in the news template blog-list | Saint John’s Program for Real Change
 
         

Dr. Mark – A gift to Saint John’s

“What Are We Painting Today?….Us!” What is it that keeps someone coming back to Saint John’s as a volunteer for over 11 years? It’s a few things, but most importantly, it’s the heart of the person. One such volunteer is Dr. Mark Johnson, a retired physician with an amazing talent for using his heart and art to reach and touch the souls of the ladies who live here. How does…

Saint John’s Teen Circle

Saint John’s Teen Circle: Making a Difference, One New Friend at a Time By: Eden Collier   When eleven students from St. Francis High School decided to band together to make a difference, we didn’t realize how much the experience would change us. We launched Saint John’s Teen Circle two years ago to support Saint John’s Program for Real Change by volunteering at the center and organizing fundraisers and supply…

Zenn for Good

It truly takes a village to do what we do here at Saint John’s Program for Real Change.  Behind the red doors at Saint John’s is an exceptional group of community supporters, donors, volunteers, and staff united in an effort to reduce homelessness in our community. These incredible partners support women who refuse to settle for the status of homelessness and take steps toward a better life not only for…

Patricia’s Journey

Patricia’s journey to taking charge of her own life began when she made the decision to escape an abusive relationship that had held her captive for 4 years. Leaving Sacramento, her hometown, she found refuge in Missouri living with her dad. However, the emotional toll of the abuse followed her and not being able to hold onto a job, she began drinking to numb the feelings that sought to overtake…

A Different Kind of Change

When asked what life was like before coming to Saint John’s, Brittany doesn’t hesitate to say, “I was addicted and co-dependent in New York City.” She grew up in Sacramento and received a scholarship to the New York School of Film and Television, with her heart set on acting. After graduating, she needed a job to pay for her lifestyle, one with the flexibility to accommodate auditions. Her job in…

Deep Water

Tracy is no stranger to deep waters. She spent a happy childhood with her family on the Jersey Shore and moved to the Bay Area at 13. She traveled with them “across the pond” to venture through Europe at 18. She even went scuba diving with them in Mexico. And while those waters hold sweet family memories of love and stability and adventure, when Tracy went off to college, she…

Poverty and Childhood

This month’s blog is written by the son of one of our staff members, Jessica. Jessica and her son Dwayne were residents at Saint John’s when Dwayne was just a young boy. Today, Jessica is employed at Saint John’s full-time as a Client Services Coordinator and Dwayne is a student at Sierra College. As I’m sure you’ll see in the blog, Dwayne captures the struggles that he and his mom…

Creating a New Kind of Home

When I first met Vanessa in 2019, what struck me most was her quiet confidence. She appeared calm when focusing on her five children (ages 2-9), composed when encountering customers at Plates Café, and projected an overall sense of being in total control. Little did I know the true story behind Vanessa’s kind eyes. When asked what life was like before coming to Saint John’s, Vanessa replies with one word, “Chaotic.”  While chaos…

Casie’s Real Change

  “I can’t believe the change in me!” Those are the first words out of her mouth as Casie J. shares with me her experience at Saint John’s. Struggling with addiction and lured into drug dealing by the money to be made, Casie’s life began to spiral after her divorce. She’d had a history of periods of sobriety interspersed with lapses into using, dealing and jail time. After her last…

Distance Learning – The Return of the One-room School House

  Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.  In fact, I dreamed about what it would be like to run a one-room school house, like on Little House on the Prairie.  Little did I know that I would one day do just that, but in a very different way, in a very different time, and with very different students. With six weeks of distance learning under…

The Luckiest Year

It is Chinese New Year 2020, the Year of the Rat, and a cold, dark January evening here in Sacramento. Rats, as I have read in Chinese lore, represent resilience and rat years are supposed to be years of rejuvenation and renewal. I see this as a positive sign as I head out to meet some friends for an evening at Saint John’s Program for Real Change. We are hosting…

CCTRP in the Days of COVID

Like every other part of our lives in the days of Pandemic 2020, life at Saint John’s Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program (CCTRP) has found a new status quo.  Everything has been affected from the way clients arrive, the daily chores, classes, employment, shopping, schooling, and even when they leave. Arrival. Today, as I write this blog, we are welcoming five new clients arriving from two different institutions. Typically,…

