Single Adult Award
The recipient of the 2016 Opening Doors Single Adult Award is Rocio Nunez. Rocio was nominated by Niah Howard of Habitat for Humanity and Sergio Hernandez from Home Connection program at Hawthorn Hill. Please all come forward to receive the award and be recognized.
The recipient of the 2016 Opening Doors Youth Award is Kia Harrison. Kia was nominated by Kate Polush of Iowa Homeless Youth Centers and also supported by Michelle Smith of IHYC. Please come forward to receive our appreciation.
The recipient of the 2016 Opening Doors Veteran Award is Jeff Heslop. Jeff was nominated by Jan Zeleke and also supported by Jorie Hidri, both of Central Iowa Shelter and Services. Please welcome them to the stage to be recognized.
The recipient of the 2016 Opening Doors Family Award is Amie Wentland. Amie was nominated by Cynthia Latcham of Anawim Housing. Amie and Cynthia, please come forward to be recognized.
Nominated by Tina Clark, Veteran Affairs Central Iowa Health Systems
At 51 Wesley was referred to VA through CISS, after living in a motel for 5 months. He was laid off from his construction job, facing depression and addiction. At VA Domiciliary he got help for substance use and employment assistance. He worked with HUD-VASH, a joint program of VA and HUD. Finding housing was a victory due to past addiction and credit issues. In November 2014, with help from Primary Health Care, he moved into his own apartment, while VA employment specialist through the Compensated Work Therapy Program helped him secure a position at Menard’s. He has become a shift lead, obtained a forklift operator license, and enrolled in a management class. Wes now has 17 months of sobriety and assists others to reframe their lives, seek employment and strive for sobriety.
Nominated by Cynthia Latcham, Anawim Housing
Prior to entering Shelter Plus Care permanent supportive housing in 2008 Charity was homeless facing mental illness and substance abuse. Her mother had custody of her son. In 2013 Charity enrolled at DMACC and sought treatment to stabilize her mental health. In January 2016 she will cross enroll at Grand View University to study social work. Charity has emerged as a leader. At DMACC she is the president of the Human Service Club and member of the Student Activity Council. She organizes collections for IHYS and JOPPA Outreach. Her 4th year at Reggie’s Sleep Out she recruited the Human Service Club to take part. Charity left Anawim in July and pays her full rent. She has regained custody of her son and is now a loving engaged mother.
Compelling Life Story Award
Nominated by Anna Forrester, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers-Aftercare
Jojo overcame homelessness, living as a refugee, family violence, abuse and neglect. In 2013 Jojo exited foster care into homelessness, mental health struggles and unemployment. She attended college but had to drop out. In jail, she hit rock bottom. With support from the Aftercare Program, Jojo started mental health services, learned positive coping skills, secured employment and moved into her first apartment. She started college again. Jojo fell back into homelessness in early 2015, but continued with school and maintained with her improved coping skills got back to stability. Now JoJo has her own apartment, attends DMACC full time, and will graduate soon with an associate's degree in business. She hopes start a business. Jojo has learned healthy coping skills for life's hardships.
Nominated by Phil Werner, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers-Street Outreach
In 2012, 18 years old, homeless and alternating between shelter and the streets, Jonat came to Outreach. He needed a safe place, services and advocacy. The Outreach Center helped Jonat complete 10th grade. He was accepted into the Buchanan House, but he wasn’t ready for the program and was asked to leave. He moved to Chicago and did well for a time, but when challenges arose he returned to Des Moines. He spent nights at shelter and days at Outreach, then was readmitted to Buchanan House, where he been more successful in the program. Jonat enrolled in the DMACC HiSET program and has found work at Burger King, volunteered at the Iowa State Fair parade and Reggie’s Sleepout. Jonat has become a role model for other youth.
Single Adult Award
Nominated by Morgan Steinkamp, YMCA Supportive Campus
Shawn struggled all his life to communicate. His family had financially problems and moved frequently. As a child Shawn had spinal meningitis. He was diagnosed with hearing impairment at 5 and hit by a car at 7. These affected employment and relationships and led to frequent homelessness. With support from YMCA Shelter Plus Care at the Supportive Housing Campus, using resources at Eyerly Ball, Goodwill and the Evelyn K. Davis Center, and job coaching Shawn has overcome many obstacles. He is now paying his full rent and has been at his dream job as an Audio Visual Installer at Sight and Sound Innovations for a year, he has learned to cook and has maintained stable housing for 2 years. Shawn has become more independent, an effective communicator and maintains his finances.
