Joseph’s Home and Family Promise provides transitional housing, chance at a better life for the homeless: Holiday Spirit

First published on
CLEVELAND, Ohio — John Hall was driven by crack and cocaine — so driven, he lost his wife, children and job.Hall, 51, of Cleveland, said the murder of his father, curiosity and the influences of the streets had led him to drugs. He said he hoped the drugs would take away his pain.

“I had a lot of problems, mentally and emotionally,” he said. “I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was.”

But Hall said pride prevented him from receiving help from his family, so instead he slept in parks and abandoned homes.

And even when his reckless lifestyle led to four stints in prison, he didn’t change his attitude. “I felt that there was no chance for me, that life was over for me,” he said.

In November 2011, Hall got into an argument with another man, who then got into his car and rammed it into Hall several times, pinning him between a parked car.

Once his attacker sped away, Hall tried to get up, but it was impossible because his right foot was turned in the opposite direction, the heel of his foot now where his toes should have been. He passed out.

A good Samaritan took him to MetroHealth Medical Center that night, but he had to wait two weeks before having surgery. His sister then tried to find him a place to stay while he recovered.

Joseph’s Home meets a housing need

That’s Hall’s sister found out about Joseph’s Home.

Joseph’s Home is one of only two agencies in the state that provide transitional housing for homeless men who are suffering from acute medical conditions.

Joseph’s Home also helps residents find jobs, housing and other programs to help improve their lives.

Joseph’s Home is one among 20 human-service agencies featured in Holiday Spirit, an annual effort by Plain Dealer Charities to help human-services agencies during the holiday season.

To make a secure donation to this year’s campaign, go to or use the contributors form on B2.

Hall had to make some changes: Joseph’s Home requires residents to take part ina number of programs such as life-skills classes, chemical dependency programs and money management. Hall went further, however, enrolling in anger management, basic computer classes and intensive outpatient and after-care programs. He will start working toward earning a high-school equivalency degree in January.

Hall shares his story with youths at the Cudell Recreation Center and packaged and served food on Thanksgiving at St. Augustine Church.

Hall, who has been sober for a year, is grateful for the love and support of his mother and sister. He also credits the staff of Joseph’s Home for changing his life.

“These are the miracles God put in my path to have me be where I’m at today. I love where I am today,” he said. “I have my own apartment, I’m looking for a job and I’m going back to school. Life has gotten good for me. I’m a miracle.”

Georgette Jackson, executive director of Joseph’s Home, beams with pride when she talks about Hall.

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “He wanted to succeed so badly. He wanted to change and make good choices.”

Family Promise provides transitional housing for families

Another agency that benefits from the Holiday Spirit Campaign is Family Promise of Greater Cleveland.

Family Promise provides transitional housing for families, including emergency and interim housing, along with community-based services to ensure family success once they have found their own housing.

The agency also directs residents to a number of programs to help them become self-sufficient and better themselves.

In December 2010, Jewell Dunner, 23, and her then 1-year-old daughter, Samadia, were evicted from their home. They stayed with distant relatives, but after a month it was obvious that the arrangement was not going to work. Her relatives referred her to Family Promise.

Family Promise made sure Dunner learned how to do things on her own. She had to learn how to set goals. Once she was given the tools to succeed, she was expected to find a job and housing.

Dunner said Family Promise taught her an important truth: “You are not helpless,” she said. “I was the worst at procrastinating, but now I’m more responsible.”

While at Family Promise, Dunner found a listing to rent a unit of a two-family home in Garfield Heights. The owner specifically sought tenants who were homeless. The rent: $250.

She moved in after spending four months at Family Promise.

But Dunner, who lost her mother at an early age and spent about five years in foster care before being adopted, also hoped to someday have a home of her own.

That hope may also be fulfilled: Her landlord is so impressed with how Dunner and her husband of almost a year, Chris, a landscaper, have tended to the house, she will allow them a chance to purchase it before she puts it on the market.

Dunner took a part-time job and enrolled into the Cleveland Institute of Medical Massage in Middleburg Heights.

Two days a week she would get up at 4 a.m. to catch the bus so that she could arrive at school by 8 a.m. After a full day of classes, she would get home by 9 p.m. Two days became four when the program required her to complete several hundred hours of training.

Dunner often helps others, offering advice, words of encouragement and a meal to the families who have moved in below her who were also homeless at one time, but she said she wants to do more. Influenced by her childhood social worker, she will soon pursue a degree in social work.

Ken Komperda, a community-based case manager for Family Promise, sounded like a proud parent when talking about Dunner.

“She’s come a long, long way. From the beginning she was very determined and passionate about becoming independent and self-sufficient,” he said. “She has become a support system for other families.

“She has bought clothes for the children at the center and even threw a birthday party there, inviting all of the families at the center. On a limited budget she supplied the food, cake and games.”

These are just a few of the ways that Dunner expresses her gratitude for the help she received at Family Promise.

“They let me know that I wasn’t alone and that other people were going through the same thing I was going through,” she said. “They taught me to pay it forward.

“They made me be an adult, taught me to be more independent and to stop being so reliant on other people.”

Fall 2012 Newsletter

Fall 2012 Newsletter

Art Changes Life: Vet Finds Healing, Hope Through Resident Art Program at Joseph’s Home

Roderick Walden stands in the Joseph’s Home art studio where he rediscovered his love of painting as a resident from February to June 2012.
Two weeks before Christmas of 2011, Roderick Walden lost his home of 36 years.

For nine years, the former U.S. Air Force missile mechanic had struggled to hold onto to his Collinwood home. In 2002, a string of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other ailments left him unable to work.

Walden, now in his late 50s, didn’t have a pension and failed to qualify for Social Security but managed to scrape by for awhile on rental income from his Collinwood-area duplex.

