Newsflash

Seven Life-Changing Habits to Build During the Pandemic

Scary times are upon us. We're staying indoors, watching the news 24/7, and we're afraid. Everyone around us is afraid. That's because fear is super-contagious. But, we don't have to allow pandemic-driven fear and anxiety to infect our lives. We can learn to rise above it. And, when we do, there's an unexpected side effect: We become positive influencers on everyone around us.

Now is the perfect time to dissolve fear-based beliefs and be a powerful example to others. In times of uncertainty, it's the real influencers who step in and make a big difference to those who are struggling with the unknown.

Overcoming fear requires you to do some intense work on yourself. But (to state the obvious) right now you have some time. Why not put it to good use? Instead of worrying and handwringing, develop some good spiritual habits to help you vanquish fear. They'll pay off now when you need it most, but will also serve you (and others) once "normalcy" returns.

Here are seven habits to work on right now to overcome fear, tap into your "love-power" (my word for the primal power we all possess) and influence others in a positive way:

Learn to grieve your losses and release your pain. A lot of what you're feeling right now is grief. You are grieving the loss of your life before COVID-19, and you are also grieving collectively with the rest of the world. "Pain can be released through the portal of the heart," says McGregor. "When you focus on your heart, a desire to release the pain of the past may arise. Even better, your heart knows how to do that without your mind interrupting."

Here's a simple exercise from The Tao of Influence: Focus on the heart and allow the feelings of your past to present themselves. Just allow the process to unfold. Allow your body to feel and release without letting your mind get hooked into the emotion, feeding the ego needs and magnifying your power patterns. When you put your attention on your heart, you may notice that it feels warm or even hot. That is a sign you are releasing stored emotional pain.

Start noticing your fear-based wording. And then cut it out. Words are powerful: They can lift our spirits, or they can drag us down in an instant—and others with us. Notice the words you say and find better words to use in their place. Instead of saying, "I'm tired," say, "I'm going to have a nap, and when I wake up, I'll feel refreshed, energized and ready to work or play."
 

In the time of coronavirus, the words you speak and even those you think matter greatly. Complaining phrases such as, 'If only...' and 'Remember when...?' are likely to come up frequently. Challenge yourself to go seven days without uttering one complaint. After managing that, go two more days without engaging in complaining thoughts.

Find a new way to pray. (Hint: Begging and pleading isn't real prayer.) It's understandable that your prayers may be colored by desperation right now. But asking, bargaining, and engaging in transactions lead to a one-sided relationship with the Divine. To better understand the power of prayer, I journeyed to the Poor Clares Monastery in Duncan, British Columbia. The nuns there live a solitary life of contemplative prayer. They taught her that prayer isn't what most of us think it is.

The nuns said that prayer is many things. It can be a meditative walk in nature, a feeling of deep gratitude or joy from being in the presence of a loved one, or simply saying a phrase like 'thank you.' It can be saying one of many names for God. All these ways to pray have one thing in common: to illuminate a relationship with the Divine."

Start meditating (finally). Why should we meditate? Because it helps us detach from our preferences — which trigger our need to be "right" or "in control" and lead to suffering — and practice being in the present. Just set aside 15-20 minutes to sit quietly and focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, that's okay: The point is not to judge the thoughts that stream endlessly into your consciousness but to allow them to ebb and flow without getting emotionally hooked.

Successful meditation occurs when there is no war between your head and your heart. This state is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. If you've always 'meant' to try meditating but haven't yet done so, now is the perfect day to start.

Clean and declutter to create "environmental stillness." A messy space at home contributes to a disorganized and chaotic mind. But if we can take small steps toward establishing stillness on the outside of us, we can experience more internal peace, wellness, and harmony within. If you haven't already done so, take advantage of the extra time you have at home to clean and organize your spaces to promote balance and stillness.

Observe each room and notice what creates unsettling thoughts. Does your office lack a system for filing bills or random pieces of information? Do your bedroom clothes and accessories not have a "home"? Take inventory, commit to doing something about it, and set a date for when it will be done. The entire house can be completed in one month — or even much sooner.

When you feel angry or annoyed, focus on gratitude. Tempers and tensions flare in stressful times and in tight quarters. Don't be surprised if you find yourself getting irritated with your family, with the peanut gallery comments on your social media feeds, with the endless news cycle, or anything else. When this happens, turn your focus on what all you are grateful for. This can help to supplant old power patterns you've relied on for years. If you are angry with someone or arguing endlessly, remove yourself and ask, What is the gift in this moment? Without blaming or shaming anyone, feel into your heart and ask, What am I grateful for? Try to reframe challenging circumstances as opportunities and practice appreciating them. This is a form of gratitude: to be able to see the good that is present in every situation.