Nominated by Tiffany King, Anawim
Melissa began using meth at age 15, leading to homelessness and domestic violence, and having parental rights to her first child terminated. In January, Melissa will celebrate three years clean and sober. After graduating from the House of Mercy program Melissa and her five-year old daughter Madeline have a home of their own through ANAWIM Housing’s Shelter Plus Care Program. Melissa continues as an active member of a recovery support program, has participated in Dress for Success’s Going Places Network, and has been employed at the same bookstore for over a year. She has developed positive parenting skills and provides a loving home for her daughter. Melissa shares her inspiring stories in the community, speaking on addiction with high school students and others.
Nominated by Amalia Riordan, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers
Having been recently released from jail and on probation, no longer enrolled in high school and experiencing homelessness, Justin Ahlberg came to the Buchanan Transitional Living Program. While in the program Justin earned his HiSET (high school equivalency diploma) and he has maintained employment at Subway, The Continental, and Wells Fargo Iowa Events Center. Using his earnings he has paid off all of his probation and court fines, and purchased a car. After completing the Buchanan Program, he has moved to his own home. Justin has volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, Night Eyes at the Blank Park Zoo, at RAGBRAI and has shared his life experience at a local poverty simulation.
Compelling Life Story Award
Nominated by Kate Polush, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers
At age seven, Decontee came with her dad as a refugee from Liberia. Her mother arrived soon after and sought and obtained custody when Decontee was 12. While working toward her high school diploma, Decontee found she was pregnant and was kicked out of her home. After time at New Directions Shelter she moved to the Lighthouse Transitional Living Program where she currently resides with her son. She completed high school at Scavo in May 2014. Since then she completed a Goodwill training program, then enrolled in Patient Registration classes at DMACC and is working at Goodwill. Decontee is working toward citizenship, has saved about $3,000 since moving to the Lighthouse and has goals of finishing her training, buying a car, and eventually moving to her own apartment.
Nominated by Tobi Simmons, YMCA
In the past Thomas Beil made many unhealthy choices, resulting in a time of homelessness, living in a shed with no heat or running water. He went door to door to earn money doing lawn care. Waking up one day and deciding his life had more meaning than this, he reached out to the VA and was placed in the Grant Per Diem Program. He joined a program through the Evelyn Davis center to become more employable, and is now attending DMACC for certification in Maintenance, and he recently accepted a maintenance position. Thomas frequently volunteers to cook, clean, or do lawn service at homeless shelters. He plays the saxophone in coffee shops and recently has reached out to the community by doing an interview with WHO about how the Des Moines community resources have helped him get where he is today.
Single Adult Award: Dan Mundt
Nominated by Drew Kaufman, YMCA
Dan Mundt for many years moved from one couch to another and was in and out of hospitals for medical challenges, including a point at which he “gave up hope.” In fall 2013, Dan obtained a permanent home at the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus. Since obtaining stable housing, he has started working on a degree at ISU. He works as a trainer at another branch of the Y. He provides service to his home YMCA and has become a volunteer with Polk County Conservation.
Nominated by Jeff Eason at Hope Ministries
Anthony took his first drink at age 14. By his senior year his drinking prevented him from finishing school. He completed his GED and attempted college, but failed due to his alcohol addiction. After years of homelessness, in 2007 Anthony sought help through Hope Ministries. Anthony earned an A.S. at DMACC and his B.S. at A.I.B in May 2013. He lives independently and is employed full time as head cook at Hope Ministries Bethel Mission. Anthony volunteers actively at Hope Ministries, CISS, Salvation Army and Central Iowa Center for Independent Living.
Compelling Life Story Award
Nominated by Britany Cooley at Hawthorn Hill
A domestic violence survivor, Barbara with her daughter, became homeless after she divorced her husband. After some time staying in various places, including the Family Violence Center, Barbara turned to Hawthorn Hill’s supportive housing program, The Home Connection. During the past year she has earned an associates degree from DMACC and is now enrolled at Grand View University with a long-term goal of earning a Master’s Degree. Barbara has opened her home to her nephew, and is engaged with her community in many roles.
