Chadwick Residence and Red Cross

Gay Montague began our program with a community-building exercise. She asked us to visualize that our home was no longer safe, that we had to leave for issues of physical or emotional safety, and could take nothing with us. With all items lost, we were asked to feel our emotions, and put a name to them. Then visualize that someone comes and offers friendship, food, and a safe place. Again what did we feel? She summarized that despair is replaced with a home, loneliness gives way to comfort, and loss turns to gratitude.

Cindy Barletta, Executive Director, Chadwick Residence

Chadwick Residence provides supportive transitional housing to single women or women with one or two children for up to two years. Cindy has spent over twenty years working in the area of human services. She was formerly with the Salvation Army and also has worked with Child and Family Services. As a mother of two teenage daughters (one accompanied her to the meeting), her concerns for women’s issues are paramount. Chadwick Residence is the local agency that we will be sponsoring at the March 19th International Dinner.

Cindy explained that she has been at Chadwick Residence only since April, and she wears many hats. Since the staff is small, she is responsible for public relations and publicity, trash management, crisis intervention, and just about anything that comes up. But this hands-on approach is the main reason she wanted the job, as previous positions have left her feeling too distant from those that she was trying to help.

Chadwick Residence was opened in September 1986 and and was named for former board member Axilda Chadwick. It provides supportive transitional housing for up to two years, affording opportunities for safe housing, self improvement, parenting skills training, career guidance, and continuing education. Referrals come primarily from battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, and a variety of other social service agencies, churches, and schools. Some of these women have been released from the Justice Center or prison. The Residence is a former convent, with space for 12 single women, and 5 women with one or two children (though these small families still share a single, larger room). The Residence has a small playroom and some community living space, but the home is crowded, and staff becomes family to its residents. The emotional support aspect of Chadwick is essential, helping women make the changes they need to make; without it these women quickly revert to chronic homelessness.

Case management is comprehensive, not only connecting with Medicaid and public assistance, job training and doctors, but also helping the women address the questions “How did I get here?” and “What needs to happen?” The staff helps to find resources and guides the women to take the necessary steps to independence. Cindy provided some statistics:

85% do not have a high school diploma
75% have been in abusive relationships
85% were abused as children
55% have a history of drug abuse
65% have a history of alcohol abuse

Chadwick Residence assists with in-house group programs that provide opportunities for residents to support each other. There are educational programs, speakers, and living skills lessons. They do all of this with an annual budget of $270,000.

Chadwick is slowly adding permanent supportive living in 12 apartments in the community. When they left Chadwick, the residents had frequently been overwhelmed by independence – friends and boyfriends took advantage of them and disrupted their lives. With this new program, they can call for on-going support. HUD provides the funding for this. Foster families or mother mentors are needed by many of these women who are frightened by their new independence. A long-term goal is another building of efficiency apartments with 24/7 staff for families.

How can WTB help? Tutors are needed. Many of the women are working on GED programs, but have low reading levels or can’t do math, can’t even help their children with homework. Chadwick is trying to make the rooms more welcoming and would like renovation sponsors. A variety of household items are needed for when women move out to apartments: furniture (particularly small kitchen tables) to pots and small appliances to bathroom cleaner. If you have something to offer and can store it until it is needed that is even better as Chadwick has no storage. Evening help would be greatly appreciated, including cooking assistance. Since Chadwick has only a bare minimum website, help with setting one up would be wonderful. Child care volunteers are needed as day care through social services is very restricted, and not available for doctor appointments, treatment groups or simply grocery shopping. Jan Garman invited Cindy to list Chadwick’s needs on our listserv.

Nancy Sullivan Murray knew Mrs. Axilda Chadwick and worked with her. She called her the foster mother of many social services in Onondaga County. She was responsible for the library at Loretto retirement home, programs dealing with elder abuse, and women and children services. Chadwick Residence was started through the efforts of several women in the community who then named the residence in honor of Axilda and asked her to become a board member. It was seen as a safe place for women emerging from crisis at Vera House. Axilda was a formidable woman, standing up to mayors and congressmen. She saw the Residence as diverting a disaster for these women.

In response to a question from Danya Wellmon, Cindy said that diversity of faiths are respected and supported by the staff and residents, including a woman who has recently left who followed Islam.

Cindy explained that Chadwick is part of Supportive Housing Network. Members can ask how other groups deal with specific issues. Funding sources also provide feedback between organizations. Since there are several helping organizations providing housing and shelter services, it is usually not necessary to turn people away, but there is frequent turnover due to relapses of addictions, or people not doing assigned chores, etc. However, there is clearly not enough low-income housing in Onondaga County. Not every homeless person is counted, as people go from couch to couch. Compared to twenty years ago, the current population at Chadwick is less able, mental illness is more prevalent, drug and alcohol problems have increased, and social services and public assistance are less.

Cindy is excited about a fund raising project called “second helpings.” Mimi Flack at SU read an article about this technique: a hostess invites friends to a covered dish meal with a staff member from the target charity invited to speak. Everyone brings a dish to pass and writes a check for the amount that they would have spent on a restaurant meal. Substantial amounts have been raised this way.

Nina Garcia, Director of Volunteer and Youth Services, Onondaga-Oswego Chapter of the American Red Cross

Nina was formerly with Loretto as a Geriatric Case Manager and also worked in the area of Outreach for Vera House. Her work with the Red Cross has encompassed disaster services, working with fire clients and as an Emergency Case Manager. Nina has also been instrumental in coordinating Red Cross liaison efforts with the Armed Forces.

