Terrell on Affordable Care

Terrell is the community engagement specialist for the Health Federation of Philadelphia and works within their program “AC Outreach Enrollment.”

He shares about how at the age of 18 he had a routine checkup and discovered that he had signs that would have led to blindness without managed care. He notes that after the passing of the ACA but before the establishment of the marketplace 15% of Americans went without insurance. After 2015 we saw that number go down to 9.1% of Americans. In 2011, 1.2 million  Pennsylvanians were uninsured and people lived in fear that a slip or accident would financially ruin them and their families. Today with the ACA and the expansion of Medicaid, the uninsured rate in Pennsylvania has gone from 14% to 10%.

His program has a team of certified navigators who go through the city meeting individuals, screen them for eligibility for care, enroll them in insurance plans, and work to mend the gaps. He meets with individuals that he has enrolled at least twice a year to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks. He notes that the important thing is to meet people where they’re at and when they have time to meet.

He leaves us with the call to help those we know who are uninsured to find the resources they need to find appropriate insurance.

Emily’s Uplifting Spirit

Emily is a member of Witnesses to Hunger– she is 32 years old and has two children, aged 7months and 8 years old. She explains that Witnesses to Hunger wants to change the outlook on food and housing insecurity and show people what it looks like. She explains that she wasn’t homeless but did not have the necessities to live in the house and provide for her family, such as gas, food, water, or electricity.

She shares her story. She lost her little sister when she was eight years old and her sister was seven, part of what she describes as “a hectic childhood.” She has been involved in service and advocacy for many years- starting with speaking to teens about sexual health to doing public speaking about her life.

She shares about how around two years ago she was staying at a shelter with her six year old child, a position she describes as “rock bottom” after experiencing an unhealthy housing situation with a slum landlord. She calls moving to a shelter in Philadelphia the hardest thing she ever had to do. She worked twelve hour days and still living in a shelter with her child. She notes that at the end of the day she wanted her child to know that no matter what happens you still go outside at the end of the day with a smile on  your face to uplift others and be a positive role model because you never know what people are going through, and that your story could help them get through.

She shares her passion for lifting up others- especially children. She shares a story of a child who spit on her son a couple weeks ago. Instead of yelling at the child she told him, “Listen, I don’t know what’s going on with you… but if you need something to eat, you need someplace to just hang out at for a little while, you need a cup of water, you need somebody to talk to, come knock on my door.” A couple days later the child comes to the door and says, “I’m thirsty!” she asks, “Is that how you ask for something to drink?” to which he responds, “May I have something to drink?” and she said, “you sure can!” and brought him inside to have a glass of water.

She shares this story because it reminds her that what you do impacts kids more than what you say. She notes that she doesn’t know what is going on in that child’s life but she doesn’t want to be another person who is bringing him down, she wants to be one who uplifts him. She encourages people to be a statistic of something good- to keep moving and do something with yourself.

No matter what you go through in your day, be an uplift to others. It takes one second to smile and say have a great day, or to give someone on the street a bag of snacks.

Emily ends by noting the importance of the difference among a number, and a picture, and a life, and living.

Sahar on Female Empowerment

Sahar lives in a multifaith community where Muslims, Christians, and Jews live together and work for social justice. She Muslim and was raised in a multifaith environment- including attending Catholic schools.

Her mother got her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh and, during this time, Sahar describes herself as living in a little bubble in her mosque. She describes female empowerment becoming more of a concept outside of her circle when she went to Catholic school where she was taught in a way where it was okay to be whomever you want to be. She notes the impact Catholic sisters have had in her early life, how a priest encouraged her to seek deeper into the Qur’an to deepen her own faith, and how the community supported her spiritual development and Muslim faith.

She describes how her parents, whom she calls “very modern,” were still very concerned about living in American society. Because of this she had to go to the local college across the street. She was devastated by this, but Sister Marie told her, “It’s not where you study, it’s what you make out of where you are, and how you live in your faith and how you act out your faith.” and to not “forget about what we taught you and to be the best representative of the Muslim faith that you can be.”

Sahar cites a favorite verse of hers from the Qur’an, “I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other in the sight of me, whether it be man or woman.” (3:195) From that verse she has taken that how can men and women not be treated equally on earth on how we strive for justice if they will be judged equally on their duties at the Day of Judgment.

When her children went to college she moved from television and into the interfaith social justice arena. Since then she has learned more of how to deepen her own Muslim faith from the other faith traditions, and she credits this to her Catholic school past.

She ends with another Quran verse (49:19) detailing the importance of diversity and working together in good faith.

Robert and Integrity House

Robert addresses the gaps that exist for those who are receiving treatment for addiction and working to rebuilt their lives. He shares how the people at Integrity house are fighting to rebuild their lives and reestablish themselves as productive citizens.