Then, a series of sewer backups exhausted all of his resources. After having to replace two furnaces and two water heaters several times, he didn’t have enough cash left to pay his property taxes and maintain the house.

Too weak to do anything more strenuous than walk short distances, he was forced to watch as his house was auctioned.

Walden traded a house for a Cleveland homeless shelter where he at least found refuge from the streets. But he quickly found that the shelter system was not equipped to help him get well and out of the shelter. There were two caseworkers for 60 shelter guests, and they simply didn’t have the time to help him manage his care and help create a plan to find permanent housing.

To complicate things while at the shelter, in eight weeks of eating shelter food, Walden’s cholesterol skyrocketed. His doctor at the VA Medical Center told him that he would die if he continued to live in the shelter.

Fortunately, the shelter staff knew about Joseph’s Home, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System which provides transitional living for homeless men with serious medical needs.

In early 2012, Walden had three stents inserted into blocked arteries. He went to Joseph’s Home shortly afterward with the hope that he would be able to complete his physical therapy, regain his strength, and find a better living arrangement.

At Joseph’s Home, Walden found a safe, clean shelter and a compassionate, supportive staff who could oversee his care.

He was surprised and thrilled to also discover the Joseph’s Home Resident Arts Program, led by former Joseph’s Home Board Chair Bill Denihan. Every Saturday, Denihan, CEO of the ADAMHS board of Cuyahoga County, volunteers his time to teach and mentor Joseph’s Home residents and alumni who want to use painting as a constructive creative outlet.

“Our goal here at Joseph’s Home is not just to get homeless men into permanent housing, but to help them rediscover their purpose and passion for living,” said Georgette Jackson, executive director at Joseph’s Home. “Once that has happened, they are much more likely to continue doing what they need to do to stay housed and healthy.”

Walden had dreamed of a career in commercial art years ago. Although his plans to get a degree and full-time job in the field had long since stalled, he had continued drawing and painting as a hobby, and had done some painting jobs on the side. But because of his illness and financial problems it had been a long time since he last painted.

The days that followed his admission to Joseph’s Home were a time of remarkable change for Walden. His three new stents all succeeded. The Joseph’s Home nurse made sure he took all his medications and got to his physical therapy appointments. The Joseph’s Home cook served healthy meals which helped him get his cholesterol back down to an acceptable level and he even lost 15 pounds.

“They kept me steered right,” Walden recalls.

Free from the constant fatigue caused by his heart disease, he painted as much and as often as he could, finding new inspiration in an old passion. “When I picked up a brush for the first time in ten years, it felt like an awakening,” Walden said. His talent and enthusiasm were obvious right from the start. Other artists offered to collaborate with him, and four of his paintings were sold at the Joseph’s Home 12th Anniversary Luncheon.

Recently, Walden’s prospects for the future improved even more. He found out that he would start receiving Social Security, and a family member invited him to live with him rent-free for the foreseeable future.

Just six months after his first night in a homeless shelter, Walden graduated from Joseph’s Home with restored health, a predictable income and stable housing. Plus, his rediscovery of art has given him an energy and enthusiasm for life that had been absent for a long time. The only thing that rivals his love of painting is his joy in watching his three grandchildren and godson grow up.

“I want to be around for them,” he says.

The Resident Art Program is just one of the programs that Joseph’s Home offers to help acutely ill homeless men heal and achieve independence. Go to to learn more. Or attend the Joseph’s Home Fall 2012 Open House on Sunday, Sep. 30 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 2412 Community College Ave. No RSVP necessary. Call Development Manager Nathan Munn at 216-875-4634 for more information.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Students Help Residents Get Ready for Life

It takes more than one or two services to prepare acutely ill homeless residents for a stable, healthy life after Joseph’s Home. Nursing care, case management, wellness counseling and financial counseling are a few of the most obvious. But there’s an often-overlooked hero that is critical to preparing residents: occupational therapy (OT).

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help patients who are dealing with illness, injury or developmental delays to gain the skills they need to function and succeed in daily life.

For more than seven years, students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) have come to Joseph’s Home for field experience.

Rock Hall Field Trip
Tri-C OTA students and Joseph’s Home Residents on a field trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in March 2012

Preceptor Debbra Harbst Lisy, M.A., OTR/L teaches in the OTA program and assigns students to sites for field work. She said Joseph’s Home presents a unique opportunity for an OTA in training. “Being at Joseph’s Home helps students to see some of the non-traditional ways OT can be involved in a patient’s recovery, and to practice non-traditional intervention techniques,” said Lisy.

The students aren’t the only ones to benefit from their field experience. They have an opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of Joseph’s Home residents. For example, Lisy said students Demetrius Collier and Deanna Mixon recently learned that Joseph’s Home residents were struggling to organize their belongings and paperwork effectively, to the point that the disorganization could interfere with their access to care. The students worked with the residents to help them gain organizational skills to effectively organize their belongings and paperwork.

Sister Regina Fierman, CSA, is a certified OTA and a 1995 graduate of the Tri-C OTA program. She helped found Joseph’s Home and worked there from 2000 to 2009. She was instrumental in forming the partnership with Tri-C. “The men at Joseph’s Home come with various medical issues.  I was able to apply the skills that I learned as an OTA to help them regain the ability to take care of themselves, which definitely helped in getting them prepared to move into permanent housing,” said Sister Regina.

Joseph’s Home Executive Director Georgette Jackson believes so strongly in the value of providing OT services for residents, she serves on the advisory committee of the Tri-C OTA program. Jackson said, “Tri-C always sends us students who are prepared and willing to help. It’s a pleasure to have them at Joseph’s Home and I can’t say enough about the value they provide for our residents.”