Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why I Support the Mission of Sheffield Place Skyler Phelps, Board Vice President & Secretary

I have a lot to be thankful for and frankly felt selfish for not recognizing it by helping others.

My business partner was transitioning off the Sheffield Place Board of Directors to serve the community in other capacities and didn’t want to leave without identifying a replacement. He introduced me to Sheffield Place’s mission “To empower homeless mothers and their children to heal from their trauma and help them become self-sufficient”. I visited the facility to learn about their programs, staff and the families served and decided to apply for a position on the Board. My application was accepted and I began serving in January 2006.   

I confess that my involvement in the beginning was kind of mechanical. I was “giving back” because it was cosmetically the right thing to do. I know…not a great character testament, but it’s the naked truth. What I was not expecting was to be blindsided by an intense feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself and using my time to join others in making a meaningful difference in the lives of those in desperate need of healing and opportunity.

My breakthrough with the organization happened several months after I began serving. To better connect the Board of Directors with the organization’s mission and the families served, time was set aside during board meetings for Sheffield Place clients to share stories about their lives including where they came from, how they were raised, how they were traumatized, how they became homeless and how Sheffield Place’s programs were helping empower them to break the generational cycle of abuse and homelessness. Those stories galvanized my commitment to the mission of Sheffield Place and the mothers and children we serve.

Many of us have a lot to be thankful for. My encouragement to all is to celebrate it by getting involved in making someone else’s life better. Being a part of Sheffield Place is very rewarding and really has changed my life. I invite you to join our struggle and celebrate each success.

“It is raining still... Maybe it is not one of those showers that is here one minute and gone the next, as I had so boldly assumed. Maybe none of them are. After all, life in itself is a chain of rainy days. But there are times when not all of us have umbrellas to walk under. Those are the times when we need people who are willing to lend their umbrellas to a wet stranger on a rainy day. I think I'll go for a walk with my umbrella.”
— Sun-Young Park

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Michigan State Spartans 

Spend a Week at Sheffield Place over Winter Break

Our time at Sheffield Place is an experience we will never forget. Going into our first day on the job, we really didn’t know what to expect- what were the mothers going to be like and what caused them to be homeless? How successful is this facility? What kind of treatments and activities do they provide? However, as the week went on we realized how truly incredible this place is. Between the hard working, passionate, and kind staff and the amazingly strong and inspirational mothers, Sheffield Place is irreplaceable and nearly impossible to describe.

The fact that this place is not only a homeless shelter, but also a treatment and rehabilitation center is unbelievably outstanding. Sheffield Place has shown us that everyone deserves a second chance to get back on their feet and to reestablish themselves. Our experience this past week has changed how we view this population and given us perspective that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Though our time with Sheffield Place has been short and we are truly saddened to be leaving so soon, we are ecstatic to take what we have learned this week and bring it back to Michigan with us. Sheffield Place has reminded us that there is still good in this world- there are still people who want to help. Sheffield has restored a lot of hope back into our lives and for that we are forever grateful.

Thank you for being an inspiration in our lives, thank you for being a source of hope. Not only for us, but also for the hundreds of families you have served and the hundreds you will continue to serve. Thank you for an extraordinary week, we wish you success and happiness for everyone in and out of Sheffield.

MSU Alternative Winter Breakers
January 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thank you to Pembroke Hill Students for Spending Time at Sheffield Place!

[Students from Pembroke Hill spent two days at Sheffield Place during the first week of January.  They performed a variety of tasks, including cleaning, organizing, and working with the children, among others.  Here are reflections from the students which have been edited for length.]

Student 1
This week being exposed to homelessness in Kansas City was one of the most eye opening experiences I've ever had in my life. Going to Sheffield Place really opened my eyes especially when we were playing with the kids that lived there because it was so hard to know that these kids may not have known where their next meal or next home would come from. It really made me understand the plight of the homeless because throughout my whole life I have had what I’ve needed and have never had to worry about where my next meal would come from.

Student 2
Even though we scrubbed floors on the first day, Sheffield Place was really interesting. I loved working with the kids the second day. Interacting with the kids opened my eyes and gave me a sense of their background.

Student 3
Sheffield Place focuses on helping traumatized mothers and families to get through their difficult pasts and move on. During my recent visit I got to see the work they do and the amount of people they continuously help. One of my favorite moments was when we spent time with the children in the daycare downstairs. This really shed light onto the lives of these children and how the small amount of work we did truly benefitted them. The children were so happy that we were there and it made my heart happy to help them.  We cleaned their toys and organized a closet during our time in the daycare. These two things made a huge difference and made the women’s jobs easier.

