STAMFORD, CT: As political conversations on strategies for combating issues of poverty run rampant this time of year, there are some organizations that have been engaged in the discussion for years. And one organization in particular has been carrying the torch on poverty services right in our backyard.
In the heart of downtown Stamford sits one of the area’s most influential and encompassing services to the homeless. Inspirica, formerly St Luke’s Lifeworks, is an organization that dates back to the late 1800s. The missional organization houses approximately 240 people each night and currently operates 10 facilities in lower Fairfield County.
With 46 million people living in poverty around the country, and another 54 million within 50% of the poverty line, our community has not faced the threat of poverty since the height of the Great Depression. Within the walls of poverty reside other dangers to health and wellness. HIV/AIDS run rampant most in this population group. Where there is poverty and inequality, HIV thrives due to lack of education, shelter, preventative care, clean water, sanitation, and social cohesion. Therefore, overall health is improved by getting out of poverty. One mission of the Red Ribbon Foundation is to enhance the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS; combating poverty is therefore an integral component towards that mission.
I recently sat down with Jason Shaplen, CEO of Inspirica, to discuss his vision for the organization and how he plans to assist our neighbors in getting out of poverty. Within Inspirica, the Bread & Roses program is an Inspirica branch that provides transitional and permanent housing for those affected by HIV/AIDS. It contains three facilities around Fairfield County for single adults and families. I got to visit one of these- McKinney Houses (Stamford)- one afternoon with a staff member and meet some of its residences.
Thanks to support like that given by the Red Ribbon Foundation, the McKinney House has undergone major renovations (see before and after pictures above) that allow its residents to enjoy a more comfortable living environment. Some of the highlights include 60 new windows, 9 doors, new flooring and ceilings, furniture, fixtures, a new roof, and a new front porch. The entire house has also been resided with a beautiful cedar shingle.
Some may say there are dozens of organizations dedicated to the eradication of AIDS/HIV through poverty programs. What makes Inspirica and the McKinney House different is its overarching aim and focus on results. Inspirica offers the largest scope of housing around. Their services also reach the most diverse people groups and services to truly break the cycle of poverty. Through the McKinney programs, staff members work with its residents to secure work, pay off debt, and move into permanent supportive housing.
As I sat in Jason’s office, I was amazed at the tributes to the work of Inspirica lining the walls. Pictures, stories, cards, paintings- all testifying to the success he and his staff were achieving through their programs. The renovations at McKinney Stamford are just an example of the great work being done by Jason Shaplen and his team. The Red Ribbon Foundation is proud to support endeavors like Inspirica, where the rubber meets the road on combating root effects on those affected by HIV/AIDS. To learn more about Inspirica, please visit its website: www.inspiricact.org.
By Warren Perry