My Contributions to the UHCSC Capstone Team

For the end of our Capstone class, we’ve been asked to document all of the ways in which we contributed to the Upstate Homeless Coalition of South Carolina.  I can honestly say that I’ve put more heart and soul into this project and class then I have in any other class of my four years at Clemson University.

My experience with this class started out a semester before the actual class met for the first time.  I, along with 4 of my classmates, met with Dr. David Novak in December to discuss the class and possible ways that we could help the Upstate Homeless Coalition.  Ideas were thrown around and possible ways to organize groups was also discussed.  Over Christmas break, I researched the UHCSC by joining their Facebook group, looking at their Web site, and signing up for their free newsletter.  I noticed that the UHCSC puts on an annual ball every February to help raise money.

Once our class met on January 7, 2010, it seemed as though everyone was ready to get to business.  We read the book on homelessness and communication called, “Who Is My Neighbor” by Phillip Tompkins and reflected on Tomkin’s experiences with homeless people and shelters.   We also talked about the Bridesmaid’s Ball and received the contact information for the volunteer chair.  I immediately invited my friends to volunteer with me and sent the names to Annette at the UHCSC.  I also was able to get Toussaint Law Firm (the firm where I intern) to donate tickets to the circus for the Bridesmaid’s Ball silent auction.  At the auction, my friends and I helped with the silent auction along with adding fun moves to the dance floor!

In my social media group, I took over the UHCSC Twitter account along with Lauren Patterson.  We tweeted daily during the week about upcoming events, interesting facts about homelessness, and news about the UHCSC.  I wrote the “How-To” guide for Twitter for whoever takes over the project at the Upstate Homeless Coalition.  The guide included how to log on to Twitter, post, and different aspects that will help raise awareness of the UHCSC. 

I also helped Beckman Perry with the UHCSC blog.  I uploaded a post once a week to help build the blog.  I helped promote the blog through the Twitter account. 

 During the fundraising week, I ate at several targeted restaurants to raise money for the UHCSC.  I bought a Battle of the Bands t-shirt and attended the Battle of the Bands event at 356.  I brought along a few friends and gave them stickers to wear for the event. 

I truly think have enjoyed the time that I’ve spent working and helping the Upstate Homeless Coalition this semester.  I feel so blessed to have been part of this awesome project.

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Words of Wisdom…

On Friday, my friends and I went to the Atlanta Braves game in downtown Atlanta.  As we were tailgating before the game, a man approached us.  It was perfect sundress weather, and this man was wearing pants a long sleeve shirt.  He explained to us that he needed money so that he could get to Decatur.  I’m not positive if he had a home there or not.  One of my good friends, Neel, gave him money to help him out.  As he spoke to our group, he wanted to give us words of wisdom.  He said:

“If it’s not about love it’s not worth pursuing because everything else is a dead-end.”

Pretty thought-provoking. 🙂

The One Away Campaign Featured on Clemson’s Web Site!

Dr. Novak’s senior seminar class was featured as one of Clemson’s three major feature stories on its Web site!  You can read the story here.   Fellow members of our class, Kelly Smith, Tee Hassold, and Tiffany Sellers, were interviewed and gave great insight on the Upstate Homeless Coalition.  Check out information about the One Away campaign and my classmate’s thoughts.

Updates with Social Media Group

Even though the semester is winding down, our social media activity is picking up!  We’ve had and increased amount of views to the blog and more tweets and re-tweets on our Twitter account!  From reading what my classmates post on the UHCSC’s blog, I’ve learned new homeless issues that I hadn’t before.  I’ve also learned about different groups who are fighting homelessness along with the Upstate Homeless Coalition.

Dr. Novak sent us group evaluation forms yesterday to rank the effort of our group members.  It’s not going to be hard for me at all to give all of my group members 5’s (the best you can get) under every category.  My social media group has worked very effectively and efficiently.  We set our goals in the beginning of the semester, and I personally think that we’ve reached them.  We’ve introduced the Upstate Homeless Coalition to social media!  Even Linda has started participating and has written a comment on our blog.  I’m really proud of the social media group and all that we’ve accomplished.  I hope that the UHCSC will continue to use the social media networks that we’ve established.