Sing and dance regularly. (Yes, you read that right!) In his book The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz says this is a natural expression of our love-power — which is why little children sing and dance. They haven't yet developed the filters and fear that they'll be judged. You can dance and sing in the privacy of your room or as you clean your house. If you want to take it to the next level, consider signing up for a dance class — many classes are offering online streaming while dance studios are closed due to social distancing requirements.

If you allow it, your fear will go viral. Now more than ever, we all need to choose love over fear, power over powerlessness, and hope over despair. This is your chance to, in the words of Gandhi, be the change you want to see in the world. And, you must. When you say no to fear, doing this becomes possible like never before.

Karen McGregor is the author of  "The Tao of Influence: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Leaders and Entrepreneurs."

Mayor names Mary Benton new director of communications

Mayor Sylvester Turner has appointed Mary Benton as the new director of communications, effective immediately. Benton brings valuable years of experience in media relations, strategic communications, crisis communications and social media strategy.

Benton joined the Mayor's Office of Communications as the press secretary in 2018 and quickly distinguished herself as a leader and trusted adviser.

In her new role, Benton will be responsible for ensuring all citywide communications align with the administration's goals and objectives. She will oversee all functions of the Communications Office, including public and media relations, ceremonial documents, social media strategy and compliance with the Texas Public Information Act. 

"I am pleased that Mary Benton has agreed to take on a bigger role in my administration as the Director of Communications. Mary's prior news media experience, and contributions as my Press Secretary, make her a valuable asset to the City," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "In trying times like these, communication is critically important. Mary will ensure that Houstonians have the necessary information they need, whether it is during a public health crisis or my administration’s work and priorities to move Houston forward." 

Benton worked for more than two decades as a television news anchor and reporter in Waco, Austin, and Houston, Texas. Before joining the mayor's office, Benton held several communications and executive leadership roles in Harris County government.

A native of Harlingen,Texas, Benton earned a bachelor of journalism degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

After leaving the television news industry in 2014, the City of Houston declared July 15 as Mary Benton Day, honoring Benton for her extensive community engagement and volunteerism with nonprofit organizations.

She was honored in 2019 by AAF-Houston as a leader in promoting diversity and inclusion and has been named an Influential Woman and Role Model in the community.

OPINION Use time now to focus on yourself!

Scary times are upon us. We're staying indoors, watching the news 24/7, and we're afraid. Everyone around us is afraid. That's because fear is super-contagious. But, we don't have to allow pandemic-driven fear and anxiety to infect our lives. We can learn to rise above it. And,  when we do, there's an unexpected side effect: We become positive influencers on everyone around us.

Now is the perfect time to dissolve fear-based beliefs and be a powerful example to others. In times of uncertainty, it's the real influencers who step in and make a big difference to those who are struggling with the unknown.

Overcoming fear requires you to do some intense work on yourself. But (to state the obvious), right now, you have some time. Why not put it to good use? Instead of worrying and handwringing, develop some good spiritual habits to help you vanquish fear. They'll pay off now when you need it most, but will also serve you (and others) once "normalcy" returns.

Here are seven habits to work on right now to overcome fear, tap into your "love-power" and influence others in a positive way:

Learn to grieve your losses and release your pain. 
A lot of what you're feeling right now is grief. You are grieving the loss of your life before COVID-19, and you are also grieving collectively with the rest of the world. Pain can be released through the portal of the heart. When you focus on your heart, a desire to release the pain of the past may arise. Even better, your heart knows how to do that without your mind interrupting.

Here's a simple exercise. Focus on the heart, and allow the feelings of your past to present themselves. Just allow the process to unfold. Allow your body to feel and release without letting your mind get hooked into the emotion, feeding the ego needs and magnifying your power patterns. When you put your attention on your heart, you may notice that it feels warm or even hot. That is a sign you are releasing stored emotional pain.

Start noticing your fear-based wording. And, then cut it out. 
Words are powerful: They can lift our spirits, or they can drag us down in an instant — and others with us. Notice the words you say and find better words to use in their place. Instead of saying, "I'm tired," say, "I'm going to have a nap, and when I wake up, I'll feel refreshed, energized and ready to work or play.

