Press Release: FOCUS North America & Shower To The People

FOCUS North America, the founding sponsor of the Shower to the People program, and the Missouri- based charity Shower to the People, Inc. announce that the program will no longer be affiliated with FOCUS. Starting in November 2016, Shower to the People, Inc. will independently run the Shower to the People program, which provides mobile showers and other hygiene solutions to homeless people in St. Louis.

FOCUS North America, a faith-based national charity that provides services to the homeless and working poor, hired the innovator of the “Shower to the People” concept, Jake Austin, in October of 2015 and sponsored the development of the mobile shower program. In the following months FOCUS supported the research, fundraising, marketing, regulatory approvals, and capital outlays needed to outfit a box truck capable of bringing hot showers to the most isolated of homeless individuals in St. Louis. The shower truck started operating in May 2016, with Austin at the wheel. It was enthusiastically received by the community and has generated interest beyond St. Louis.

Austin has been assisting the homeless in a volunteer capacity for years, and his work with FOCUS enabled him to realize his dream of going to those who live on the streets to most literally bring showers to the people—and to help provide dignity and hope to those in need. “I’m grateful to FOCUS for all the support they’ve given me this past year and I’m excited for the future of both organizations moving forward,” said Austin. Austin plans to continue this work through Shower to the People, Inc. FOCUS North America is pleased to have been the founding sponsor of this important program.

FOCUS and Shower to the People, Inc., agree that delivery of hygiene services to the homeless is a critical need but have concluded that they will better serve their respective missions as two separate organizations.

Both FOCUS and Shower to the People, Inc. look forward to continuing to serve those in need. Find out more about Shower to the People here: www.showertothepeople.net

Find out more about The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS North America): here: www.focusnorthamerica.org

FOCUS is committed to supporting the development of innovative and sustainable solutions to poverty. FOCUS, which also is known as the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve, works to bring together communities, parishes, and partners nationwide in ways that maximize widespread volunteer engagement through hands-on activities that unite the giver with the underserved to help transform all of our lives and break the cycle of poverty. While many FOCUS volunteers are Eastern Orthodox Christians, FOCUS provides services without discrimination of any kind, and there is no faith commitment required either to volunteer or to receive assistance.

Young Adults Offer Assistance To St. Herman’s House of Hospitality in Cleveland

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“Following in the footsteps of Sts Cyril and Methodios, and demonstrating in concrete action their renewed commitment to hands-on missionary work, the National Senior ACRY (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Youth) has organized a small weekend mission and service weekend at St. Herman’s House of Hospitality in Cleveland, Ohio”

Click HERE to read the OCN article from August about the Orthodox Youth Service in Cleveland.

In Pittsburgh Neighborhood, Development Starts With Healing

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FOCUS Pittsburgh began a conversation about community trauma about five years ago, according to Director Rev. Paul Abernathy.

“We really began to ask are we healthy enough to sustain opportunity. People get jobs, they lose jobs; they get housing and lose housing,” Abernathy remembers. “It was really an incredible moment because what had happened, people had shared such incredibly raw stories, it essentially de-stigmatized the issue,” he says.

Click HERE to read the Next City article about the Trauma-Informed Community Development Initiative.

Back To School the Right Way

Everyone knows the building anticipation as the kids get ready to go back to school. There’s excitement and nerves, eagerness to start a new year, sadness that summer is ending. Unfortunately, counting down the days to a new school year is yet another reminder of struggle for many kids across the country. Imagine how excitement would turn to trepidation if going back to school meant a supply list filled with items that mom and dad couldn’t afford, sneakers from last year that don’t quite fit, and hand-me-down clothes from older sibling that leave you feeling less than confident.