Remembering Frankie Cook

On Sunday, August 16, 2020, a very dear friend of mine, and the Saint John’s family, Frankie Cook, was called home to heaven. I think for most of us who knew and loved her, it still does not feel entirely real. I met Frankie in 2008 when I came to work for St. John’s Shelter, now known as Saint John’s Program for Real Change. I was recruited to start a…

Déjà Vu

Christina C. has been walking through the doors of Saint John’s for almost 10 years. She came to Saint John’s as a victim of domestic violence as well as her own substance abuse. “With most drug addiction you are also addicted to relationships,” she explains.  Today, as a substance use disorder counselor and case manager at Saint John’s, she counsels and supports women like her former self though all the milestones…

It Was Time

  It was time… this time, for sure. Heather B. tells me that a lifetime of bad choices, abusive relationships and drug abuse had brought her to Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Finding herself sleeping, once again, on friends’ couches at age 44, she said it was finally time to end the “roller coaster” that she’d been on for most of her life. In March of 2019, Heather entered,…

A Fresh Start

Three months may not seem like a long time, but for Morgan G., the past three months have been the difference between a life of drugs and homelessness and a life of safety, community and responsibility. Morgan came from an alcoholic and abusive family, and she began abusing drugs, primarily methamphetamines, at 17. Suicidal at one point, she moved from place to place, “enabled by those who didn’t really want…

Rollercoaster

Round and round and round we go. So many of our clients at Saint John’s, women who are trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction, abuse and poverty, women who were raised in families wrought with domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, mental illness and dysfunction, are desperate for a way out. Breaking this cycle is no small feat, one that may be insurmountable for many, but at Saint John’s, women…

The Sound of Optimism

It is odd to “interview” someone via phone, though, during this shelter-in-place time, it seems to be the way we have to do things. In talking with Virginia C., the optimism and hope were palpable in her voice! She was so proud of herself and hopeful for the future, and I could sense her happiness immediately.  Diagnosed with Hepatitis C, Virginia was seriously ill and unable to work effectively at…

A Safe Place

We are in the midst of an historic time, a time of a pandemic that has required extraordinary sacrifice from every American. COVID-19 has strained our health system and our economy, and has forced us indoors to “shelter in place.” For Alyse R., this shelter in place is a better alternative than living on the streets with her eight-year-old son, JT. Diagnosed with autism at a young age, JT is…

A Double Rainbow in the Storm

Looking for some good news during this Covid-19 pandemic and shutdown? Look no further than to Saint John’s Program for Real Change and two young former residents of the program… Athena and Dwayne – both now high school seniors – both heading on to great things after living at Saint John’s with their moms, former clients in our program. Athena is a senior at Grant High School, and after being…

Tenacity and Triumph

Kelli is the type of person everyone is happy to see. She has a grace and ease about her and she works hard to have a positive outlook on life. Just a few short years ago, this was not the case, as she arrived at Saint John’s having endured 30 years of addiction and abuse. In the fall of 2018, Kelli graduated from Saint John’s Employment Training Program after an…

Ariel’s Awakening

We are so proud and honored to have been contacted by our state’s First Partner Jennifer Newsom, who invited Saint John’s client Ariel B. to serve as her personal guest to attend the Governor’s State of the State Address at our state capitol on February 19. Ms. Newsom remembered Ariel by name after having toured Saint John’s in the fall, and was incredibly moved by her story, her determination and…

Sabrina’s Voice

It’s not often that one meets a classically-trained opera singer, much less one who is a resident at Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Meet Sabrina — here since November after years of living in an abusive relationship and spiraling into depression and alcohol abuse. Sabrina earned a BA and MA in Classical Voice and sang and toured the world with the San Francisco State Chamber Choir for years. How,…

Kinetic KIZZIE

Some people just radiate energy and optimism; that’s the case with Kizzie. She made me smile––and even laugh with her––from the moment I met her. Whether she realizes it or not, that personality is a key part of her whole story. Energy may not always be a good thing; it needs to be directed positively, and for much of Kizzie’s life, it surely wasn’t. An angry young person prone to…

No Looking Back

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes” —Shellee H.’s mantra Shellee H. started using drugs at 18 when her brother died. She’s been to prison three times and to the county jail 25 times. She’s spent time on the streets and lost custody of her son. But make no mistake — she feels blessed today because of Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Dates and details are very important to Shellee:   – 5/17/2019…

