Ms. Special K for the Homeless

Posted on September 21, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

The Antidote That Works

Alison Kelsick honored for charity for homeless

Although a record number of homeless people are sleeping in city shelters – 60,400 men, women and children – homelessness is dropping around Catholic Charities thanks to teamwork and Special K. 

Ms. Special K, that is: Alison Hughes- Kelsick, Catholic Charities Education Outreach Program director of charity for homeless.   

“'Ms. K or 'Ms. Special K' as she is known has been a dedicated, even fierce advocate for our participants,” says her boss, George Horton, director of Catholic Charities Social and Community Development department.  “She provides a ‘home’ at Catholic Charities where all can feel comfortable and always receive compassion and love.” 

For nearly two decades Ms. Special K A.K.A Ms. Kelsick has helped run Catholic Charities Education Outreach Program working with people who are homeless, fighting mental illness and often addicted to alcohol and drugs. 

Her success record speaks for itself. Approximately eight out of every 10 homeless people she works with take signficant steps towards self sufficenciecy during the program. Thanks to this success, one of Catholic Charities’ partners in homelessness prevention, Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates, also known as LEFSA, honored her at St. Francis of Assisi parish hall in midtown Manhattan.  

Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates (LEFSA) is a non-profit, interdenominational, empowerment ministry that serves people who are homeless living in city-sponsored shelters and on the streets of New York City.  The majority of those who run LEFSA were once homeless and participants in its programs. 

“People walk by the homeless and consider them ‘invisible people,'” Ms. Kelsick says.  “I know them as individuals. They’re no different from anyone else. But tough life circumstances made it impossible for them to cope. We help them untie the knot.” 

One way she helps untie the knot is through twice-weekly dinner workshops held at Catholic Charities main office on East 56 Street. Here participants practice coping skills, communications, conflict resolution and goal setting.   

But Ms. Kelsick doesn’t just talk the talk. Instead she literally walks the walk, accompanying participants as they apply to school, for jobs or to court to get their children back.   

This dedication pays off.   

“It didn’t just give me my life back, it gave me my family’s life back too,” says James Addison of LEFSA. “Because when I got better, my family got better also.  And not only did my family get better, but my community got a little bit better.” 

Check out these personal stories of lives changed and charity for homeless thanks to LEFSA, Catholic Charities and Ms. Special K.