The feeling of helping these families made me want to continue to serve others around me constantly. Talking to the families also showed me that there is a large homeless population and all of them need help. The work of the Sheffield Place treats the single mothers in therapy and teaches them to move on and live on their own. I felt a sense of inspiration through these women and how they still stand tall although they have been through unimaginable traumas. Sheffield Place constantly strengthens these families and gives them a new home and a way to start fresh. The week of community service gave me a greater view of Kansas City and the lesser fortunate. I learned that helping the less fortunate is a wonderful thing and makes me feel so much greater inside. Lastly I want to thank the Sheffield Place and the other organizations for letting us come and learn about what they do.

Student 4
Too often when homelessness is pictured, the first thing that comes to mind is a man of the street begging for money. For most . . . the only interaction with the homeless is walking by disheveled men with long beards pleading for money, homeless women and children only existing in concept. The issue of homelessness is sometimes swept aside as merely an issue of leeches try to squeeze every last dollar from the American taxpayer.

The homelessness in Kansas City class however, provided a different face to the homeless, and an opportunity to help those in need. From Sheffield’s Place to ReStart, the faces seen were young beaten or abused, and in hopeless financial duress due to payday loans and other debts, the expenses of child care, or a crippling drug addiction. The public however, likes to pretend these people don’t exist. It is much more comfortable to think that way, to not think of the less fortunate, and forever to think inside the confines of the suburbs of Kansas City. This way of thinking is the very reason why this class is so important. Without this class or a similar experience, change is improbable. There would be no questioning of the law, which tends to punish the poor with harsh drug policies and other laws, or our politicians which enact those laws.

Student 5
The first shelter we visited catered to [homeless] women and children. The organization was called Sheffield's Place, and my favorite part of visiting was the income activity. Everyone had a made up income of $1600, the leader then shared with everyone all the expenses it takes for the women to provide for their family. It was very eye opening because the income women receive, is less than what it takes to [live] and care for their children. I really enjoyed this week because I was able to spend time with people I would have never known, and I discovered so many wonderful organizations helping people.

Student 6
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer at such amazing shelters. I was very shocked to go to Sheffield Place and learn how much homeless individuals lack basic skills such as budgeting and parenting skills. The mission of those who work at Sheffield Place is to help all of the women get a job and to teach the families how to work together in order to get a job and work hard in order to rebuild their self confidence and rejoin society. I think that Shefield does a very good job of teaching the women they serve all the skills they need in order to get back up on their feet. The layout of Sheffield Place is very nice. I really like how each family has an apartment and shares a kitchen with others. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Why I'm Committed to the Mission of Sheffield Place

By The Honorable Courtney Wachal, Past Board President

My name is Courtney Wachal.  I was accepted the Sheffield Place board of directors in February, 2013. 

I became aware of an opening on the Sheffield Place board of directors through the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City, where the vacancy left by Judge Margene Burnett, former board member and current member of the council of advisors, was announced.  I was working as a municipal prosecutor for the city of Kansas City, and had previously served as a public defender in the greater Kansas City area. 

Sheffield Place is a shelter for homeless mothers and their children.  As a former public defender and prosecutor, I am aware of some of the struggles that these mothers endure.  They are often victims of domestic v
iolence, suffering from mental illness, struggling with substance abuse – all of which are exacerbated by homelessness and poverty.  One of my greatest frustrations is the lack of resources to help these women deal with these issues.  Treatment programs have long waits to get in, and then only last 28 days.  This is not enough time to get sober, let alone deal with the number of problems an addict becomes aware of once they reach sobriety and stop self-medicating.  Also, these programs do not allow the mothers to stay with their children. 

Sheffield Place offers comprehensive treatment to empower homeless women to become self-sufficient.  A woman who successfully completes their program is not just sober.  They have the tools to maintain their sobriety, mental and physical health, and independence.  They are employed.  They receive services to become better parents.  Sheffield Place takes the time to ensure that the women that complete their program leave with all of the tools to live a quality life – which takes over a year in many cases.  Once the women leave, they have the support of after care services.

I am unaware of any program that addresses the comprehensive needs of homeless mothers and their children, taking as much time as is needed to do it right, like Sheffield Place.  I am committed to their mission. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Leading the job search group at Sheffield Place

Job seeking is a real challenge for almost everyone at some point in their lives. Along with the many supportive services provided to the women at Sheffield Place, groups about the job search process are provided.