In the time of coronavirus, the words you speak and even those you think matter greatly. Complaining phrases such as, "If only..." and "Remember when...?" are likely to come up frequently. Challenge yourself to go seven days without uttering one complaint. After managing that, go two more days without engaging in complaining thoughts.

Find a new way to pray. (Hint: Begging and pleading isn't real prayer.) 
It's understandable that your prayers may be colored by desperation right now. But asking, bargaining and engaging in transactions lead to a one-sided relationship with the Divine. To better understand the power of prayer, I journeyed to the Poor Clares Monastery in Duncan, British Columbia. The nuns there live a solitary life of contemplative prayer. They taught her prayer isn't what most of us think it is.

The nuns said that prayer is many things. It can be a meditative walk in nature, a feeling of deep gratitude or joy from being in the presence of a loved one or simply saying a phrase like "thank you." It can be saying one of many names for God. All these ways to pray have one thing in common: to illuminate a relationship with the Divine.

Start meditating (finally). 
Why should we meditate? Because it helps us detach from our preferences — which trigger our need to be "right" or "in control" and lead to suffering — and practice being in the present. (I call it "dropping into the holy moment of now.") Just set aside 15-20 minutes to sit quietly and focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, that's okay: The point is not to judge the thoughts that stream endlessly into your consciousness but to allow them to ebb and flow without getting emotionally hooked.

Successful meditation occurs when there is no war between your head and your heart. This state is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. If you've always "meant" to try meditating, but haven't yet done so, now is the perfect day to start.

Clean and declutter to create "environmental stillness." 
A messy space at home contributes to a disorganized and chaotic mind. But, if we can take small steps toward establishing stillness on the outside of us, we can experience more internal peace, wellness and harmony within. If you haven't already done so, take advantage of the extra time you have at home to clean and organize your spaces to promote balance and stillness.

Observe each room and notice what creates unsettling thoughts. Does your office lack a system for filing bills or random pieces of information? Do your bedroom clothes and accessories not have a "home" of their own? Take inventory, commit to doing something about it, and set a date for when it will be done. The entire house can be completed in one month — or even much sooner.

When you feel angry or annoyed, focus on gratitude. 
Tempers and tensions flare in stressful times and in tight quarters. Don't be surprised if you find yourself getting irritated with your family, with the peanut gallery comments on your social media feeds, with the endless news cycle or anything else. When this happens, turn your focus on what all you are grateful for. This can help to supplant old power patterns you've relied on for years. If you are angry with someone or arguing endlessly, remove yourself and ask, What is the gift in this moment? Without blaming or shaming anyone, feel into your heart and ask, What am I grateful for? Try to reframe challenging circumstances as opportunities and practice appreciating them. This is a form of gratitude: to be able to see the good that is present in every situation.

Sing and dance regularly. 
In his book The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz says this is a natural expression of our love-power — which is why little children sing and dance. They haven't yet developed the filters and fear that they'll be judged. You can dance and sing in the privacy of your room or as you clean your house. If you want to take it to the next level, consider signing up for a dance class — many classes are offering online streaming while dance studios are closed due to social distancing requirements.

If you allow it, your fear will go viral. Now more than ever, we all need to choose love over fear, power over powerlessness, and hope over despair. This is your chance to, in the words of Gandhi, be the change you want to see in the world. And, you must. When you say "no" to fear, doing this becomes possible like never before.

Editor's Note: Karen McGregor is a leadership and influence expert, international keynote speaker, and the best-selling author of several books, with her most recent, "The Tao of Influence: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Leaders and Entrepreneurs," debuting in June 2020. 

 

Local pros talk business!

Today, there are more than 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., and Houston proudly  claims more than its fair share of that number. Many of our city’s self-employed professionals have enjoyed long-term success. But, with gusto, they are also dealing with the constant changes and future challenges of their industries. Recently, I interviewed three Houston women and asked them about their businesses and the ongoing changes in their industries. 
 
Lee Ammer
Lee Ammer, a graduate of  the University of Missouri, moved to Houston 17 years ago, without a job and not knowing anyone. A week later, she moved into her home and had a full-time job in benefits management. Since 2015, Ammer has been a proud independent business owner and the president and CEO of OG Benefits, a  Houston-based company that specializes in employee benefits. It serves clients throughout Texas and select cities across the nation. 
 
