You will never see a more thrilled Executive Director than me watching the UPS guy pulling up to deliver a year’s supply worth of drug tests!! Thank you to the Minot Area Community Foundation for providing the YWCA with funding to purchase these tests. Many people who are living in Minot, and especially those who run various programs, will tell you that they have seen a prevalent drug problem with potential clientele. Because of the YWCA’s implementation of drug testing, we have seen a dramatic increase of success for those homeless women who want something better in their life. The YWCA’s Board of Directors and the very small team of staff members can be proud of the level of service provided and by our shelter program. We can say we are proud of the women who are successful in finding jobs and housing in the community of Minot, and who can say that they were not influenced by drug/alcohol use and the chaotic lifestyle that can accompany that behavior. At the YWCA shelter here, we have already seen a total of 7 failed drug tests for women really needing our services. This does not count the number of calls that we have had from potential residents who admit over the phone to not being able to pass a drug test and therefore cannot utilize the YWCA services. We have seen a variety of different drugs come up in our testing. The sad reality is that women are not getting the services they need due to addiction. Minot has a select few places we can refer those who cannot get into the YWCA, but often times they do not follow through. It’s probably hard enough to admit to using drugs to a stranger, and then to have to go somewhere else and tell another stranger can be really overwhelming.
I am sharing this story because in the 2 short years that I have been the Executive Director here at the Minot YWCA we have gone from allowing anyone to utilize our services in the hope that clients will come in and consider our facility as community living and therefore abstain from drug use, to now requiring a negative drug test result before intake. To hope that residents simply abstain is not realistic, as addiction is a bigger beast than people may realize. Since the implementation of drug testing, yes, we have seen a decrease in admissions, however the outcomes and the success rates far outweigh numbers. We did still serve 109 women and children last year, more than 2014.
Now, homeless individuals that come to us for help can be guaranteed a safe, quality place to live for their children and be given the opportunity to better their lives in all ways possible including holding clients accountable for their behaviors. Again, THANK YOU to Minot Area Community Foundation for helping the YWCA remain a drug-free, alcohol free environment that works to empower homeless women and their children! We could not succeed without your help!"
GINA'S JOURNAL, ENTRY 4
This week’s journal entry was going to be on bullying, as we have had issues regarding this over the past two weeks. However, a more pressing matter is the young mother of 5 children that came into the shelter homeless. Her children ranged from the ages of 6 months to 9 years-old. This mother has her hands full and arrived at our shelter with little to no support within Minot. The YWCA gave all the children an apple, generously provided by Salvation Army, an application packet for Head Start, and directions to the Lord’s Cupboard Food Pantry. The YWCA offers a community kitchen where women get to cook their own meals and we provide many food items that are donated from different organizations and the community. This is just one of many examples of how the YWCA Minot provides shelter to single mother families. This mother only stayed for the weekend but as I was leaving on that Friday I noticed that her vehicle was full to the brim with stuff, and what appeared to be bedding for the kids. This mother had said that they were sleeping in a park in a different town before driving to Minot and ending up at the YWCA.
This is an amazing reminder that homelessness can look many different ways. Hungry means a lot of different things. Please remember that if organizations such as ours, the DVCC, Men’s Winter Refuge, and the Homeless coalition were not in place, then the community would see a bigger, harsher presence of homelessness in Minot. Our organizations deal with homelessness on a daily basis as well as many other issues. There are reasons people are homeless, many of our clients do not chose that lifestyle.
The Community is welcome to take tours of the YWCA. Due to confidentially tours are by appointment only. If you would like an inside look of our shelter rooms, apartments, and offices, please give me a call.
GINA'S JOURNAL, ENTRY 3
"She packed up all her items, turned in her key and left."
What an exciting week already, and it’s only Tuesday. Reports have come in that a shelter resident has been meeting men who have driven by and seen her sitting outside. Staff has noticed her provocative clothing as she says sunbathing helps her diagnosis of MS. This may be the reason – BUT……in front of the shelter, where women have come to us to escape situations just like this is not acceptable. Some women are escaping abuse of all kinds, including victims of sex trafficking, drugs, alcohol, or mental illness, all of which often go hand in hand. Today as I drove up to the shelter at 9am, as usual, she was at the back of the building in her bikini. This time I noticed a man sitting in his car across the street – the same man that picks her up and gives her a ride to work, and I was well aware that he was probably watching her. I stood in my office and watched for a while, and she did get in the car with him. She came back with a bag of stuff from the store. She then made her way to the staff offices stating that she was going to live in a tent at the fairgrounds until Monday at which time she would have a place to stay. She packed up all her items, turned in her key and left.
"I truly believe that if Minot had an enforcement team to help these women that are victims of
sex trafficking, we could all work together."
Stories just like this happen often. Sometimes I am not 100% sure it is happening, but more often than not, I am pretty sure I know exactly what is going on. However, how do you approach that person and say hey, “I know what you are doing, and I can help you.” Some women can be very stand-off ish while they are here, or are hard to approach or don’t come to staff for help other than bus tokens. I truly believe that if Minot had an enforcement team to help these women that are victims of sex trafficking, we could all work together. I could have called law enforcement or an advocate to come and just watch the behavior and attempt to approach this woman from a ‘helping place’ rather than approaching them as if they were in the wrong.
