News & Events
“We wish the service would’ve been around sooner.” Kristin Sierra, team leader for our Equilibrium (EQ) Youth ACT Services, hears these words so often from the families that EQ serves, they echo in her mind.
Guild launched EQ Services in 2014 to meet a community need: bridge the gap between mental health services for kids and adults. “I was super excited about working on a team dedicated to youth,” Kristin recalls. “I’ve always wanted to work with the younger generation and with the family as a unit.”
Equipped with 8 years of experience on an adult Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, in which she often worked with younger adults, Kristin helped to develop the team into what it is today: 9 multi-disciplinary staff, including psychiatry, nursing, individual and family outreach therapy, an alcohol and drug counselor, education specialist, and a peer support specialist, serving young people from 16 to 20-years-old.
The team intervenes in the early stages of mental illness with a goal of reducing the impact of symptoms to help youth transition successfully into adulthood.
“First, we just go in and introduce ourselves to the young adult and their family to build trust,” Kristin describes. “For a lot of them, their perspective is, ‘this is just another provider’, and it’s a scary situation.” We engage young people by asking what their goals are.” It’s a question, she says, many haven’t been asked before.
From there, the team gets to work. “We work all over the community,” Kristin says. “We’re in schools working with social workers and teachers on Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs),” if that’s needed.” The team also helps to coordinate routine medical and dental care. “Some clients haven’t been to the dentist for a long time by the time we see them,” Kristin comments. Limited access to transportation and mental health symptoms — leading to isolation and difficulty scheduling appointments — often pose barriers to care.
To address the experience of isolation and to provide education, the team recently started offering a group for those they serve to talk about mental health, chemical health, skill building, and how to better manage symptoms. The group goes a long way toward reducing stigma, too. “We’ve had quite a reaction from them knowing that someone in their age group also has mental illness,” Kristin says.
Though EQ Services have remained consistent since they began, team members have learned a lot about the children’s mental health system and available resources. And this year marks a significant turning point: many of the youth the team started working with — when the service began — turned 21 and have moved on to adult services. Commenting on his son’s recent transfer from the team, one dad expressed gratitude: his son has been able to stay in the community; he hasn’t been hospitalized; and he’s working full-time. His only regret — that EQ wasn’t around to help their family sooner.
“It’s very hard to see them leave,” Kristin admits of the clients she’s watched move on. “But it’s also a time of growth. All of the work that we’ve done together – the team and the client – that carries on. That’s what keeps me doing what I do.”
The conversations started, as far as Service Director Julie Grothe can remember, back in 2003. She’s been working to combat homelessness for a long time, and the years, admittedly, get a bit fuzzy. But, one number is still clearly etched in her mind.
Twenty percent. It’s the number that Julie, and other community partners working to end homelessness, kept coming back to. And for good reason: it represented the individuals they couldn’t seem to help. Multiple barriers – untreated symptoms of mental illness, addiction, criminal histories, and unfavorable rental history — were getting in the way. “Eighty percent of individuals were being housed,” Julie recalls. “But, that wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want to see anybody homeless.”
Lots of talk ensued. The solution, the partners determined, was a housing program, with around-the-clock support. But, how would they do it? Could they really design a program that screened people into housing, instead of screening them out?
Julie was determined to find a way and, as it turned out, so were others. Guild Incorporated collaborated with Project for Pride in Living and Hearth Connection. And, in 2009, Delancey Apartments opened, offering 13 apartments for people experiencing chronic, long-term homelessness.
“When people live outside, they forget how to do certain things,” Julie says. “If you’ve been homeless for 10 years, you haven’t done housekeeping; you may not know how to budget for groceries because you’re getting food from food shelves and other resources; and you may not know what it takes to be a good neighbor.”
Leaving the homeless community and culture they’re accustomed to, and moving into an apartment requires significant adjustment. Some residents, Julie explains, sleep on the floor for months, despite having beds. Many feel lonely and isolated. Some are vulnerable to exploitation.
This is where the staff come in. “I have amazing staff that are dedicated and passionate about serving our residents,” says Vicenta Valero, Supportive Housing Services Supervisor. “The attention and company that they are able to provide our residents is priceless. Being open 24/7 provides availability for residents who may be having a hard time feeling safe and cared for.”