In October, I was the class leader on this topic - Ten Action Steps from Job Posting to Job Offer. I am very pleased that I was asked to present this information to such an interested and energetic group.  It was not a formal class presentation.  Every meeting was a lively group discussion with everyone participating, asking questions, sharing experiences, talking about how to answer those difficult interview questions and mentioning job leads.  We did not exactly cover all the action steps in sequence, but through the discussion, we covered all the steps. 

Some of the women already have jobs, but are interested in having a resume and possibly applying for other jobs. Class participants now either have a revised resume, or a new resume which they created during the class. The importance of a cover letter was discussed and they were provided sample formats.  We discussed portfolios because one woman needs a portfolio to apply for jobs in the food/restaurant industry. In fact, we talked about whatever they wanted to talk about so that the class would be relevant to their situations.

They all have so much enthusiasm!!!! I had so much fun getting to know them. They are ready to move ahead. Like many job seekers, the women at Sheffield Place have child care needs and transportation challenges.  That impacts the job offers they can accept due to shifts and locations.  They understand these employment challenges and the need to find jobs that fit their background, skills and lives at this moment. Those who are seeking jobs now are enthusiastically and realistically assessing their job skills and finding jobs that match their backgrounds, as well as looking for a workplace where they can be successful.

Deborah Hays

[Sheffield Place is grateful for Deborah's volunteer assistance with the job search group.  Deborah brings many years of senior-level corporate HR experience and a commitment to facilitating groups for job seekers.  Thank you!]

Thursday, April 14, 2016

James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA) Spent their 2016 Spring Break at Sheffield Place

For the 17th year, students from JMU made the 21 hour trek to Kansas City to work at Sheffield Place.  These engaged, hard-working students could have been in warm, sunny places like many other students on spring break, but they chose to come to Kansas City and learn about the crisis of family homelessness.

Here are comments on the week provided by students about what they learned:
Our group traveled a long way, yet we felt at home at Sheffield Place.  The families welcomed us into their lives.  They were eager to share their stories.  One mother even made fruit salad for our whole group of nine!  And the staff have been nothing but kind and generous toward us.  Every question we have, they take the time to answer and they’ve gone out of their way to include us in the mission and work being done here at Sheffield Place.  We could not be more grateful to have been given the opportunity meet so many loving and optimistic individuals.  The people who make up the community of Sheffield Place have defied every expectation we had in the best possible way.

When you walk in the door of Sheffield Place, you sense the atmosphere that motivates people to succeed.  You feel as though you will have all the help you need right here.  Every staff member is so devoted to individuals and expresses how much they care.  It surprises us how much they accomplish and how much they give when the staff is so small.  We are amazed at the way they utilize every resource they can appropriately.  Even with us only being here for a short time, we’ve felt as though everything we’ve been asked to do has been purposeful.  Sheffield Place never has any “busy work” and maximizes the time and talents of their staff and volunteers to their full potential.

We were amazed by the impact that Sheffield Place has on the community.  This team of people is working hard to better the lives of many families by fixing up neglected houses and transforming them into safe, permanent homes.  It takes lots of heart to undertake such a task, but it is such a wonderful way to ensure the families that leave Sheffield Place have an environment where they can succeed.  This agency values community and relationship building and expresses it in all they do.  They also keep families connected with the agency and its resources long-term and have created a longstanding friendship with the JMU.  

We cannot describe how inspiring it has been to be surrounded by the caring nature and positive environment at Sheffield Place. 

 A big thank you to these students and JMU for their longstanding partnership!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflections of a former client on what Sheffield Place has meant to her and her family

I was 18 yrs old and in my 8th month of pregnancy and an organization called the Light House referred me to Sheffield Place.

Sheffield Place provided my daughter and me with shelter, counseling, parenting classes, the opportunity to choose a career path and resources to identify the different programs to help single moms get back on our feet.

Sheffield has made a huge difference in my life and that of my daughter. I found piece of mind knowing that there was an organization that help put me on the right path to improving our life to become more self-sufficient as well as confident about myself.

AnnaLisa Knefel (center in photo below) is a dental assistant and a member of the board of directors at Sheffield Place.

If you have reflections on how you have been involved at Sheffield Place, please share them.  Sheffield Place is publishing remembrances during 2016 - the 25th anniversary of the agency.  Email