Two days later, this woman called asking if she could come back into the shelter because her situation fell through. I’m not sure if she meant the tent situation or the supposed housing she had in place after she was going to stay in a tent. I let her know that our policy says if you choose to leave without finishing the 60 day program, it is required that you wait 6 months before staying at our facility again. This is to spread out resources and hopefully make it understood that homelessness can be chronic and have a high recidivism rate, especially if one chooses not to use the resources to put supports in place.
I got a referral call from federal probation on the 24th. The referral was for a young woman, who is heavily pregnant, with an addiction to methamphetamine and suffering from breast cancer, undergoing chemo treatments. Wow…what a heavy load for this one woman to carry. After her intake, I learned she had 4 other children, and that she was thinking of giving the one she was carrying up for adoption. What a stressful time in such a young person’s life. Can you imagine not having a place to live while battling 2 toxic diseases – yes, addiction is a disease, all while pregnant? In many addiction rehabs, treatments and courses they often compare addiction to cancer, as far as the ‘disease’ is considered. It makes me emotional thinking about her struggle. Besides giving her a safe place to stay with support in place to help her through the addiction, what is an organization to do? She is actively sick from chemo treatments – how could the fetus be doing? This is a situation that truly makes me tear-up and that I could only dream of making her life a little easier.
Gina’s Journal, Entry 1 – 7/20/2015
“Lois* was used to living her life worried about her son, but she did not think she would need to be worried about how she would be treated.”
This is my last week at work before I take my vacation. I will be gone for two whole weeks in Montana – and getting married – yay!! Getting everything in order before I leave feels like a chore, but thankfully I have other employees now… unlike last year. This week is a time of big changes. A resident in one of the upstairs apartments, Ms. Lois is leaving. She has been at the YWCA facility for close to a year and has become a joy to see every day! She came to the YWCA as a referral through Adult Protective Services. She came to us as a 65-year-old woman who was living with her daughter-in-law after moving in with her to help take care of her son and his wife’s child – while her son was doing time in prison. Lois was used to living her life worried about her son, but she did not think she would need to be worried about how she would be treated. While Lois was attempting to help with her grandchild, she began to be verbally abused to the point where she could no longer take it. I learned upon Lois’s arrival with a APS worker that she had a big personality, but she had seemed apprehensive and scared. I showed her to the emergency shelter room on the main floor of our building and Lois settled in, and shortly became everyone’s favorite. She makes people laugh, she listens to their stories, and she voices her opinion. She is the peacemaker in the shelter, helping the different personalities come together.
“She has an amazing story of cervical and breast cancer survival”
As I met with Lois, she really did not have any idea of where she may end up, but she wanted to stay in Minot until her son got out of Prison. As luck would have it, one of the YWCA’s Permanent Supportive Housing Units became free. Lois qualified for the apartment and moved from the shelter into a 1-bedroom apartment on the third floor. Lois really blossomed while staying here. She has an amazing story of cervical and breast cancer survival, loss of parents and siblings, and lost her children to prison and bad behavior.
Lois helped new women coming in to the shelter by showing them around, letting them know the ropes and truly being a positive influence to others. Despite all of her colorful life experiences, she has managed to continue laughing, smiling and bringing joy to the other shelter residents. She has renamed the donations room, filled with generous donations from the community, the “Boutique”. This way, the women feel as if it’s not a handout of something to be ashamed of, but rather a place to go shopping for things they do not have. Lois has been a spokesperson for the shelter and has stood as a feature speaker at the Women of Distinction Banquet.
Lois has called the YWCA the best kept secret of downtown Minot, with no signs to label the building as a shelter or the YWCA. She has expressed that she truly feels that the YWCA shelter and Housing Unit has given her a safe, secure place where she feels comfortable. She ‘loves her little apartment.’
“She is the definition of a survivor and what it means to embrace every day for what it is”
Recently Lois came to me saying that she was moving back to the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. She was a nanny to a young lady, “Sissy,” from the time Sissy was 7 years old and she is now 30 years old with her own children. Lois has friends all over the nation, but Sissy has always kept in touch. Sissy has asked Lois to come back and help her by living with her and taking care of her children, as well as just being back where she belongs. Lois is leaving her apartment and moving to Mississippi on Friday. This is a sad day for anyone who has grown to love Lois and all that she brings to other women, the YWCA and Minot. She is the definition of a survivor and what it means to embrace every day for what it is, living in the moment and knowing that having a positive attitude and laughing at yourself and WITH the people around you is necessary to cope with life’s many non-stop challenges.
This is the final thing I will say about Lois, because I get emotional – she has made my days here as the Director very bright. I have cried with Lois, I have yelled at her to reel her back in, and most importantly I have laughed and shared with her. She has respect for women and their stories, she listens, and she is honest and direct. I will keep in touch with Lois, because she has made a direct impact on my life. I wish her nothing but the best of luck in life, and I will think of her often.
*permission obtained for names to be used.