Referring to Gay’s guided meditation, Nina reflected on the hundreds of fire victims in our own community who have often been left with nothing. The Red Cross vehicle is always recognized and appreciated as the source of hugs, coffee, and assistance tailored to the need. Also, over one million people have been helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Red Cross has served hurricane victims 49.5 million meals, and the number is growing. Shelter has been provided for 74,000 families and 210,000 volunteers were mobilized. Locally, Syracuse has sent 50 trained volunteers to help hurricane victims. And Syracuse has received 150 voluntary evacuees from the Gulf area for whom the Red Cross has made local referrals and helped with resettlement, at a cost of $100,000. The American Red Cross CEO recently wrote a letter addressing the weaknesses and strengths of the Red Cross during the Katrina crisis. This is an on-going process of learning to improve from every experience.

Nina reviewed the Red Cross response to recent international disasters: Southeast Asian tsunami, Mideastern earthquake and wars. She explained the international tracings program that operates during natural disasters, political upheavals, and after terrorism attacks. Because the Red Cross is politically neutral, it is trusted worldwide to go into displacement camps and get messages out to family members. Recently Syracuse Red Cross received 24 letters from the Republic of the Congo to be delivered to persons in our area. In the wake of Katrina, many thousands of families have been reunited through the Red Cross website. (Kafi Ahmad told us that she had come to Syracuse with the help of the Red Cross)

Nina said that many local Red Cross clubs are raising money for the measles initiative started five years ago. African children under the age of five die more often from measles than from malnutrition and HIV/AIDS combined. Inoculation costs 80 cents per dose. Students in Oswego schools had a Kiss the Pig contest to raise money. Salem Hyde Elementary School is involved as well.

Nina showed a brief video showing the Red Cross role in fire response, blood donation, disaster preparedness, measles inoculation in Africa, facilitating communication between separated loved ones, swimming lessons, help with communication during military deployment, HIV / AIDS education, community safety, CPR classes, and training of volunteers.

Diane Johnson, Red Cross volunteer recently deployed to Baton Rouge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina

Diane has been an educator for 39 years from preschool through college and is a seasoned world traveler.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Diane was housed in one of the best shelters, a church recreation center (aptly named Our Lady of Mercy), where 40 volunteers each had an army cot and a chair. Lights were out at 10 p.m. and on at 6 a.m. Headquarters were in an old Walmart, with 10 departments including transportation, security, health services, family services, disaster assessment, accounting and Homeland Security. She stressed that a national headquarters with communication, computers and all office facilities had to be set up overnight, with accommodations for hundreds of volunteers to eat and sleep not just in Baton Rouge but a number of other cities. The logistics were incredible.

She was less impressed with FEMA, who were spending money recklessly; she felt we need to hold government accountable for the no-bid contracts they are awarding. She felt that our local media has not reported well, and she relies on foreign newspapers (including Chinese) and the BBC website for news.

Diane’s Red Cross job in Baton Rouge was to work with applications by affected families. These people were an hour to an hour and a half away from the coast, but still had trees that landed across their homes, or water damage, or roofs blown off. On her day off she went to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She said the houses were there, but the neighborhood was abandoned, the high water marks were above her head, and black mold and mud were everywhere. She compared the silence – no dogs, or birds – to Dachau, the Nazi extermination camp where there were no more people. In the debris she found household papers congealed into a soggy mass, and photos whose ink had run into modern abstract art patterns. She described the utter devastation of the Gulf Coast, where the first four blocks inland have been scoured of everything but concrete pads, and all debris is deposited on and in the 5th, 6th, and 7th blocks or out into the Gulf of Mexico. Parts of the coastal city of Waveland, Mississippi, are simply gone.

In the past Diane worked in Appalachia, but in the Gulf she saw poverty as bad as or worse than she has seen there or anywhere in the world. Many families still live on land their families have occupied since plantation days. Louisiana health and safety laws do not apply to these lands, and sanitation was non-existent. She described the people as having poverty of education, of role models, of health (based on generations of malnutrition and lack of medical and dental care) and poverty of opportunities. Residents see this as the way the family has always lived. Well-to-do-people were claiming assistance for damage to their homes’ exterior, but soon the Red Cross would consider only interior damage. Those living in extreme poverty received help regardless.

In 21 days Diane was in 200 to 300 homes. She said that the people have lived such difficult lives that they look old even when they aren’t. Everyone should look into the eyes of poverty and understand. Referring to Cindy’s talk, Diane said the situation is the same here in the Syracuse community. She stressed the difference between a hand out and a hand up. She felt Habitat for Humanity is in the forefront of helping people do something for themselves. Diane concluded by asking us this Thanksgiving to be thankful for family, friends, health, and the opportunities available to us.

Diane said that estimates have been made about the amount of debris to be hauled away. It will need enough 50-foot dumpster trucks to encircle the earth and overlap from New York to California just to clean up the Ninth Ward. At the rate of 100 per day, It will take three years to haul away the Ninth Ward’s destroyed autos. The responsible agencies are trying to be ecological by providing sorting places where TVs and refrigerators are separated out.

Because the national attention span is 30 seconds, the results of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will be with us for years. There are still 4000 people unaccounted for (more than perished in the World Trade Center). There are victims still living in shelters because they have no place else to go. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed forever by two gals named Katrina and Rita.