Breaking the cycle of homelessness

September 24, 2013

GALVESTON — From an organization that had a few Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of a tire shop in Galveston to feed the homeless, Our Daily Bread has grown to six staff persons and more than 40 volunteers that daily provide a variety of support services to homeless men and women in a comfortable facility. 

Over the last 27 years, the non-profit organization, funded by the DSF (Diocesan Services Fund), has united together, within its own walls and with other community resources, to minister to the needs of the body, mind and spirit of each individual that walks through its doors.

“What we want to accomplish is to help people break the cycle of homelessness, to help them take a look at their situation and to work with our counselors to create a specialized plan of action to meet their individualized needs,” said Linda Coleman, director of Our Daily Bread located in Galveston. “Alcohol and drug addictions, mental illness, medical issues — there are many challenges that prevent our clients from working and leading productive lives. We provide licensed social workers, chemical dependency counselors, nurses and other trained staff and volunteers to help each person get the care they need.”

Coleman said this includes finding appropriate medical treatment and medications, job counseling and the basics, such as food, clean clothes and shelter for the night. 

Our Daily Bread works with other resources in the Gulf Coast community to make sure each person receives this assistance.

“We offer telepsychiatry, which allows the client in Galveston to see a psychiatrist on demand, whether the doctor is in Houston or a remote location, all via television,” she said. “If the doctor prescribes medication, our staff will have it filled. This method opens the door for immediate help getting clients on the road to stability.”

According to Coleman, about 85 percent of the people served have mental health issues, substance abuse problems, or both. Also, in the last 10 years, she has seen an increase in the number of military veterans needing assistance.

“We have found that most people want to work, but have medical illness or mental health issues stopping them, or they have a criminal record that stays with them forever, or they have a drug felony and, in Texas, that means they can’t get food stamps,” Coleman said.

Coleman said barriers such as these make so many of the homeless rely on organizations like Our Daily Bread for assistance, sometimes for just a short while or at various stages in their lives. 

The organization also offers support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, individual counseling, mental health groups, haircuts, general first aid and a full-service kitchen offering breakfast and lunch. 

She said that the organization has seen up to 85 people in a day, especially as the temperature rises in the summer months and the homeless need more help with basic care, shelter and food.

One such client, a woman named Patricia, shared that she found work and received medical care, prescriptions, food and funds to obtain shelter at Our Daily Bread. 

On and off over the last two years, Patricia believes the organization has been a blessing to her and the many friends she has made there.
“They have been a big help to me and a lot of people who are homeless, because many times we don’t know where to go or who to turn to for help,” Patricia said. “They are always here to help me get back on my feet, to help ‘me’ take care of ‘me.’ They gave me a lot and I really appreciate them, and I keep them all in my prayers that they can help others, too.”

Patricia said that she and many of her friends see the volunteer nurse on Fridays to get blood pressure checks, blood tests for diabetes, basic first aid and routine care. 

She said some people she met discovered that they were diabetic through this testing, so it truly has saved lives through the medical attention and education they received.

One program Patricia enjoys at Our Daily Bread are the hot breakfast and lunches served “restaurant-style,” where clients are invited in, welcomed and treated with dignity and respect during their experience.

“I come here every day for meals, because when they feed us, they treat us good,” Patricia said.

One of the volunteers that helps create this experience is Viola Fritz, or “Miss Viola.” Fritz, who is now 86 years old, has been a volunteer at Our Daily Bread for over 15 years and comes every day that it’s open.

“I love to work with the people that are here and I love to cook,” Fritz said. “With our clients, we are good friends, too, and it can’t be any better than that. I enjoy helping others in need, and along with the other volunteering that I do, I have to get it all in because I am 86 years old now.

“What I get from this, is that I have fun and enjoy helping others who need it,” Fritz said. “It’s about love. If more people would do it, we’d have more love for each other — a lot more love and understanding.”