In addition to front desk staff, residents have access to case management, nursing, employment support, and tenant navigation, which is instrumental for those who, after living at Delancey Apartments, no longer need supportive housing. “I’ve seen individuals stay for a year and move on to independent living,” says Vicenta.
Access to additional, integrated services and resources also helps in identifying and resolving issues that may be impacting a person’s ability to live and function in the community. Guild staff members were able to help one resident recognize and get treatment for symptoms of mental illness that were causing her to behave in a way that generated concern for people in her community. Once the symptoms were treated, the behavior stopped, and she was able to maintain her housing.
“What keeps me motivated is seeing folks who have been homeless for 10 to 15 years adjust and live inside,” says Julie. “This is especially true for folks who have been turned down for other opportunities and haven’t been able to make it anywhere else.” Vicenta agrees: “The residents remind me every day that hope is alive and well. I am humbled by their resiliency, perseverance, and genuineness.”
January 23, 2018
Notes on The Ladder of Hope from Our Executive Director, Julie Bluhm
It was so exciting to participate in my very first Ladder of Hope events this fall! Sixteen people, served by Guild, contributed to the events by telling their stories this year.
I was so moved by each of them and am overwhelmed by their courage. It’s incredibly difficult to tell the stories of one’s worst times, but to do it in front of a crowd of over 600 people is quite another feat.
Our featured speakers, Nico and Ken, shared their stories of struggle and triumph through their life journeys, marked by experiences with mental illness, trauma and chemical dependency. Guild had the privilege of being part of their stories, through the staff members who helped to facilitate their recovery.
Nico’s ongoing struggle with anxiety, depression, and addiction often left him homeless. “It was a crummy hotel at best – a park bench at worst,” he recalls. With help from Guild, today he celebrates one and a half years in his apartment and two years of sobriety. Read Nico’s story.
Ken began experiencing symptoms of mental illness in his early teens. By the time he reached adulthood, the untreated symptoms were worse, and Ken was afraid to leave his apartment. With Guild’s help, today he says, “I work. I socialize. I go to the grocery store. I can drive on the highway. I couldn’t do any of that before.” Watch Ken’s story.
Between the two events, 1,123 guests, met Nico, Ken, Jack, and other individuals we serve. It was incredible to see so many dedicated supporters in one room. We are so grateful for you, Guild’s extended family: those who have consistently supported our mission over the years and those who attended the Ladder of Hope event for the first time. The work that we do at Guild can be hard; the energy we received from you at the events fuels us throughout the year.
The world is full of complicated problems, and we’re all surrounded by seemingly insatiable need. It’s so hard to want to make an impact, but not know how to help. With your support, Guild staff work hard to find solutions that impact and improve life every day for individuals, families and communities – all of us.
Our sincere thanks to:
- Nico, Ken, Jen, Tina, Gayle, Dan, Nellie & Charlie, Jack, Brenda, Dianna, Jajaime, Larry, Scott, and Barb for so generously sharing their stories and to Jack for writing and sharing his poem, “Everyday Life.”
- The Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation, the Otto Bremer Trust, and one anonymous donor for inspiring others to give by providing $110,000 in matching funds. Between the two events, we received all of the matching funds!
- Bituminous Roadways, Inc. for being our Presenting Sponsor, and Anchor Bank, Maguire Agency, and Nasseff Mechanical Contractors for being our Title Sponsors. Their support, combined with other contributions, allows the gifts we received to go directly to our mission. Learn more about our Presenting and Title Sponsors and why they support us.
- Our Supporting Sponsors: 3M, Bolander, CBL Floors, City of St. Paul, Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity, Credible, Dean Schiffler & Diane Strand with Guaranteed Rate Affinity, Garrity, Tegeler, and Varley Wealth Strategies, LLP; Genoa, A QoL Healthcare Company; HealthPartners, Hometown Tire and Service, Lakeview Bank, Leadership Transitions, Medica Foundation, Mutual of America, Qualitech, Sam’s Club, Science Museum of Minnesota, Universal Cleaning Service, Valley Staffing, Inc.; Wilkerson Guthmann CPAs and Business Consultants, Wipfli, LLP CPAs and Consultants
- The many staff and the 37 volunteers, including photographers Peter Koeleman and Lisa Christianson and pianist Bob Jones.