Behind a Pretty Face

Heart wrenching to see, and maybe even harder to understand are the depths to which one can fall with addiction. But witnessing one rise out of that chasm and go on to live a full life is an inspiration and a blessing. Katrina is a case study for us all. Raised in a loving family, Katrina was a hard-working young girl who does not fit the profile we might imagine…

Standing On Her Own

Trapped in a marriage with an overbearing, controlling husband, Sarah ultimately turned to alcohol and opioids to cope. While the abuse never became physical, Sarah’s husband would not allow her to work, nor have friendships with anyone “on the outside,” and led her to believe that she could not survive without him and his financial support. After 10 years together and three years of marriage, she gathered up the courage…

Sweet Dreams Come True

At the age of 27, Whitnee M. was a single mother of two living in an abusive relationship. With her children safely staying with their father, Whitnee unfortunately followed her then boyfriend down a dark path of drug addiction and homelessness. It wasn’t until two years later as she sat staring at her children’s school pictures that she realized that something needed to change. “They had grown so much without…

From Ghost to Glory

“I had no voice as a child, and I thought the world was just a dark place.” Imagine feeling like that as a little one … no one really caring, no one paying any attention, feeling “invisible.” No father in the home, a mother battling depression, no teacher acknowledgement, and seemingly no reason to work for anything because no one would care anyway. You are a ghost in the world….

Soaring to New Heights

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life . . . The process is its own reward.” -Amelia Earhart  “Yes! Like Amelia Earhart,” she said, as she introduced herself with a smile.  Amelia S. is an intelligent woman with a kind smile…

Before and After

Saint John’s, a “Before and After” View: Michelle MacLellan Ever wonder how Saint John’s went from 20 homeless women on the steps of St. John’s Lutheran Church in 1985 to a full residential program for over 250 women and children? For some of the answers, we asked Michelle MacLellan, executive assistant to our Interim CEO, Marc Cawdrey. Michelle started a career at St. John’s in 2001 as a “temp” worker…

Taking Control

Originally from St. Croix on the U.S. Virgin Islands, Deja has good memories of living with her mom and five siblings. “Growing up on the islands was nice – playing all day long, running through the grass.” But, by the time she reached her sixth birthday, her carefree life had changed with a move to Miami, Florida. Her two oldest siblings stayed with family on the island and she quickly…

Teens Model Saint John’s Program for Real Change Values

Empowering women….clearly a most important goal for Saint John’s Program for Real Change. It’s interesting, then, that a group of teenage girls has already embodied that goal and is helping the women at Saint John’s by forming their own volunteer circle of help. Started this year by sophomore St. Francis students Amelia Barkett and Anna Kate Cwynar, the group that calls themselves the Teen Circle has decided to work on…

Helping Children Thrive

Casually swinging his enormous battle axe at nearby intruders, the almost human form dressed in black helmet and knight’s plate armor made his way through rundown wood houses and abandoned football stadiums, looting every weapon in sight. If this video game character happens to be “eliminated” by his counterparts, he simply disappears with no pain or consequence. . . a stark contrast to Travis, the 11-year-old Fortnite enthusiast’s reality where…

Sister Act

There is so much behind-the-scenes work that makes a place like Saint John’s Program for Real Change work. The public can see and read about the mission and the results, but what it takes to actually make it all run is almost overwhelming to consider. So, when folks want to become a part of the program by volunteering, there are so many ways to volunteer. Enter Carol Hood and her…

Finding Courage

  “They had faith in me, they uplifted me and provided me with the tools and the structure I needed.”   Fist fights, petty theft, vandalism, loitering, three DUIs, sleeping in the park and abandoned crack houses, smoking dope, up for days at a time and addicted to meth. Add to that an abusive girlfriend who beat her repeatedly, giving her two black eyes and a broken leg. Irais was…

Second Chances

 “I am blessed to have found Saint John’s. This program has changed my life.”   “I’ve learned that if you want something different, you have to DO something different; you have to change everything,” observes Alexandria J., a Saint John’s client and next week’s class representative who will speak on behalf of the 15 graduates walking the stage next Thursday, September 5 at Saint John’s Graduation Ceremony and Guest Chef…

