Insights from experts at starting anew



Hello to all the followers of the “Starting Anew” column. I am pleased to announce that after many triumphs and struggles as well as other issues, I have landed a permanent working position at St. Stephens Human Services.

It was four years ago this month when I was given the opportunity to start this column. I have gone through quite a bit since then. One thing I am proud of is the fact that I voted this year (something I was ineligible to do for the past 22 years). What an awesome feeling.

I am also sharing some stories regarding what has worked for me and others who have started anew. I received some input from Gino Nelson and Alena Howell of St. Stephens Human Services.  I chose these two because of the work they do with people in situations like myself. They will be touching bases on the following questions I presented them with:

1) What are some of the obstacles you have noticed with your clients?

2) Give an example of one of your clients who struggled but has not given up.

3) What words of wisdom would you give to someone who wants to keep fighting to get their life together but constantly has one hurdle after another?


Gino Nelson

Gino mentioned that many of his clients have the barrier of not having enough money. “I work with a lot of people who are only able to afford $500 to $600, and without subsidies it’s hard for people to maintain housing.

“Many of my clients have a sense of hopelessness because of their disability and thoughts of what do they have to look forward to working for, to stay out of the stigma of becoming homeless again. Factors which some clients have are their criminal records, and I work diligently with them to find landlords who are willing to work with them.

“I have a client who is a vet who receives SSI and works with around $860 a month. He had been homeless for a year and a half and was also dealing with PTSD as well as a heart condition.  He has been connected with the V.A. for quite some time.

“It felt so good when I was able to assist him with locating and obtaining housing. As life began to look brighter, he began volunteering at a church. Another volunteer offered to assist him with a stipend for the work he does, and the church provided him with furniture. He’s connected with services in Dakota County and now has regularly scheduled psychologist meetings and started taking his meds to deal with other issues.

“The mind is the strongest muscle in the body, and it is important to surround yourself with people that believe in themselves. You should have a plan A, B and C, because if one fails you go to the next.

“You have to put forth the effort to overcome the barriers that are in place. I get to see people strive for success. I get to see the work that people are capable of, and when you show people that you care, you never know who you are going to touch.”


Alena Howell 

Alena states, “Some of my clients become so used to hearing ‘No’ and being disappointed and heartbroken that they begin to expect less from themselves and for themselves as a means of self-protection.

“A gentleman I was working with had been to treatment 14 times. He knew he had to stop drinking, as his life literally depended on it.

“He has begun to attend groups and meetings with other people who feel or have felt the same way. Whenever he struggles, I talk with him and just mention the fact that ‘You’ve been down that road before, and you don’t have to go there again. Give a different road a try.’

”I’ve witnessed people with nothing give to their homeless ‘neighbors’ who have even less. I have been given the opportunity to see the good in humanity.

“The most fulfilling thing that I get out of my job is watching someone regain faith in themselves and have hope for a change. There is nothing more powerful than an individual who believes in their own abilities, and I feel blessed whenever I witness that change in people.”


I am so honored to be working with the people of St. Stephens Human Services, and I am so thankful to have a loving family that has stuck by me in the good times as well as the bad.

I am mostly thankful to have a man like Apostle DeWayne Hill and my church family at High Praise Ministries. Their mission to go with me on my journey without judgment is another factor that helps me not be so judgmental of myself — truly a blessing.

To the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, thank you for allowing me this outlet to give back what so many have given to me — HOPE. To my followers of the “Starting Anew” column, I thank you as well. Your responses keep me motivated to not give up!


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