One Car Accident Away from Homelessness, Three Children Away from Hope.

I recently interviewed Celena Ferguson who used the Upstate Homeless Coalition of South Carolina to win her fight against homelessness.  Below is the interview and Ms. Ferguson’s answers.

  1. How old were you when you became homeless?  I was at the age of 24 when I became homeless without my own home.  I lived with my friend.   I say homeless because my name was not on the lease.  I got a job at Greenville hospital system, this was in 1999.
  2. What was the one thing that put you into homelessness?  I had a car accident within my 90 day probationary period at the hospital, and because I missed two days, at the end of my 90 days they decided not to keep me-even though I came to work on crutches, and I also had therapy sessions, but came to work before and after those sessions.
  3. Did you have children?  How old were your children?  Yes I had at that time, 3 children, my baby had just turned 1 yrs old and had to have hernia surgery prior to my getting employment at GHS.  At that time my oldest was 8 and my middle was 6.
  4. What did you do when you became homeless?  What did I do when I realized I had no more options? The thought of suicide came, then I thought well if I kill  myself, who would take care of my children.  Then, I thought well I will just kill us all, but that wouldn’t be fair to my children because I was messed up, What if they became famous and were destined to do great things for God.  I was basically almost out of my mind, so many bad thoughts, so many tears, so many apologies to my children, and I asked myself what was I going to do? I had to do something my children depend on me to take care of them.  No one could ever imagine how a real mother feels when she’s all out of answers but there are so many questions.  My car was totaled in the car accident, so I didn’t have transportation to go look for a job, couldn’t take kids to a job interview.  It just seems like the world crash upon my head.
  5. How long did it take you to contact the Upstate Homeless Coalition and how did you hear about the UHCSC?  I didn’t want to take my children to a homeless shelter, because, like others I didn’t know what to expect. But, after two months of living in a hotel off my last two paychecks, the money was gone, I went to the downtown rescue mission in Spartanburg, SC.  Which was the best thing I could’ve ever done.  I was still apologizing to my children and they were like what for we got a big family now, they were happy.  I didn’t have to worry about how they were going to eat.  My middle child went to school and told her teacher that we lived in a big house with a cross on it, and we had a new big family, but me being ashamed told them never to tell anyone where we lived.  But one day the shame left, and I was proud of the choice I made because it showed me life in a new way, all those people I bent over backwards for to help financially they all turned their backs on me, and not only me but my children when I needed them the most.  I have forgiven them all, and realize that everything in life does happen for a reason, it brought me closer to God.   I stayed at the shelter for almost a year, In that time, I got a job, and was saving my money, I got a car, and one of the ladies that came to do bible study with us, she told me about the Upstate Homeless Coalition, I called and in 1 week, Glenda contacted me back and gave me instructions of what I needed at the time of my appointment.  At that time they had an office inside the Haven on Church Street across from Wofford College, and within about 1 month we were in our own place again.  We packed our bags and with no furniture we went and slept on the floor and danced around and thanked God for how he had blessed us with our own place again.
  6. How did the UHC help you out?  The upstate homeless coalition, puts you on a budget plan, they take you to Walmart to buy things you need for kitchen bathroom and bedroom.  They furnish you with $100.00 of groceries when you move in.  They helped with furniture.  They paid utility, you were responsible for part of your rent based on pay, and your phone bill.  The transitional program is awesome they even assisted with daycare if you didn’t qualify through your local DSS.  It teaches you how to manage, and to pay old debts off so that you could obtain homeownership when leaving the program. 
  7. What is the one thing that helped you get out of homelessness?  The one thing that helped me come out of homelessness was my children.  I can’t tell them that they could be anything or doing anything their hearts desired if I didn’t be an example of that,  If I gave up they would give up.  And giving up is not an options, not even now.
  8. What do you do now?  I now work back at Greenville Hospital System, and have been in the medical field since then.  I also do hair at a Barber Shop in Greer, I have a business license, under that license I create Gift Baskets.  I am also working on a few other projects.  I was doing Bible Studies at the  Miracle Hills Homeless shelter for 3yrs until my work schedule changed and their times changed, I do a Bible Study at Ellen Hines Girls Home, and on-call for  Anchor House transitional home for teens.  I also work with the youth in my Church.  And any chance I get I stop and witness to a homeless person whether male of female.  I will never forget nor look down at anyone who is going through homelessness, because you don’t know their story, and never say that it will never be you.
  9. What are your children doing now?  My children, my son attends Newberry College in pre law program, My middle daughter attends Eastside High she will be graduating next year, she wants to become a massage therapist, our plans are to open a state of the art salon and spa.  My baby girl goes to Greenville Academy and she plans to become a Veterinarian.
  10. If you could give one piece of advice to  people who are currently homeless, what would it be?  My advice to someone who is homeless: Stop blaming others, take responsibility for all actions and decisions you’ve made whether good or bad.  Look over your life and pull out all the positive and leave the negative behind.  Don’t look for anyone to keep giving you hand-outs you’ve got to want it so bad that you will reach your goals the right way, and it will give you that drive to succeed, take the negative in you and that others throw at you and take a step higher on each negative thought, this is not your end this is your beginning to succeed in life.  And if you don’t do it for you, do it for your children they deserve it.  Our kids have had to see us sad, they’ve seen us cry so many tears, they’ve seen us work like dogs, make it for them, so that we all can have a better life. Not just to be rich and famous, but just to live and be happy, not to say we will never cry again, but we want be crying for the same reason.
  11. Any other words that you would like others to know?   Everyone who is homeless has not been on drugs, or prison, or prostitution, this is the concept that a lot of people have.  It is true when they say don’t judge a book by its cover.  When I was homeless, I didn’t act like I was homeless, I didn’t dress like I was homeless, My motto is, “ To never look like what you are going through.”  The only way people knew was when I told them and I was not ashamed anymore and I would tell people don’t pity my situation, they couldn’t understand why I could smile, if they only knew I had already cried enough.

