Staff in St. Anthony kitchen preparing meals for families in shelter.
While some answer the call to help those living in poverty through charitable giving, for Ann Nash, program director at St. Anthony Family Shelter at Catholic Charities, the call is answered with daily action.
“Working for Catholic Charities is more than a job, it’s a heart thing,” Nash said recently as she reflected on 20 years with the organization, including the past 18 years at St. Anthony Family Shelter. “The Bible talks a lot about God’s love for people living in poverty and about our responsibility to help those in need.
“Knowing that I can answer ‘yes’ to my Father when he asks me about Matthew 25:31-40 blesses my soul,” she said.
Through the generosity of donors and grantors, Nash’s team is able to provide the food, drink, clothing, shelter and comfort that is referenced in Matthew’s parable of the sheep and goats.
Shelter dedicated to family
Nash said many factors contribute to the often chronic and generational poverty that families face when coming to St. Anthony, the only shelter in Wichita solely dedicated to families. Helping the community understand the barriers that some families face is one reason January is nationally designated as Poverty Awareness Month.
“We can put families in housing, but until we deal with the source of what caused the homelessness, we will continue to see recidivism,” Nash said. “Chronic and generational homelessness will persist until families address areas such as employment training, illiteracy, budgeting, child care, transportation, substance abuse and mental illness. We need to address those issues and give them the tools to be successful in maintaining housing.”
Seeds for Success
Catholic Charities is providing employment assistance for some SAFS clients through its year-old Seeds for Success program.
Funded through a generous estate gift to Catholic Charities from the late Norman Warminski and with additional funding from a Community Services Block Grant, the Seeds program benefited 93 people in 31 different families through employment assistance by the end of September 2020.
“We had 78 percent of clients obtain employment in an average of 21.56 days,” said Matthew Tannehill, director of mission development and strategic initiatives for Catholic Charities. Several of the clients were hired by local employers who are partnering with Catholic Charities.
Matthew Tannehill pictured with St. Anthony Counselor, Shaun Estrada, and clients hired through the Seeds for Success program.
Expanding the Program
Expanding the Seeds staff beyond one person will help address some of the challenges Tannehill identified in the first year of the program, such as the need for intense case management and financial literacy education.
Both areas are being addressed through positions paid for with outside funding. A financial literacy coordinator is providing financial education and one-on-one coaching for clients. That position is funded by a grant from and partnerships with Catholic Charities USA and AmeriCorps.
An employment case manager is being funded through CSBG CARES funding. This team member provides intensive employment case management and long-term support of Seeds participants, and teaches employment and life skills classes.
Currently, SAFS is considered an emergency shelter, meaning that clients can stay for a maximum of 30 days. That often is not enough time to deal with the underlying issues of homelessness which brought the family into shelter, Nash said. She looks forward to the day when SAFS can offer wrap-around services to families and, possibly, longer stays.
“A 45-60 day stay at the shelter would provide us time to address the real issues of homelessness,” she said.
Learn more about St. Anthony Family Shelter
We would like to hear from you! Call 316-264-8344 or Email us:
St. Joseph Pastoral Center
437 North Topeka st.
Wichita. KS 67202-2431
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Wichita is a 501(c)(3). All gifts are tax-deductible.
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316-264-8344 ext. 1262
The Wichita Diocese covers 20,021 square miles and includes 25 counties in the southeast corner of the state. It is home to over 114,000 Catholics in 90 parishes.