One obstacle that those impacted by addiction and alcoholism face is stigma. Robert attests that we shouldn’t be judged based on our past, and should be given a fair chance based on who we are today.

He explains the four pillars that Integrity house sees as being important for reestablishing yourself after addiction and/or alcoholism: Transformative Addiction treatment; Recovery support (family, social, and spiritual support); Safe, affordable, and sober housing; and employment. Employment must include a living wage for people to be able to reestablish themselves and their families.

Prospective employees with a record often have a hard time getting a job due to the stigma associated with their past, and when they do get jobs they are often part-time and low wage. This causes people to work two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet.

Robert highlights that people can and do recover from addiction, and that it is up to all of us to lift each other up and give individuals the opportunity to reclaim their lives and create a better world for all of us.


Adam Reaching Out for Help

Adam shares his story with addiction. He shares how difficult it was to find help when very few programs accepted Medicaid. He had to let his Medicaid expire and apply for a federal grant. He notes that when dealing with addiction, even waiting a few weeks for Medicaid for expire could have cost him his life.

He shares his frustration with the difficulty of finding treatment. However, he shares his pride in his progress: he is going back to school and credits the programs he’s attended for turning his life around.

Penelope’s Support System

When Penelope was released from five years in prison she was expecting to go to a halfway house and start working again. Instead she was sent to Integrity house. At first she was annoyed, but immediately after she was full of gratitude. She felt more loved at Integrity house than she had felt in a long time. She’s still friends with the people she met at Integrity house.

Before Integrity house she had lost her relationships with her children for almost ten years. Through Integrity house she has slowly regained those relationships with help from her peers and the staff. After Integrity house she went to a halfway house and went to school for social work. After school she found it difficult to get an internship or job due to her record. She wanted to work with veterans but couldn’t work at a hospital.

She asked to work with Integrity house, who offered her an internship for a year and a half and ultimately offered her a full time position. She notes the difficulty of getting a job with a record, though she is encouraged by some employers becoming more accepting.

She shares that her children came back into her life full time in January and that she’ll be receiving her masters in social work in May.


Michael on the Integrity Program

Michael shares how when he was experiencing the peak of his addiction he was on Medicaid and kicked out of his parents’ house. He started seeking help through programs but everything required over a thousand dollars and didn’t accept Medicaid. Often programs would tell him to get back in touch in five weeks if he had they money.

He ended up in Integrity House via drug court. He says that Integrity house is a unique therapeutic community in that they learn to change their behaviors and live in community. He notes that the community building and resources, such as resume building and job preparedness, are truly standout elements of Integrity house.

Darnell Accepting Change

Darnell shares about his addiction habit and how when his insurance ended he was still struggling with addiction. He went through drug court in 2008 and did nothing in the program- cutting corners. The last time he was sentences he decided to actually do the program to change his life. He was tired of living that life and had to literally get on his knees and surrender himself. He had never been to a Therapeutic community and this is his second program, which is credits with helping him a lot.

Sister Simone notes the importance of having opportunity when you’re willing to change.

Nate’s Inner Calling

Nate is the survivor of seven near-fatal alcohol-related automobile accidents.  In the last accident he hit a tree at 123 mph and was cut out of the car with the jaws of life.

He shares that he is well versed in the Bible and dedicated his life to Christ at 8 years old. Every time he speaks about God “outside people” tell him that he’s destined to be a preacher. He’s heard it so many times that, in combination with surviving so many nearly fatal car crashes, he sees that becoming a preacher is his calling and that it’s time to head in that direction.

He also relates to mental health issues. He’s notes that while he’s always been very well spoken and acted as though everything was okay, he’s had underlying issues for years, and has run from these issues through alcoholism. He notes that the mental health aspect of what Integrity house does really helps a lot of people.

Destiny on Lowest Points

Destiny shares about how at the lowest point in her life everyone she knew was gone or passed away. She was wandering around the county when she overdosed and had to be brought back to life. She woke up in the hospital and still didn’t realize that she had a problem, even while her sisters were with her.

She notes that it took so much for her to get that she had a problem in part due to her deep depression. She credits Integrity house for helping with her addiction and her depression by surrounding her with community. She says that Integrity house has helped her get the help and resources she needed, even when she didn’t know that she needed or wanted them.

She came to Integrity house after spending time in jail. She tells how she lied about having an addiction problem and was planning on using when she got out. She credits the people she met in the four month long term program for changing her life. She recalls crying all the time as she worked through issues that she didn’t know she had. She shares about how having someone believe in you and grow together in community to fight their addiction and fight the stigma they experience as people who have struggled with addiction.