Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lissy's Place
by Jessica Tighe

Walking to your door and putting the key in is something most of us don't think much about, but for 26-year-old Krystal Lambrecht it means everything. It means she has a home.

"It's a blessing. You don't get a place like this too often because the staff is very warm and welcoming when you first get here. The tour makes you feel like it's an actual house and it makes you automatically put your guard down the minute you walk in the front door," Lambrecht explains.

Lambrecht is one of 15 young ladies currently living at Lissy's Place in Milwaukee. It's a safe haven for young women who are homeless, abused or have grown out of the foster care system. The workers at a homeless shelter directed Lambrecht here last December after she says her mother kicked her out of the house.

"I've always been isolated from my mother, estranged, and I'm trying to get over it. I became an addict for awhile too so doing everything I can to do the best I can and change it," Lambrecht says.

She was addicted to all kinds of drugs. Heroin was her most recent choice. Looking back on the time, she says it's all a blur.

"I really don't remember too much. I know I wasn't the best mother for my children. So I know my kids are really paying for that, but I'm doing what I can to make it better," Lambrecht says as she cries.

Lissy's Place is helping her make changes. This is more than just a roof over her head. The workers here help the women with their personal goals whether that's furthering their education or getting a job. They start with the basics, making them responsible women who can eventually live on their own.

"One of things the ladies do, which a lot them may not like is chores. We believe that helps with household management, learning to clean up behind themselves and to do it appropriately because when you get your own apartment you will need to be able to do those things," Carolyn Martin, Program Manager for Lissy Place says.

It's a structured program with a network of support. The ladies have case managers, life coaches and help from community volunteers.

"They see the staff here as parents. They see the women in this program as sisters," Chief Executive Officer Connie Palmer says.

"It gives the women a chance to grow and to find what it is they need to make their life successful to become the great women that they are because sometimes they don't even realize it, but you are made to be great. We're just here to assist them and give them that extra edge," Martin adds.

Sometimes that extra edge is as simple as a new outfit. In fact, they have this special boutique inside Lissy's Place where the ladies can go shopping. Everything inside is donated.

"When they first come into the program they get an outfit with accessories, the shoes and everything. From there they get "You Go Girl" points and the points are used like dollars and they actually get a chance to do some shopping," says explaining how the boutique works.

"What we want to do is build their self-esteem and that's huge here. Staff is constantly letting them know how important they are, how great they are and how they look," Martin says.

Lambrecht is feeling better about herself and her life is slowly changing, but she has a long way to go. She needs a job right now and her ultimate goal is to get her kids back, but thanks to Lissy's Place she believes she'll get there.

"It pulls women out from probably the darkest parts of their life and it shines a light on them individually. It makes them realize that yeah, you have a past, but at the same time you do have a future and this is where you can turn your life around to make that future, to better yourself, to make yourself go out there and strive for the best," Lambrecht says.

Government aid covers half of the cost to operate Lissy's Place, but they rely on donations to cover the rest. If you'd like to help, there's a fundraiser coming up. It's the "Heart in a Handbag" fundraising luncheon Tuesday April 23rd at the Italian Community Center. There's a silent auction at 11:30. The luncheon is at noon.