’s youth, but money got in the way. Shame on somebody.

Our House was the first organization in the nation to offer “computer jobs� training to homeless people. This innovative approach to preparing homeless adults for the workforce brought national attention to Our House and landed our organization on the cover of the Wall Street Journal in the early 1990s.

Georgia Mjartan This month, Our House launched a new initiative that will help hundreds of families with school-aged children avoid homelessness. The Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute at Our House is funded by a $300,000 three-year grant from the Siemer Institute for Family Stability and is matched with a $100,000 grant from the Heart of Arkansas United Way. Our House believes that every child deserves stability at home and at school. It is on the basis of this principal and our knowledge of the gravity of need that we have taken on this tremendous programmatic expansion. The series of events that leads families into homelessness often begins with a job loss. Mom can no longer pay rent. She moves across the river to stay with a friend. Her kids end up sleeping on a couch, missing school and eventually changing schools mid-year. When that temporary living situation is now no longer an option, mom calls Our House seeking shelter. But our shelter is full. Last month, 225 people called Our House seeking shelter. Seventy-three of those in need were children. (We only have 40 beds in our women and children’s dorm—and most of them were full.) continued on pg 28

Photo: Monica & her three sons, Mariquarius, Marcus (pictured here with his mom during a family event at Our House), & Jamal, were one of the first families to join the new Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute at Our House.

When mom is out of options, she sends her kids to live with a relative. They switch schools again. They are separated from their parent. They have no friends. Their teachers do not know their names. Children who face homelessness get behind in school. More than a third repeat a grade. They have emotional and physical health problems. And by age 12, 83% have been exposed to at least one serious violent event. At the Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute at Our House, we will partner with families before they become homeless. We will wrap them in support, coaching them through the obstacles they face that could lead to homelessness and preparing them for long-term stability and success.

By helping stabilize the family’s situation, we will keep kids in the same school where they have been going—so they can have those life-changing relationships with teachers who know them. So they can have stability at school. and so that they can know what to expect tomorrow when they walk into the same classroom as yesterday, proud of having done their homework, prepared, knowing that they have a chance to be successful in school and in life. Knowing that their lives are not out of control and unpredictable. By creating the Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute, Our House has yet another way to help parents become stable, solid providers for their children. continued on pg 30

In the first year of operation, we will focus on 60 families—about 150 people—who were homeless at one time but have gotten out of that situation. Or who are near-homeless, who are floating from place to place, looking for stability but not yet finding it. In the next few weeks, we will hire several new staff members to provide this support to many more families and children than we are able to reach currently. The institute will be led by our Director of Client Services, Justin Sanders, a Masters-level Social Worker. Members of the institute—parents—will access our Learning Center, where they will take financial literacy courses; search for jobs; receive help with resumes; participate in practice job interviews; receive one-on-one budgeting assistance; and if they don’t have their high school diploma, we will help them get their GED. Many of the children enrolled in the institute will be able to attend our summer program, which runs for 8 weeks and then turns into an afterschool program which provides opportunities for academic and personal growth outside of the classroom. Our House, in partnership with the Heart of Arkansas United Way, is grateful for this chance to give hundreds of children a way out of poverty—a stable home, consistency at school—the foundation for a successful future.

Siemer Institute for Family Stability & Heart of Arkansas United Way donated the money to start the Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute at Our House. Left to Right: Justin Sanders, Director of Client Services, Our House; John Nazarro, President of Heart of Arkansas United Way; Ben Goodwin, Grants Manager, Our House; Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director, Our House; BJ Bowen, Vice President of Heart of Arkansas United Way.

Newsletter article is based on remarks made on June 28, 2012 at Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute Press Conference.

education Psychology BA & Graphic Design Minor, University of Central Arkansas Our House staff since August 2011

I maintain our food program by working with our many meal volunteers & other organizations that provide meals or food for the shelter. I also update our social media sites & website whenever Our House is in the news, & I maintain our relationship with partners.

We are ALWAYS looking for food donations. Every little bit helps!

I worked at the day care of the Fayetteville Athletic Club. Kids would come in for one or two hours at a time while their parents exercised. It was a lot of fun.

I feel like I can never thank all of the wonderful meal volunteers & partners enough for all that they do in my short VISTA year. We host an annual Partners Open House, have the Wall of Honor, & send thank-you notes to show our gratitude. It’s a start!

