GeneroCity 513 aids woman in recovery from addiction, homelessness

Posted on June 25, 2019 by kdriscoll

CINCINNATI (June 25, 2019) – With help from the GeneroCity 513 Initiative, a Cincinnati woman was able to go from living on the streets to sober housing and working full-time for Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI), a subsidiary of Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC).

As a Downtown Ambassador, Lori Gilbert provides safety escorts and answers questions for anyone who needs help in the city. Not even a year ago, Gilbert’s experience on the streets was a stark contrast to the important work she does there now. Last summer, she was homeless, panhandling for money and living under a bridge near the Jack Casino.

“I was struggling with active addiction for a few years, which eventually made me lose where I was living,” she said. “I was homeless. I never thought that would happen to me, especially at my age.”

Gilbert met City Gospel Mission Jobs Van Program Manager Jim Cira in June 2018. Cira told her about a new program that pays panhandlers cash to work while connecting them with needed social services.

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), Downtown Cincinnati Inc., City Gospel Mission and Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS) partnered nearly a year ago to launch the GeneroCity 513 Initiative.

Part of the Initiative is the Jobs Van Program, operated by City Gospel Mission. Cira connects with panhandlers up to four days a week, and he works with them on beautification projects in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Cincinnati. The Jobs Van riders are paid $9 per hour for a seven-hour day and receive a free lunch.

Utilizing a multi-faceted approach, GeneroCity 513 has been designed to offer a positive alternative to panhandling, help connect panhandlers to social service agencies, and provide strategic case management to the most visible homeless persons.

The Jobs Van has operated more than 120 days since the start of the program, with more than 1,174 riders (frequently, repeat riders) working on the van. Approximately 84 percent of the panhandlers riding on the van self-report as being homeless. The program has connected 15 riders with permanent employment and another 88 to other social services.

Gilbert worked on the Jobs Van throughout the summer last year – and Cira encouraged her to seek help with addiction and get off the streets.

A turning point came for Gilbert when she met up with Cira at the Cincinnati Public Library to get a poncho from him on a rainy day in the late summer. As they talked, she finally “surrendered,” admitting she was exhausted from her lifestyle. Cira took her to the Talbert House just hours later for a mental health and addiction treatment assessment.

In April, Gilbert celebrated six months of sobriety. She now has a room of her own at a sober-living house and she works five days a week for 3CDC, as an ambassador. It all started with the Jobs Van, she said.

“The Jobs Van was a big boost mentally for me, the sense of worth it gave me,” she said. “It makes you feel like a human being, even though you’re out there on the streets. “It was just being able to work for my money again. Jim treats everyone like a person, like they have a chance in this world no matter how many times they screw up.”

GeneroCity 513 also employs two Outreach Workers through the Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS) to aid individuals on the street, regardless of their location, mental state, sobriety or housing situation. That work has resulted in nearly 100 case closures of panhandling.

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