Walking alongside many on their journey
Through her many years of assisting the homeless gain housing, Marilyn Karst, Rapid Re-Housing case manager for Catholic Charities, has witnessed clients experience many ups and downs. She has walked alongside many, serving as their advocate, personal cheerleader and, sometimes, sole support.
None more than Greg, a chronically homeless man whom Marilyn began working with in 2022. Not counting the occasional cold night when he would pay for a hotel room or slept in one of the cold-weather shelters, Greg has lived 40 of his 58 years on the streets. He often lived in a tent by the Arkansas River.
Working with Greg to secure an apartment
Greg had a daily routine. He would eat breakfast at Breakthrough, lunch at Open Door and dinner at The Lord’s Diner. He was so worried about someone stealing his personal possessions, that he carried just one backpack with him. All his other items were divided into other backpacks, and either buried or hidden all over downtown Wichita.
Marilyn helped him secure a studio apartment at HumanKind. At the lease signing, Greg smiled as tears streamed down his face, repeatedly saying,
“I’m never giving up or losing this place: I can’t believe I finally have a home.”
After the lease signing, Marilyn drove him around town to gather all of his backpacks. She provided him a packet of hygiene items, and took him to Our Daily Bread Food Pantry at Catholic Charities to get food. They returned from His Helping Hands with a bed and some furniture.
Only a small part of the journey
It turned out that finding Greg a place to live was only a small portion of the battle. After 40 years of surviving on the streets, Greg did not know many of the things most 58-year-olds take for granted; activities like operating a thermostat, cooking on a stovetop or in an oven, doing laundry, or getting a money order to pay bills. He has mental health and memory issues. So, Marilyn posted instruction sheets throughout his apartment.
Marilyn has frequent contact with Greg. Each month she takes him to Our Daily Bread and other food pantries, to get his haircut or to get a money order to pay his portion of the rent. She visits weekly to make sure his apartment is clean, and checks in with his landlord to make sure there are no concerns. She worked to get him a Section 8 housing voucher so when his rental assistance through Catholic Charities ends, he will continue to have financial assistance to remain housed.
Marilyn Karst, Rapid Rehousing
Ups and downs working with the homeless
Things were going well, until Greg went missing earlier this year. He was not answering his phone and his landlord had not seen him. Marilyn called the hospitals, looked at jail records and reached out to other homeless service providers. Eventually, he showed up at Open Door for lunch and a case manager there called Marilyn.
Greg shared that he had invited a homeless friend he had known for years to stay at his apartment during a rainstorm. That person brought more people and before Greg knew what was happening, they had taken over his apartment, stolen his phone and money, and locked him out. They trashed his apartment.
Greg continues to check in with Marilyn
Not knowing what to do, he went back to the only life he had known. When he reconnected with Marilyn after going to lunch at Open Door, she coordinated with the landlord to get him back into his apartment and change the locks. He was facing eviction due to the state of his apartment, so staff from Catholic Charities, HumanKind and United Way worked with him to clean it up.
Today, more than nine months after first becoming a Rapid Re-Housing client with Catholic Charities, Greg still checks in with Marilyn often. However, being in one place long term is a new experience and it is not always comfortable for him. Greg periodically returns to what feels more normal and goes back to the streets for several days at a time. Marilyn understands that this cycle will likely continue, yet still worries about him until they reconnect.
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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.