Nominated by Harper Levy at the Veterans’ Administration
Glenda Brown is a Des Moines native, Army veteran, and single mother of two. After medical issues rendered her unable to maintain full-time work, Glenda and her family faced eviction and homelessness. She then enrolled in the Veterans’ Administration homeless services program, and has worked hard to rebuild the lives of her family members. She has been a full-time employee at Wells Fargo for approximately one year, where she has recently been promoted. Glenda also is attending DMACC and has participated in several volunteer activities, including Habitat for Humanity.
Nominated by Shelby Ridley at Primary Health Care
After fleeing a situation of domestic violence, with and without her kids, Lauri was homeless for many years. Eventually, reunited with her kids, she entered and completed the House of Mercy program and went on to permanent housing. Lauri has returned to work at House of Mercy to help other women through the journey of recovery. Lauri serves now as an advocate for women who are facing the challenges that she faced by serving on organizational boards and speaking to those in a position to bring about change.
Nominated by Kate Polush at IHYC – Lighthouse
Christina Rogers provides a model of perseverance and personal responsibility. After aging out of foster care, and finding that neither her foster nor birth mom could help her, she turned to Hope Ministries then to IHYC for help. Since then, with help from the Freestore, Section 8 housing and other programs she has found employment, a stable apartment, and childcare support for her son and daughter. She has consistently paid all bills and accumulated savings. She is working with Aftercare support for youth who have aged out of foster care to further progress in her efforts to achieve sustainable independence.
Alexandra was raised in Chicago. She fled foster care to become homeless 16 and lived on friends’ couches. After the birth of her children, Alexxia and Adonis, she moved to Des Moines. Hawthorn Hill’s New Directions Shelter housed her and facilitated quality child care. Their Home Connection permanent supportive housing program placed the McGee family. Her position with The Principal Financial Group means she no longer receives state assistance. She plans to return to college and mentor at-risk youth.
Emerging Leader Award
Charles grew up around Des Moines and graduated from Tech High in 1966. He enlisted in the military, served as a paratrooper and, with the G.I. Bill, settled in North Hollywood here he enrolled in photography school. Sadly, the program closed and Charles’ experienced homelessness several times over the decades. Charles returned to Iowa and found aid at CISS, Bethel, Door of Faith, and Primary Health Care. For the last few years Charles has volunteered at Iowa Homeless Youth Centers, and is now a Facility Manager for the Connections Café.
After a tumultuous childhood in California John enlisted in the Navy at 21 and served 4 years of active duty. Struggling with mental and physical ailments, he self medicated with substances. In 2007, John moved to Iowa to be closer to his three children and began the road to recovery. John completed programs at the 180 Degree and received a BA in Psychology from Drake University. He interned with Powell CDC and Primary Health Care. Now, John is stably housed and volunteers at the 180 Degree House as a mentor. He is a PRN Counselor at Powell CDC and a Case Manager at Primary Health Care.
New Iowan Award
Mikiel came to Iowa in 2005 after losing everything to Hurricane Katrina. A noted jazz musician in New Orleans, Mikiel found himself homeless and without a license. After spending six days in the Super Dome, he was bussed to Dallas, only to be greeted by Hurricane Rita. After relocating to several other cities, Mikiel chose Des Moines, where he found support from local human service agencies. Mikiel is fully-employed at the Guitar Center and plays music professionally.
In November 2010, Nicole and her daughter, Ayla, entered IHYC's transitional housing. Nicole gained employment and participated in parenting and life skills classes. While there she decided to become a dental assistant. In July 2011, Nicole and Ayla moved into an apartment with savings from IHYC savings program. In May of 2012, with IHYC's Post-Secondary Education Retention program, Nicole enrolled at DMACC to become a Dental Assistant. Nicole has earned a place on the Dean's List and President's List.
After work-related injuries led to unemployment, David became homeless and lived in shelters for years. With church support David lived in a hotel for three years then found permanent public housing in July 2012. A Family Service Coordinator helped David work toward self-sufficiency. David completed money management courses and is employed by his church. He works with ISED and plans to enroll in their small business course.