When asked about OG  Benefits, Ammer said, “We provide customized employee benefit programs to fit the employers’ budgets and the employees’ diverse and changing needs. Our mission is to deliver products that are affordable and useable.”
 
Asked about her clients, Ammer said, “As a woman-owned business, OG Benefits seeks out growing businesses that are women-owned or family-owned, in a variety of professions and industries.  OG Benefits focuses on adding value to employee benefits.” 
 
Corporate America’s benefit offerings are often much different than what is available to smaller companies. Ammer works to bring large-company concepts to independent companies, using her 20 years of experience in benefits management for companies with 250 to 5000 employees. 
 
“OG Benefits delivers solutions that are cost effective and useable for both employers and employees, “ Ammer said. 
 
Continuing, Ammer added, “The Affordable Care Act has changed healthcare. Employers today are much more attuned to the cost of healthcare, often the second or third largest line item in their budgets. Plus, the political environment is dismantling some parts of the original ACA, resulting in chaotic changes happening every day. Independent employers are receiving conflicting information and getting new deadlines every week. They also know they must change their benefits to be able to compete in the tight labor market. OG Benefits’ strategies help employers attract qualified new employees and retain their valued experienced talent.”
 
Asked about other changes in her industry, Ammer said, “There is a definite shift to more high-tech solutions with less human contact. This shift creates poor employee morale and dissatisfaction with employee benefits. Employers and employees deserve better.
 
“The future is customized benefits that meet the needs of the millennials, to the working families, to pre-retirees.   
 
“The biggest challenge, I think, is the demographic change in America.  We must cater to the age disparity, as well as diverse populations.”  
 
She added, “OG Benefits recognizes these changes and will formulate a solution to fit the workforce of the future. This likely will involve the introduction of new benefits, such as student loan repayment programs, no-cost telemedicine and innovative health plan designs. We also work to change employee behavior when using health insurance benefits. This can save employers thousands of dollars. 
 
“With demographic changes, there is amazing demand for financial wellness, retirement planning and Medicare and Social Security information.  We offer informational seminars, publications, timely information with posts and individual consultation.”
 
Barbara Manousso, Ph.D., M.P.H. 
Born and raised in Providence, R.I., Barbara Manousso came to Houston in July 1978. Later on, when she attended South Texas College of Law in the 1990s, she learned about the emerging practice of alternative dispute resolution. She never completed law school, because “peaceful solutions to conflict seemed more humane and practical than litigation and expensive legal services.” 
 
She also realized that no one needs to be an attorney to mediate or arbitrate. 
 
Since 1993, her company, Manousso Mediation and Arbitration, LLC, has been a world renowned trainer of mediators and arbitrators. The students have come from around the world — from China, India, Lebanon, Italy, Canada, England, Mexico, Ireland, Switzerland, Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, Japan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Brunei, Dubai and South Korea, and most places in the U.S.
 
Manousso is also Adjunct Faculty at the University of St. Thomas and teaches Global Conflict Management to graduate and undergraduates.
 
In addition, Manousso practices mediation and arbitration. She does civil business, workplace, corporate and court appointed cases, as well as family matters, such as divorce and elder and adult care mediation. She is also a recognized author in the field of mediation. 
 
In 2019, Manousso received the Texas Association of Mediators statewide mediator recognition, the Adams Award, for her contributions to the ADR profession. The Houston Business Journal recognized her as a 2019 Woman Who Means Business in professional services and as a mentor. The Association for Conflict Resolution Houston Chapter gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Manousso earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a master of public health degree from The University of Texas School of Public Health, and a Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution from Nova Southeastern University.
 
When asked how the business of mediation has changed over the years, Manousso said.
 
“When I first began as a mediator, there were few women in the business. Now, half of our classes are made up of women and, often, women (and men) of many different cultural backgrounds and age groups. Mediation and arbitration are no longer the retirement opportunity for old, white, male judges. It is very much an equal opportunity for all genders and age groups and backgrounds.
 
“We have medical doctors, human resource professionals, teachers, clergy, CEO, CFA, CPA, LPC, SW, Ph.D., nurses, managers, realtors, college and high school kids, police officers, judges, carpenters, housewives and everybody in between taking our classes. They use the training as a practitioner or as a complement to their resume for an engaging career.”

Manousso added, that mediation training has been a stepping stone for many jobs — for investigators, FBI, foreign service diplomats, airline hosts, graduate studies, teachers and medical professionals.
 
