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Michael’s Place

Writer’s note: All information contained in this post, other than my own comments, comes  in answer to questions I asked of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Pittsburgh. Most of the answers come from informaton and stories contained in publications belonging to them. This post is the second of two for my SVDP “Blog for #12DOG” donation. The original post can be found here.

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Michael’s Place is The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul’s voluntary residential program for homeless men, released from jail, who want to change their lives.

It is a temporary home for ex-offenders who are ready to commit themselves to making good decisions for a productive future.  In a safe, drug-free environment, residents receive support in developing basic life skills that will enable them to transition to positive, independent living and employment.

Michael’s Place fosters compassion­ ate healing through a comprehensive approach that addresses the spiritual, physical, psychological and social well-being of the residents. Michael’s Place, like all Society programs, is nonsectarian and accepts men who are over twenty­ one years of age regardless of race, color, or creed. Michael’s Place is named after the Archangel Michael.

Michael was known for slaying the demons, and at Michael’s place the residents are slaying the demons of addiction.   SVdP helps 29 people yearly through Michael’s Place.

The current cost per resident, per year is slightly under $10,000.

I’d like to note here, that the yearly cost for incarceration is $35,000 per inmate per year in Pennsylvania. The work being done at Michael’s Place, giving former inmates a fresh start and the opportunity to make a life change and stay out of jail in the future, not only positively impacts our communities, but also all taxpayers.

SVdP has an attitude of complete acceptance of those who seek to change their lives:

Sometimes it is difficult not to judge others on the mistakes they have made.  We might look upon a person struggling with addiction or with a past record with contempt saying, “he should have known better.”  SVdP members strive to take up this mission telling us via their faith that, “our Lord asks us to look upon others with humility and compassion; taking some time to “walk in their shoes” and trying to understand why and how we can help. Jesus reminds us to take the plank out of our own eye before we address the splinter in our neighbor’s eye.”

To give us an understanding that we can relate to, they share Chris’s story:

We can see this by walking a short distance in Chris’s shoes. Chris never knew his real father. He grew up in a home where his mother and step-father both abused alcohol and drugs. Chris’s mother actually encouraged him to quit school because “education was a waste of time.” So, after 10th grade Chris dropped out and took odd jobs to earn money.

One night, after heavy drinking, Chris’s mother went to sleep and never woke up. He found her dead the next morning and Chris was pretty much left on his own. He worked various jobs in landscaping and construction, but without a high school diploma he found it difficult to advance.

Chris’s friends and coworkers all drank and used drugs. Inevitably, one day Chris tried cocaine and quickly became hooked. His addiction led to several arrests as he tried to support his drug habit.

Chris’s story might have had a tragic ending if his path hadn’t crossed with someone who believed in him. Brother Mark Lowery, a staff member of Michael’s Place, looked into Chris’s eyes and saw more than a former felon. Brother Mark saw the face of Christ and a soul seeking help.

Chris, for his part, had to reach deep within himself to let go of the past and change his life. He did.

Chris is now successful alum­nus of Michael’s Place. He has worked hard to complete his GED and he will be attending Bidwell School this fall, working toward a degree in culinary arts. Currently Chris works as a cook and his goal is to one day become a chef in his own restaurant.

And we can sense from messages of  graduates how Michael’s Place gave them hope and change:

When I came to Michael’s Place, I was stripped emotionally, physically, spiritually. I was alone and afraid, not sure of who I was or what I wanted. The staff and residents took me under their wings. The staff especially cared about me when I did not care about myself. I have become a different person. As I take the next step, I find myself stronger and more confident, a person with dreams, goals, self-esteem and motivation.

I am awestruck thinking of what  I accomplished: completing Gateway, getting my driver’s license, obtaining  and using a sponsor, getting and keeping a job, reestablishing  a relationship with my mother, joining and becoming treasurer of my home group, nine months sobriety- I could go on. I will be forever grateful to Michael’s Place.

Recent Graduate

Looking back on how hard I was to deal with and how far I have come gives me a deep appreciation for the work that you do.

Your work is paying off in ways you never dreamed possible in helping me see life through God’s eyes. It has helped my children and touched the hearts of suffering addicts.

Thank you.

Michael’s Place Alum

Simply Put –  Believing you can change your life can happen when others believe in you.

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