Military service often results in difficult mental and emotional issues for the men and women who serve. Dorsey Whitehead served in the Army prior to the 1980s as an officer. He comes from a long line of Army officers. His father, brothers and grandfather all served. His father retired and his brother works as a defensive contractor.
Born in North Carolina, he lived in Illinois prior to returning to North Carolina in the 1990s. This was a tumultuous time for Dorsey. Though he tried to maintain a steady job, his mental health and emotional distress resulted in bouncing from job to job. Bad relationships also factored in to create a very difficult scenario, and Dorsey found himself experiencing homelessness. From 2009 to 2019 he tried living with relatives and friends, but ultimately he found himself living in his car. Fortunately, Dorsey was admitted to the VA hospital in Salisbury, where he was stabilized.
Upon release from the hospital, Dorsey described himself as homeless, without hope, and with no future. “I was a guy dumped on the doorsteps (of the Arthur Cassell House) with nothing to my name.” Dorsey says the staff of the Arthur Cassell House (Open Door Ministries’ transitional housing program for veterans), led by Beth Waters, gave him a roof over his head, food to eat, and the resources he needed to get back on his feet. He now has two sources of income that he did not previously know how to obtain.
Now Dorsey is in his own apartment, continuing to transition to independence. The Arthur Cassell House staff still assist him with transportation and continued support. When asked what Open Door Ministries and the Arthur Cassell Transitional Housing program means to him, Dorsey replied, “Life- saving. It is a great place, wonderful staff—they do a fantastic job. “
I would just like to share my experience with Open Door Ministries of High Point, North Carolina. In these unprecedented times, there have undoubtedly been hardships for many.
My personal experience?
I am a hard- working single mother of three. One who has held down a job since age 16, due to my upbringing. I was taught to be responsible for myself and self -sufficient. On 2/12/21 I found myself terminated unjustifiably from my employer. Needless to say, I was DEVASTATED… I thought, here I am in the middle of a Global Pandemic without employment, insurance or a way to pay my bills. Depression tried to set in. I reached out to ODM on 4/9/21 after exhausting all my funds from February/March in bills. I first heard the most pleasant comforting voice over the phone. That of a Ms. Vivian. She exhibited compassion even over the phone. I arrived at the facility, feeling anxious and a little defeated to “be honest”. I was called back to speak with Mr. Kevin Mills. I need to say, this is NOT his job. This is Kevin’s ministry. He listened to my situation, and I was so at ease. My spirit said “Let it go.” I did. Before I knew it, I was in tears, telling my entire story. Mr. Kevin encouraged me “In the Lord”!!! He reminded me to keep the faith, press on, be encouraged, this too shall pass, God is able. When I left, my spirit and countenance had been lifted. I appreciate all that ODM offers. But please don’t overlook what can’t be solved with money or bills paid. There is also nourishment for your soul right there at ODM. I am reminded, no matter what I face… With God, all things are possible.
Thank you Open Door Ministries!
Your impact on my life will never be forgotten.
Joyce L. Ridley
Our men’s shelter is often the last safety net for our homeless guests. They have hit the lowest point in their lives and are there for a reason. They have a story. Jason Citty, licensed social worker and addiction specialist, knows this all too well. He counsels these men several times a week in our shelter, and provides support and guidance so that the men can get back on their feet.
This past year has been unlike any other in recent history. Those who have shelter, food, and jobs have suffered the effects of covid-19– how much more so have those who experience homelessness and poverty. Poverty alone creates tremendous stress. Add to that the isolation covid-19 has produced, and you have a recipe for anxiety, depression and hopelessness.
That’s where Open Door Ministries comes in. When our guests do not have to worry about their next meal or shelter over their heads, they can focus on their mental health. Jason uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help the men see things differently. He says behaviors come from thoughts, and so he encourages them to believe in themselves. He says if they feel empowered, it goes a long way toward recovery.
Jason spends roughly one hour per week with each shelter guest. It is immersive, which he says is unique (versus an office environment). This is their home.
When asked what he would do if he could wave a magic wand, Jason said he would provide work and stable housing for all the men. He said they thrive most when they have a job, which is empowering and provides the greatest hope.
We are grateful for Jason’s invaluable services to our shelter residents. When they know they have a friend—someone to talk to and someone to lean on—they can move forward in hope and equipped with skills to carry them through life’s journey.
Since 2018 Kierra Lassiter found herself bouncing from place to place, and in 2019 she had a second child. She was kicked out of her home, tried hotels, and last year was living in her car. Her children were living with her dad at the time. Like so many of our clients, Kierra had hit rock bottom.
Kierra learned about Rapid ReHousing through a friend who benefitted from the program, and though skeptical after so many failed attempts to get back on her feet, she gave it a try. Tonya Clinard, our Housing Program Manager, and Kendra Brooks, case manager, helped Kierra find a place to live with her children and get a job working from home. She also received all the items necessary to start a new home: furniture, kitchen supplies, beds, and more.
With joy and a smile, Kierra shared how amazing the program has been. “The customer service and hospitality has been incredible. They aren’t just doing their job—they truly want to help.” Kierra noted that her children (ages one and four) needed toys. The program provided educational toys for Christmas, and now she says “they love them—my oldest is finally learning his numbers and letters.”
One of Kierra’s goals is to learn to drive. She is saving to get a car. Tonya and Kendra work with her on her goals and plans. This month Kierra will pay her own rent. She has been saving so she can get back on her feet as much as she can. The ultimate goal is self-sufficiency, and with the help of Rapid ReHousing, Kierra is well on her way.
“This has been the most amazing experience of my life.”
Kevin Mills has been a shelter manager at Open Door Ministries for over 11 years. Like many of Open Door’s staff, he has a wealth of experience and knowledge to pass along to the men in the shelter. Kevin has over 30 years of corporate management experience. He found himself homeless in 2009 after an apartment fire, and like many of our guests, gave back to Open Door by volunteering. He’s been connected ever since. Kevin uses his background in finance to help the men with basic life skills—budgeting, credit, and saving money. He says he’d rather “teach them to fish so that they can eat for a lifetime.” Kevin works with young men who come from jail or rehab, and asks them three questions: “What have you done, where are you, and where do you want to go?” He calls himself a tough love guy— “a hug and a kind word go a long way.” Kevin says he often gives a speech when the guys walk through the door—that Open Door represents a clean slate. When they tell him they’ve hit rock bottom, Kevin says “Great–you can only go up from here. Where do you want to start?” He says with consistent tough love and support, as he earns their trust, they make great strides. He even gives them his personal cell number. He recognizes that for many, they just made a bad decision along the way. They’ve come from the worst possible experiences, straight off the street, and yet they manage to start over. Kevin says many want to know how they can pay him back, and he tells them “just pay it forward.” He notes, “We rise—like the Phoenix out of the ashes—we rise.”