It’s hard to for struggling families to prepare for a successful school year when they are in the midst of crisis. Wherever homeless families end up staying, if it’s not a permanent, sustainable home, the children suffer incredibly from constant displacement and insecurity. If parents can’t afford a place to live, how will they equip their children with the supplies necessary to attend school?

image1FOCUS North America’s Back to School program involves parishes across the country in providing high quality backpacks, school supplies, and clothing to children when it is time to return to school. FOCUS works closely with school workers in every community to ensure that donated items are given to the kids who are experiencing homelessness, living in hotels, or doubled up with friends or family.

A study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that there is no jurisdiction in the United States where a working family of four, earning the poverty threshold wage of $24,000, can afford even a one-bedroom home at fair market rates. This means that there are struggling families in your town. Even if the poverty is not always visible, it is always present.

FOCUS needs you to help meet these basic needs, and take the stress off of many hardworking families that are already stretched thin. Help us give kids everything they need to get back to school and succeed in acquiring an education.

FOCUS will send participating parishes high quality backpacks with a packing list of items to fill them with. Filled backpacks will be collected at the parish. Through our school district partnerships, FOCUS will ensure the backpacks and supplies are given to the kids with the greatest need in your own city.

If you know your parish, SOYO, church school, women’s group, or other group would love an opportunity to bring FOCUS’ Back To School program to your town, contact us today! This is a great opportunity for groups that regularly work with FOCUS, as well as new communities who may be just figuring out the best way to serve.

Redevelopment effort in Hill District targets effects of long-term trauma – FOCUS Pittsburgh in The Post-Gazette

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.16.03 AM“Trauma-Informed Community Development grew out of research that found underlying causes of violence, homelessness, joblessness, poverty, addiction and abuse in exposure to chronic emotional stress and trauma. The premise is that if people can get help digging out from trauma and start to heal, they can get their own traction to improve their relationships, the well-being of their block and what happens on it, Rev. Abernathy said.

“Trauma is the most challenging problem we have” in the African-American community, he said. “We are seeing people get jobs and lose jobs, get housing and lose housing, not because they are stupid or bad but because they are wounded. We want them to be healthy enough to sustain opportunities.””

Click HERE to read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article from this past Sunday about the Trauma-Informed Community Development Initiative.

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FOCUS Backpack Program on OCN

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Helping kids go back to school on the right foot

Imagine how excitement could turn to trepidation if going back to school meant a supply list filled with items that a family might not be able to afford. Your parish can sponsor backpacks for children in your community!

How does it work?

FOCUS will send you as many brand-new backpacks as your parish can commit to sponsoring. Parish families will take the backpacks home and fill them with supplies on a packing list included in the backpack. Also included in the backpack is a $10 donation envelope to FOCUS to cover the cost of the backpack.

Once filled, parishioners return the packs to church and the coordinator delivers them to a local FOCUS partner that works with children in need.

E-mail JavaScript required to view address to get your parish involved this August!

We hope to work with you and your local schools this fall!

Farm to Table: Harvest time at FOCUS

100 miles North East of Cleveland, FOCUS North America owns and operates a 75-acre free-range cattle farm that currently supports almost two-dozen head of cattle. Working in cooperationwith the surrounding Amish community, FOCUS is facilitating  sustainable agriculture while providing food not only to the St. Herman FOCUS Center in Cleveland, but for other shelters in the area as well. 

“Restaurants in Cleveland are excitedabout the opportunity to use our meat on their menu generating revenue that  goes directly to feeding those in need,” FOCUS Center Director Paul Finley said.

Not only is the farm a sustainable food option, but it is also a therapeutic ministry to the men who live at the center.

“We have workdays on the farm to instill the importance of returning to responsibility and reliability, Finley says.”

Over the next year, FOCUS plans to expand the farm to 50 head of cattle and begin providing organic meat to other FOCUS Centers throughout the United States. 

“There’s already a trend of creating sustainable options for raising and growing food. People are beginning to turn towards locally grown, locally raised food; we see it at restaurants, grocery stores and farmer’s markets. St Herman’s House FOCUS Cleveland has a huge opportunity to tie into that cultural trend while at the same time being true to our ministry to serve people in need.”