Change for the Children

“My children were my motivation. When I wake up, they’re the first things on my mind” Mother to twins Janeya and Jovanni (now 3), Carmen became a prostitute at age 14 to support her cocaine habit. She got sober while pregnant with the twins, but relapsed after they were born, eventually ending up homeless due to her debilitating addiction. She learned about Saint John’s from her friend Antoinette, an alumna…

Hope and Healing

“You give it your all and it works; it changes your life.” Let’s face it… we may have certain images in mind when we think of “the homeless.” Stereotypes are part of life, but, so often they simply categorize without helping us to look deeper. Such is the case when you meet Mandy, a single mom with two teenage boys, Robby (15) and Caleb (13). Wearing a pretty dress and…

Seeing from a Different Perspective

Life can be hard sometimes…and for some, much harder than for others. Some things we can control, while some things we cannot. Imagine, then, being born with a severe visual impairment so that you could never see things unless they were extremely close to your eyes? Imagine your eyes always moving, but never seeing clearly. You use braille but can also read, as long as the print is extra large,…

Rebuilding my Family

“Saint John’s taught me how to be a mother again, and they provided me with the skills I needed to have a career.” After the death of her mother, Natisha was overwhelmed with stress. She began experimenting with drugs and settled on meth to mask the pain. Over the course of her 10-year addiction, she lost her job and her apartment and was living in a tent by the river…

Piece by Piece

One of the challenges of memorializing the life of a Saint John’s graduate is how to capture the real story. These women have come from places and pasts so drastically different from our own, and yet, they are more full of hope and happiness than most anyone you have ever met. That’s what makes their stories so powerful. After graduating from Saint John’s, Shayla moved away to start a new life….

Beyond My Wildest Dreams

“The staff at Saint John’s loved me until I could love myself.” Suffering verbal, mental and physical abuse by her boyfriend, Carmen became severely depressed and turned to meth to self-medicate. Her life had spiraled out of control, as she alternately lived on the streets and couch-surfed, resulting in CPS removing five-year-old daughter Olivia (now 10) from her custody and placing her in foster care. Olivia was later adopted by…

Beginning to Know Myself

I met Jennifer after she had finished a shift managing some of the other ladies working in the residential campus kitchen…..hot and tired, she had an air of calm confidence that impressed me immediately. Here was a smart lady who, at 42, finally knew what she had to do to move forward in her life. Pregnant at 15 with son Adrien, married at 16 and divorced at 17, Jennifer actually…

Committed to a Better Life

“While I was at Saint John’s, I didn’t have to worry about rent – I could focus on my goal and my plan.” In and out of jail all her life and addicted to drugs from age 16, Karen spent three years in prison for aggravated identity theft, yet still rebounded to her dysfunctional lifestyle upon her release at age 30. When her son Kyren (now 6) started kindergarten, she…

A Story of Strength and Determination

It was rainy outside when I met Mynica, but her smile immediately brightened the day. Her story, a complex web of ins and outs, ups and downs, struggles and hopes left me wondering just where to start in trying to describe this beautiful lady and her journey. Mynica was one of three children being “raised” by an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother. “Neenie” was the middle child in every sense of the…

Mighty Melissa

Upon reflection, she knows she made some very ill-judged choices in her early life. But in a misdirected search for acceptance, she repeatedly took injudicious steps and reached a cycle of despair, only to find a way to escape and a path to self-awareness and well-being. Melissa is 33 years old, the mother of 9-year old Jayden. She is a newlywed and employed with a steady income and benefits. It…

Finally Felicia

When Felicia underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2006, little did she know that this procedure would produce the opposite result for which it was intended: instead of leading to improved health, it resulted in an addiction to opioids. When she could no longer get her hands on pain meds, she turned to meth, and from there, it was a twisted, agonizing downward spiral. “When you take opioids, your body starts…

She is Risen

Resurrection, rebirth, renewal are all words we will hear a lot this week, but these are words that we live by, every day, at Saint John’s. When women and children arrive at our doors, the joy and exuberance that is life is missing from their eyes, from their faces, from their souls. They are broken, they are exhausted, they are desperate. Rock bottom seems like a step up. We embrace…

Stephanie

Stephanie’s Serendipity

As a single mother of three, living paycheck-to-paycheck was a way of life. Stephanie became the sole parent of her family in 2014, when her husband was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison for beating her. For years, the beatings had gone unreported, as he repeatedly threatened to kill her and their son if she reported the abuse, even going so far as to destroy her cell phone…

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