Hillview Helps Shepherd's Shelter

Hillview helps Shepherd's Shelter find home for others

It takes a community to end homelessness.

That's one of the many mottos repeated by members of The Shepherd's Shelter, Inc., a non-profit organization focused upon ridding Bullitt County of homeless individuals, families and children. A sampling of that motto took place recently when the City of Hillview donated a residence to Shepherd's Shelter for both office space and temporary housing for transition families struggling to again sustain themselves. The residence features two bedrooms that can accommodate small families. Also included are a living room and kitchen area, where families can experience relative normalcy while establishing their life goals.

One of the first families to use the new Hillview facility was a couple in their late 20s with two children ages 4 and 2. The couple has been together for eight years. En route from one place to another, staying with various friends, they found themselves in a Hillview hotel with ho gas in the car and enough money for a night's stay. The hotel's night manager referred then to the Shepherd's Shelter. Upon their visit goals were established as criteria for the couple to reach while they were assisted. With experience in mechanics, the male got a part-time job that could become full-time. The female also received a part-time position with a store. Shepherd's Shelter found preschool and daycare facilities for the children so both could begin working. To prepare for their new jobs, Shepherd's Shelter helped the couple prepare resumes. They also offered new clothes and hair appointments to prepare for job interviews.

As part of the goals agreement, the couple agreed to partake in counseling sessions provided by Shepherd's Shelter courtesy of the Louisville Seminary Counseling Training Center (LSCTC), part of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Shepherd's Shelter president Jacquelen Salyer was trained as a counselor through the Louisville Seminary program. She said it was the first of its kind in the US to become nationally certified. The program features couples assistance with premarital counseling or assistance in marital or relational discord, along with conflict resolutions. Salyer also serves Shepherd's Shelter couples in dealing with communication issues and problems pertaining to relations with other family members. Families are also a focus of the LSCTC program, with an emphasis toward dealing with parental dilemmas and issues such as divorce, step-parenting, blended families, adjusting through life stages and grief from the loss of a loved one.

With the new Hillview facility available, the family has a bedroom with a private bathroom and two beds. They said the stability would help the family get through the next phase of their lives until they can again sustain themselves in their own house. They were happy the children had an outside area to play in.

Shepherd's Shelter executive director Sara McKinney Sulier began with the organization in 2003. She said typical clients at that time were women and children struggling to survive after leaving broken relationships. With economy turns and local population growth, Shepherd's Shelter began to see more elderly individuals, teens that could not be taken care of, and eventually more families. "In the last year I saw grown men cry," said Sulier. "It's the first time I saw that."

Sulier reminded that Shepherd's Shelter is not just a helping hand charity in a time of need; rather, it's a community organization devoted to assisting its clients into sustainability via education, counseling and timely support.

Another couple in their mid-20s visited Shepherd's Shelter in early February after falling on hard times. The husband was recently discharged from the Army while stationed at Ft. Knox. He was wounded during a tour of duty with Special Forces in Afghanistan, but for various reason not allowed to begin veteran's assistance. The couple, with a nine-month-old daughter, survived staying with friends for a couple months before.

They had lost most of their home items, left primarily with their car. While trying to compile their taxes a fellow military veteran mentioned Shepherd's Shelter. The couple visited the offices that day and received a trailer to stay in that night. The Shepherd's Shelter emergency shelter unit provided an immediate trailer where the family of three could live while focusing on other issues.

Salyer began working immediately with the couple, lining up rehabilitation for the husband while working on straightening out the veterans affairs issues. Gas and food were provided to the family, along with childcare for the baby. Shepherd's Shelter also assisted with finding jobs, completing counseling, and enrolling in school. Previously, the husband was studying criminal justice and the wife teaching. With the opportunity provided by Shepherd's Shelter, they will be able to continue fulfilling their ultimate goals while also sustaining themselves on a short-term basis.

Salyer prepared a list of goals for the couple to complete, both long-term and short-term. The list included school, getting out of debt, moving back home to Michigan and closer to family and acquiring a second vehicle for work and school transportation. "With the emergency shelter unit in Shepherdsville and the new group program in Hillview, two families who were completely homeless, down and out, came to us needing service and we were able to help them," Sulier said.

Shepherd's Shelter staff and volunteers constantly face the common stereotype associated with homelessness, that people are lazy, refuse to work for their meals, or generally don't care about making their own way in society. "It potentially could happen to anyone," Sulier said. "Anyone in crises. We see their potential. They're willing to get jobs. People can see the desire they have. These couples have made progress in the short time we've been working with them."

Sulier praised Salyer's commitment to the counseling side of the progress, a key to sustaining stability in the clients to avoid a fall back to hard times. "It's very stressful to find yourself in crises," said Sulier. "They come to us and we're thrilled to help them through it all."

The shelter programs provided by Shepherd's Shelter have been expanded thanks to further funding provided by Metro United Way. Sulier also credited both AmeriCorps and the Kentucky Ready-to-Work Program, sponsored by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and Cabinet for Health and Family Services, for each providing two paid administration positions at Shepherd's Shelter. "I'm the only paid employee," said Sulier. "We also have a wonderful group of volunteers. That has been the saving grace for us."

Shepherd's Shelter now boasts a community board of directors featuring 21 members from various sides of the Bullitt County community. "It takes a community," Sulier said. "We need a strong community for a strong country."

"We know everyone is struggling and had to cut back," said Sulier. "Money is competitive. But it takes a community. If everyone just gives a little, it goes a long way. We help these people, and one day they will be paying taxes and giving back."