“As far as my practice as a mediator or arbitrator, the opportunities through local, state and federal contracts has multiplied many times.The consumer realizes he can mediate without hiring an attorney, in some cases, but use attorneys as their legal support and information. Cost effectively, the attorney doesn’t need to go to the mediation with the parties, so money is saved. The final agreement and solution is the mediated settlement agreement (MSA), which is a legally binding agreement designed by the parties with the mediator’s assistance. The parties have a win-win situation with satisfaction, if the mediator is skilled.”
 
So, what is the future of mediation? 
 
Manousso said, “Mediation is the cost effective and sensible way to handle a dispute. There is not a credit card, online transaction, doctor’s visit, hospital stay, financial transaction, employment agreement, consumer product or any business transaction that happens that doesn’t have an alternative dispute resolution written clause on how conflicts with them will be handled – worldwide.
 
“Arbitration is very important to the business community as well, especially when the courts are overloaded. The arbitrator can make a decision, like a judge, to resolve the conflict within days or hours. It is very important to our port and international disputes, as well as local and distant family and civil cases.”
 
M. Sandra Scurria, M.D.
M. Sandra Scurria, M.D. is a Board-Certified Family Practice Physician. She has been in practice for over 35 years.  
 
She was born and raised in Mississippi. She attended the University of Dallas and, following graduation in 1969, she moved to Houston. She went to Medical Technology school at MD Anderson Hospital and  and worked there for five years. 
 
Afterwards, Scurria attended  the University of Mississippi where she got her Doctor of Medicine. She moved back to Houston in 1979 and spent three years in the Baylor Family Practice program.  
Currently she is affiliated with MDVIP, a national network of primary care doctors who focus on prevention and wellness. 
 
Scurria explained, “MDVIP doctors have fewer patients and can take more time with each one. We empower our patients to live a healthier life and provide one-on-one doctor counseling, same or next day appointments that start on time and last as long as necessary, 24/7 telephone access to us and an annual wellness exam."
 
The wellness exam includes a thorough hands-on physical exam, plus a large battery of blood laboratory tests, an EKG, a pulmonary function test, hearing and vision tests, a body fat analysis and a series of questionnaires to establish lifestyle choices that can be encouraged or improved upon. The patient is then given a wellness plan that outlines steps she (or he) needs to take to maintain and improve her health.  
 
“I have always been interested in helping people feel better,” said Scurria. “After medical school, I chose a Family Medicine residency, so I could look after all ages and treat the whole patient. After residency, I worked for two managed-care companies and learned about the “insurance side” of medicine. I also learned I was best at direct, primary care and opened a private practice in 1992.”
 
After 20 years of running a very busy and very large practice, Scurria  looked for a way to be able to spend more time with every patient and still make a good living. 
 
“The MDVIP model was perfect for me,” she said. “ The smaller patient number allows me to take more time with my patients and really get to know them.  Additionally, I have more personal time for myself."
 
Scurria added, “I have worked in several facets of medicine over the years. In the early days, there was fewer regulations and less paperwork, which we all miss but progress always takes over.  Now, technology is very much a part of medicine with its pros and cons. I like my electronic medical record system until the internet goes down, and we have no past records. The patients are more of a challenge these days also; they often consult Dr Google, and we have to work harder to stay one step ahead of the latest medical news.”  
 
Scurria said, “I would love to see a world where everyone could have access to good healthcare, but it has to be affordable for everyone, and the doctors still have to make a living. Finding a model or system that makes all that possible is more challenging than the politicians would lead us to believe.”
 
Concluding, Scurria commented, “I love my profession, and I get great satisfaction in partnering with my patients to help them feel better and lead healthier lives. I enjoy being involved with the care I give them and the specialists they see. And, I try to select good quality specialists who will ‘keep me in the loop’ with my patients’ care. All in all, life is good, and I try to share that sentiment with each of my patients.”
 
Beverly Denver is the founder, editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine.
 

New Hope Housing offers solutions to Houston' homeless population

On any given night last year, more than half a million people in the United States were homeless, without any safe shelter or place to call home. New York City and Los Angeles lead the nation in homeless populations, and California alone accounts for 53 percent of all homeless people in the country. 
 
While homelessness is an emergency in other large cities where 50,000 to 80,000 are without shelter, in Houston, it is merely a persistent challenge, said Joy Horak-Brown, the president and CEO of New Hope Housing. 
 