Recent Activity for the Social Media Group

Last week was so hectic with tests and papers, that I didn’t have time to blog about my recent activity with the social media group.  Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

-Fixed Twitter logo and put a background on the page.  Check it out!
Blogged results from the Bridesmaid’s Ball from answers from Linda.
Blogged about WYFF4 news story on homeless children in Greenville — cross posted from Leslie’s because her post was very informative.
-Tweeted multiple times.
-Sent Erin Sanders pics from the Bridesmaid’s Ball
-Contacted Celena Ferguson from the Bridesmaids Ball and asked her to answer questions regarding her experience with homelessness. — Celena is the one that spoke at the ball and thanked the UHCSC for their help.  Received her answers and will be blogging about them this week!

-Contacted Paul Bowers and explained our class goal.  Asked him to guest blog about his experiences and why he pretended to be homeless.  I have not yet heard back from Paul, but hope to be in contact with him this week.

I’m excited that our blog and Twitter are taking off like they have.  So far, we’ve had over 300 views on our blog!  We follow 27 people and 22 people follow us back.  I’m hoping that this week, we will get more followers and begin engaging with our current followers.

Results from the Upstate Homeless Coalition’s Bridesmaid’s Ball!

[cross-post from the Upstate Homeless Coalition of South Carolina’s blog]

After asking Linda Wilson more about the statistics and numbers from the Bridesmaid’s Ball, I wanted to share them.

  • How many people attended the Bridesmaid’s Ball?  About 200 people attended!
  • How much money did the ball raise? The ball raised about 38,500, but this is an estimate.
  • How much money specifically did the silent auction raise? The auction raised about 6,400.
  • What was the best part of the ball in your opinion?  The food was superior. An older friend of mine said his wife was shoveling the food in and sending him on to other food tables to see what they still needed to try. We are none for our food anyway, but this year I believe we surpassed other years. Also, it was obvious that people were having a great time.

All in all, it seems as though the Ball was a great success!! I’m so glad that the Clemson Communication Studies students were able to help out, volunteer, and have fun!