Stories of Impact
Mario, J.B., Carla, Kevin, Steve, Mary, and Haywood.
Saint Andrew's Court Staff
Saint Andrew’s Court will be celebrating its 25th Birthday next week on Tuesday, November 29th at 10:00 a.m. and we hope you can join us for the party! Saint Andrew’s Court was and remains an innovative public/private permanent supportive housing community consisting of formerly incarcerated men. It’s been fun highlighting Saint Andrew’s Court stories the past month.
Our Director of Supportive Services, Mario, talked about the familial relationships staff and tenants develop over the course of time at Saint Andrew’s Court and beyond. As we head into the Thanksgiving weekend where we will spend time with our families, we want to highlight some the Saint Andrew’s Court Family – our amazing staff!
As staff share, working at Saint Andrew’s Court is much more than a job description. It is a sense of family and the belonging to the supportive Saint Leonard’s Community. It is a privilege to share their views on what makes Saint Andrew’s Court so special and a truly supportive family.
Saint Andrew’s Court maintenance coordinator for the last 23 years and Saint Leonard’s alumni, Kevin, describes his experiences at Saint Leonard’s, “it changed my life!” Kevin shares he first came to Saint Leonard’s in January of 1999, he didn’t really know of it and was directed here by his parole officer and was welcomed as an emergency placement. “The program was fantastic! The people that were working here really cared about us coming out of the prison system. They didn’t judge us, they just took us in like family! That’s what really caught me, it was like we were family!” It became a life changing experience for me, they became my family.”
Kevin goes on to describe how he became the maintenance coordinator, “Saint Andrew’s Court at the time, lost their maintenance worker, my time at Saint Leonard’s was coming to an end and I was looking for a place to live. I had a job and was making money but they offered me the position and I accepted it. At the same time, a resident had to go back to prison and I had to clean out his place. Nice place, on the fifth floor, view of Chicago skyline, and they offered me that place. It was magical, things just fell into place. I really enjoy keeping the place up so other guys can have the same experiences and enjoy what I had with my own place.”
Carla, a Grace House alumni, Sister Jean High School Program graduate, and front desk clerk at Saint Andrew’s Court describes how she came to work here “I really wanted to work here but (Human Resources) said I had to be out of Grace House for 6 months. The day of my 6th month, I called and told her I really want the job.” Carla’s patients paid off!
Carla is working toward her substance use counselor license and shares her experiences with the tenants, “The guys, when they need help, advice, looking for an apartment, I help them.” Carla share with a laugh, “I help them pay their tickets because some don’t know how to use a computer. When I’m here, I’m here to take care of them! I pray before I get in here and leave it to God.”
Another staff member at Saint Andrew’s Court is Haywood, who came through Saint Leonard’s Ministries in 2018 and was hired to help with Covid cleaning. He enjoys his time at Saint Andrew’s Court because, “they helped me a lot, I got a housing voucher, they really helped. It’s like my family”
J.B. is a front desk clerk that is much more than a front desk clerk; he’s the eyes at Saint Andrew’s Court. J.B. is an alumni of Saint Leonard’s programming and has been the front desk day clerk for 12 years. “This place helped me to where I am now. I have a decent job, I’m a home owner now, this place treated me right. The thing I like about this place is we get to help people. We really get to give back and I like doing that. This is a pretty good place, man…”
Steve, a veteran, is also a Saint Leonard’s Alumni, a cancer survivor and has been with Saint Andrew’s Court for over 6 years. Steve was initially paroled to a halfway house in what he describes as a “bad neighborhood” but met someone there with contact information for the Program Director of Saint Leonard’s House. Steve called, was told to be on campus by 4:00 the next day and began to “work the program.” When Steve completed the program, he initially did not move to Saint Andrew’s Court. He moved in a short time later and was there for three years before he received his housing voucher.
Steve lives in a one bedroom condo on the north side, hardwood floors, close to the beach and as he says, “this place set that all in motion, it give you the tools but you’ve got to put that work in! When people see you putting that work in, people are more apt to help you. Help you help yourself. That’s what this place did for me and I want to do that for others.”
Mary and Mario, the only staff members that are not a Saint Leonard’s or Grace House alumni. Mary calls herself a “product of the community.” Mary grew up here “watching Saint Leonard’s grow from what it was to what it is now” and has been with Saint Leonard’s for 22 years.
Mary describes herself, “I’m a people person, so the guys have always been respectful, mindful. I’ve always had a zeal for spirituality, talking with the guys about spirituality, not so much religion but spirituality, and introducing them back to a relationship with God as much as possible. A lot of them, the road they have traveled, they lost contact with Him, but to put them back in contact with Him so, to be able to sit and be a listening ear is a lot of what’s needed. I’ve been on the 4:00pm to 12:00pm for the last 20 years…it gives them a chance to vent and release and it not getting out everywhere.”
Mary continues, “just being a pleasant person, encourage them to continue to want to grow and do better. You had a bad moment out of a good day. Pick up and continue to go on. It doesn’t mean life is over, it means you have another chance, go for it! Make the best of it! You still have some that fall by the way side. It doesn’t mean they are bad or good or indifferent, it’s just they fall by the wayside. You don’t weed them out, you still give them steady encouragement. Let them be the one to help themselves up. Be your own self hero.”
As Steve says, “the good thing is each of us helps the guys in our own way. It’s different, we’re not saying the same thing. The way J.B helps someone is different than the way I help someone, or Haywood helps someone.”
As Mario said to the staff, “you are living proof the programs works. I don’t say it enough but I’m really proud of each of you individual. It makes me happy and proud to be here. I feel more inspired to be here and this is the impact of what this place has does. I see Kevin, Steve, Mary, Haywood, J.B., Carla, talking to the guys, these are the success, you guys are the role models, not the people we see on TV. It’s you guys!”
As J.B. said of his Saint Leonard’s Family, “this is a pretty good place man…” Agreed J.B.