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Issue: "Four horsemen of the apocalypse," Oct. 4, 2008

McKinney, now ATR's coordinator for faith-based programs, said many faith-based organizations are new and loosely structured, and some were reluctant to change their way of operating. But McKinney said he believes ATR has helped faith-based groups build a solid structure and learn how to sustain themselves once their ATR grant runs out.

Mercy Housing and Shelter-the organization that runs Catherine's Place-received ATR money in the first phase of the grant, but now it has turned to other revenue sources. Working together has benefited both faith-based organizations and traditional agencies, McKinney said: Faith-based providers are making new connections, and traditional agencies are rethinking their stereotypes of faith-based organizations.

McKinney said faith-based providers are well-equipped to handle people's mistakes and lapses back into addiction because they "understand redemption and work with you on your recovery, and not place judgment or penalize you because that is part of the healing process." Kirk said if you look at the names of the faith-based providers they were funding, just the names themselves are more hopeful: "It sounded like a group that could help you as opposed to a bureaucratic addiction treatment program. . . . They reflected renewal."

When it comes to disappearing into the black hole of homelessness, Debbie says she sometimes feels helpless since a lot depends on "the competency and efficiency of the people in the government programs." But she says Catherine's Place is different from the other places she's stayed, even though the stated purpose and structure were the same.

At the other shelters, the residents were a better resource than the staff when trying to find medical help, clothing, counseling, and job help. "It's haphazard and it's potluck at best," Debbie said. At Catherine's Place, "There's greater sincerity here and actual concerted effort made to help the clients." Right now, the staff is trying to help Debbie get the prescriptions she needs. They cost $4,000 a month so she is going without two of the dozen she usually takes, including the anti-depressant she has taken for 15 years.

According to Catherine's Place rules, she must either volunteer or work. Because of her medical conditions, she can no longer work as a nurse so she volunteers at a telephone support program for recovering addicts. Sometimes she works as a greeter at the parish that helps with Catherine's Place. She said it restores some of her self-respect and makes her feel useful: "You're treated with respect here."

Her eyes filled up with tears-partly because she still lacked her anti-depressants but partly out of gratitude, she said. "When you become homeless your self-respect takes such a dive. The staff here helped give me my dignity back just with the way they conduct themselves and with how they treat me day to day. . . . I wish I'd fallen here first instead of somewhere else."

*Name changed to protect confidentiality


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