I wanted to be a veterinarian who never had to operate on the animals because they would all be in great health. Pretty optimistic!

education Sociology BA, Hendrix College Our House staff since August 2011

I build relationships with landlords, housing agencies, & firms as resources for residents searching for permanent housing. I work with former Our House residents to foster a continued sense of community outside of Our House with the ultimate goals of giving back & improving quality of life inside & outside of the shelter.

Managing expectations & working within a system where rental housing prices are skyrocketing.

I’m always around people driven by their passions & interests in an environment where people aren’t guided by a desire to compete but instead are fueled by cooperation.

I am considering counseling & working as a dietician, but the search continues. I want to continue to serve people in disadvantage, whether that disadvantage is physical, mental, or financial.

I play in a couple of rock bands, paint, play recreational sports, lift weights, hang with friends, & write universally unfunny jokes.

When I was 8 I was written up in a local newspaper as being a promising soccer player. I was completely average a couple of years later.

Don’t step on people to improve your position.




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David Measel Shelter Life Summer VISTA Our House benefitting Our House

Arkansas Local Food Network The Arkansas Local Food Network donated fresh produce.

City of Little Rock & Heifer International These groups donated office supplies.

Donna Redwood Donna donated professional clothing for our residents.

Go! Running Go! Running donated running shoes for kids & adults.

Glazer’s Distributers of Arkansas Glazer’s Distributors of Arkansas raised $9000 for Our House through their golf tournament.

Walton Family Foundation Representatives of Arvest Bank present $10,000 from the Walton Family Foundation for the Our House Children’s Center.

American Society of Interior Designers Members of the American Society of Interior Designers, South Central Chapter, present a $14,000 check to Our House, funds raised at Wine and Design.

Blue and You Foundation Patrick O’Sullivan, President of Blue and You Foundation presents a $50,000 grant to Our House for the implementation of a comprehensive health initiative. (Photo taken inside the Ronald McDonald House Mobile Dental Clinic.)

by Amber Hood, Volunteer Relations VISTA 13,978 children are homeless in Arkansas over the course of one year. They sleep on the streets, in abandoned buildings, and in cars. Since we don’t see them, they are easy to forget. To remember each homeless child as a real person and not just a statistic, Our House is collecting 13, 978 handmade birds to represent each child and his or her voice that often goes unheard. The birds can be drawn with crayons, sketched in pencil, crafted from scrapbook paper, or any other medium you choose. Each bird will be unique just as each child is unique. The only stipulations are that each bird must be twodimensional, no bigger than 8.5 x 11 inches, and cannot be made with glitter or perishable items. All birds can be hand-delivered to Our House’s volunteer coordinator or mailed to: Our House Attn: Volunteer Coordinator 302 E Roosevelt Rd Little Rock, AR 72206

Individuals Nash Abrams Twylla & Drew Alexander Sonya & Arthur Anderson Anonymous Donor Miranda Burchfield Baker Jennifer Carter Miles Chism Caroline Cook Tabietha & Bill Dillard Jami Eaves Bonnie & Robert Fincher Angela & Rebecca Frazier Jon Michael Haslauer Julia & Lyle Heim Sarah & Theodore Hood Amanda Hughes Lance King Robin Lake Susan Lee Derick Malone James Martin M.J. Orellano Evelyn Rose Guy Sallis Chris Schaffhauser Steven Self Sally & Robert Smith Annabelle C. Imber & Henry Tuck Bridget & Andrew Upchurch Angel & Drew Weber Jason Whittington Hardy Winburn Jodi Woods C. & Y.W.T. Yeung

Congregations Cathedral of St. Andrew Christ the King Catholic Church Church of the Immaculate Conception Jewish Federation of Arkansas Lakewood United Methodist Church St. Anne Catholic Church St. James United Methodist Church Government DHS: AmeriCorps HUD: Supportive Housing HUD: Transitions Pulaski County Organizations ASID South Central District Cabot Public Schools eStem Public Charter School National Dunbar/Horace Mann Alumni Association Corporations AT&T CDI Contractors, LLC GE Foundation U.S. Pizza Co. Vestcom Other Grants AR Community Foundation Share Our Strength Heart of Arkansas United Way Walmart Foundation Walton Family Foundation

All issues of Our House’s newsletter, packed with photos & information about our programs, clients, & supporters, are viewable on Click on one of the magazine covers on these pages to catch up on articles you missed or to re-read your favorites. An index of articles from our newsletter’s first year is in the May 2012 issue.

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