December 13, 2017
Notes on Gratitude from Our Executive Director, Julie Bluhm
When I joined Guild Incorporated, I knew I was joining a strong, healthy organization. I’m grateful for the longevity in leadership that came before me through Grace and so many others – some of whom are still here – and I’m honored to be leading the work. Guild’s rich history roots us in our mission, providing a solid foundation from which we now move forward. It’s one of the things I’m grateful for. Here are some of the others:
Individuals we serve: Dianna, Larry, Barb, Gayle, and so many others share their stories with us. I’m always amazed by the bravery of those willing to share their incredibly personal experiences in a public way. We’re thankful to them for speaking about our work in a way that no one else can.
Staff: I’ve been so impressed with the knowledge and commitment of Guild staff. This is a time of change for us, yet staff remains steadfast in their commitment to our mission and the goals of the individuals we serve. Read what Guild’s nurses and Guild’s social workers have said about their work.
Volunteers move furniture and other items for those we serve, host meals at our Community Support Program, address and stuff envelopes, befriend those experiencing isolation, and so much more. Through it all, one thing is clear: we cannot do our work without them. Volunteers’ passion, skills, and “roll up your sleeves” attitude brings fun and energy into our work!
Donors generously give their time, talent, energy, and resources – often in creative ways! This year, a high school senior decided to forego a traditional graduation party in lieu of putting on a benefit concert for Guild; Mountain Goat Running held a Stigma Breakers Run with proceeds going to Guild; and many others stepped forward to invest in our mission.
Partners including police officers who come to our site for Crisis Intervention Training, those we work alongside us on the Coming Home initiative to improve quality of life for individuals experiencing homelessness and to reduce unnecessary emergency or inpatient visits, and Livio Health Group, an organization providing on-site primary and urgent care services to individuals we serve.
The Many Others Who Help: United Gospel Mission donated 1,000 gift cards again this year to help provide a holiday meal to individuals in need. Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels will be providing holiday meals to 120 Guild clients and their families, and the Brownberry Warehouse donates baked goods each week for individuals we serve.
Community, Kindness, Comradery: Staff, individuals served, family members, and volunteers participated in the Stigma Breakers Run and this year’s NAMIWalk – both events combat the stigma of mental illness. And a group of individuals served and staff volunteered at Feed My Starving Children.
Thank you for all you do to make this list possible. Together, we are making a difference.
November 14, 2017
It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), so we’re celebrating Barb – an individual who has found employment brings more to her life than she could’ve imagined.
Our Employment Services team views employment as part of the recovery process – not an addition to it. The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model they use is evidence-based, and helped them place 33% more individuals in jobs in 2016 when compared with the previous year.
When Barb started her employment search, she didn’t think she needed any help. After very few leads, Barb’s Case Manager encouraged her to get in touch with Guild Incorporated’s Employment Services. Barb sat down with Guild Employment Specialists, Julie and Anthony, and realized the impact they could have.
Julie and Anthony worked with Barb to build a plan based on her wants and needs. Interests, schedule, physical requirements, and transportation were considered in addition to Barb’s strengths.
A position at a local restaurant fit the bill. Barb takes customer orders, busses tables, and ensures that guests have a wonderful experience. She wakes up, and looks forward to her job, “I love how I feel about going to work. They make me feel good about showing up and working my hardest.”
A steady job makes it easier to pay the bills, and meet other goals. Recently, Barb fulfilled a lifelong dream of going on a cruise. “Working made that possible,” she says. Her state of mind has changed, too: “I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I just feel like I am a stronger person and getting emotionally healthier. Every day I go to work is a step in the right direction for my recovery.”
Finding a job isn’t the end of Barb’s career aspirations though. Anthony and Barb discuss frequently how she would enjoy bringing more painting, a long-standing passion, back into her life. They are working together to contact local senior centers to see if Barb can facilitate classes or display her art work.
“Job searching is sometimes like you’re stuck between rocks,” Barb says. “You can’t move forward if you don’t move the rocks, but you don’t have the tools to do it alone. Guild came with their bulldozers and helped me rock-by-rock.”
October 18, 2017