Houston has had some success addressing the issue, as the local homeless population in our city has declined by 54 percent since 2012. There were 3,938 homeless in Houston, according to the 2019 Point-in-Time Count, slightly down from 2018, though there was a slight spike after Hurricane Harvey. 
 
“There is still an urgent need for affordable housing at all income levels in our city,” Horak-Brown said. “We are working as urgently as possible to be part of that solution.” 
 
Today, New Hope Housing maintains eight properties across the city with 1,200 housing units, and three additional apartment communities are either on the drawing board or in construction. In addition to low-cost, safe housing, the organization offers its residents access to primary and behavioral health care, financial management and life skills training and rental support where needed, with a case management counselor at each of its sites. 
 
“The seed money for New Hope Housing was raised by the people of Christ Church Cathedral, the Episcopal cathedral of the Diocese of Texas. It’s a religious institution with a long and rich history of social outreach,” Horak-Brown said. “It’s Houston's first religious institution since Texas was a Republic and Sam Houston was its president. But, while we have our roots in the Episcopal faith, we never were under church control and are not today.”
 
While the church was raising money to restore its historic cathedral on Texas Avenue, the congregation decided for every dollar they raised to build their own church home, they would match it with funds to serve the community, Horak-Brown said. That’s how $1.25 million was raised to buy land and build the first 40 single room occupancy (SRO) housing units. 
 
As New Hope Housing’s first employee, Horak-Brown joined part-time in January 1996 to help raise funds for the continued construction of 127 units, and she has been working at New Hope Housing ever since. 
 
Born in upstate New York, she grew up in Corpus Christi. She worked in corporate management in the oil and gas industry, lived in South Carolina for awhile and returned to Houston in the mid-1990s, looking for a new career.
 
“I had always wanted to work in the non-profit space ––in the Texas Medical Center or in the arts," she said. “Through a very happy series of coincidences, I was introduced to New Hope Housing, a fledgling organization with 40 housing units and $75,000 in the bank.” 
 
The problem of how people become homeless and why they become stuck in that cycle is a complex one. A contributing factor is the rising cost of housing for the lower-earning end of the city’s workforce. 
 
Housing costs burden the lowest-earning quarter of Houstonians who make dramatically less than the median, but still have to pay a similar price for housing. Houston's lowest-earning quarter makes 73 percent less than a median worker, but their housing costs are only 15 percent lower, meaning that housing eats a much larger percentage of their salaries.  

According to researchers at Apartment List, nearly half of renters in Houston are paying 30 percent or more of their income on rent, with almost one-fourth of renters paying 50 percent or more. 
 
In 1982, Rice University sociology professor Stephen Klineberg, Ph.D., now founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, launched the institute’s Houston Area Survey to examine demographic patterns, economic outlooks and attitudes of local residents.
 
In the last 10 years, the study has shown, while housing costs have risen most quickly for the lowest earning workers in Houston, there are other problems they face as well. In the past year’s survey, 35 percent of those said they had struggled to pay for housing. Another 40 percent said they could not come up with $400 for an emergency if needed. Twenty-five percent said they had no health insurance; 33 percent said they had difficulty paying for food.
 
“If you have a job that is minimum wage or a bit more than minimum wage, but still a very modest income, all it takes is just one trigger or two,” said Horak-Brown. “It could be a problem with the automobile, or you become ill and aren’t able to work for a few days or weeks. And, suddenly, you find yourself evicted. And, if you don’t have family to assist you, you are homeless.
 
“Typically, the people you see who are living in tents or in encampments are chronically homeless, living on the street for a year or more,” she said. “Or, they have cycled in and out of homelessness. They are the hardest to house.” 
 
She continued, “They are people who have been in the system for long enough that they no longer trust the system, and very often, they have problems with substance abuse and/or mental health.”
 
The very fact of becoming homeless leads to a decline in mental health, she added. 
New Hope Housing offers a high-quality and debt-free Housing + Services model with programs to address mental and physical health concerns and substance recovery. Budgeting, literacy, case management, life plans, job search assistance are also offered. 
 
“These are all good things that you might be able to consider if you have a stable place to live,” Horak-Brown said. “That's your foundation and your launch pad. Without that launch pad, it is highly unlikely you are going to be able to address any other needs that you may have. The housing is first and foremost.”
 
Deborah Quinn Hensel is a freelance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.
 
Editor’s Note: If you would like to help (if even in a small way) solve the crisis of homelessness and the need for affordable housing in Houston, please visit newhopehousing.com/donate/.
 

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