Even though you may not see her around the West Loop or Walsh Campus, Manager of Supportive Housing Telisa Dixon is a key member of the Mercy Home family.

Telisa first heard of Mercy Home from her best friend, Misty East, the program manager of Noha Home. She started working at our Home in 2006 as an overnight youth care worker in Daley Home and in 2008, transitioned to be a youth care worker in Mahoney Home. And in 2012, when Telisa heard that AfterCare was opening a supportive housing program in the South Shore neighborhood, she immediately knew that she wanted to be part of it.

“I felt like I could do it,” she said. “I don’t know, I just felt like my passion for people was [even] bigger than what I was doing.”

As the manager of Ridgeland, which provides safe, affordable transitional housing to AfterCare members and their families, Telisa wears many hats.

Telisa Dixon

“The biggest chunk of my job is [the residents’] emotional wellbeing, emotional health,” she said. “I have therapeutic conversations with them biweekly.”

It’s important for Telisa to understand the challenges the residents experienced before coming to Ridgeland, she explained. Because many of them come to Ridgeland after experiencing homelessness in some form, whether it was living in their car, staying on friends’ couches, or even living in abandoned buildings, they often don’t know how to care for an apartment.

“[I go] into those apartments, helping them clean, teaching them how to clean, things like that,” she said.

She also manages the building, making sure everything is clean, that things like the washers and dryers are working, and managing work orders, in addition to recruiting AfterCare members to live at Ridgeland.

And when the residents are ready to move out, Telisa is with them every step of the way for that, too.

“I’ve gone to apartment hunt with them, I’ve helped them clean up their unit, I’ve helped them pack [and] I meet with them after they leave just to see what they’re doing,” she said. “[I want to see if] they are actually taking in the tools … they were given here. Are they using that in their life outside Ridgeland and if they’re not, what are some of the hiccups that are happening in their life? What are some of the things [they] find currently [to be] a roadblock [and how can I] continue being a support and help?”

Telisa also makes sure that Ridgeland feels like a real home for all its residents and arranges for them to celebrate holidays as a community. She’s put together things like a haunted house at Halloween and arranged for the kids to be able to safely trick-or-treat at the apartment complex. She’s also held birthday, Christmas, and Easter celebrations for the residents.

“[I want to see if] they are actually taking in the tools … they were given here. Are they using that in their life outside Ridgeland and if they’re not, what are some of the hiccups that are happening in their life? What are some of the things [they] find currently [to be] a roadblock [and how can I] continue being a support and help?”

And, if that wasn’t enough, Telisa also runs a separate nonprofit organization called A Diamond’s Heart, which she founded in 2011. A Diamond’s Heart offers services for young women who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Additionally, it offers services to the community to help support and educate about the growing issue of sexual abuse.

“We’ve done a lot of work within different churches and different community centers,” Telisa said. “We held a big gala at Mercy Home and raised $17,000 in one night.”

Describing the organization as her “baby,” Telisa plans to take it along with her when she moves out of state in November. Her final day at Mercy Home is next week, and she sees the transition as bittersweet.

“I’m getting mixed reviews from the tenants that I’m leaving,” she said.

Telisa said that she tries to teach the Ridgeland residents to take advantage of every employment opportunity they have and use it as a way to learn and grow.

“[I tell them] to take advantage of everything that you learn, but also remember that you’re growing, and you need the growth,” she said.

“And so now they’re telling me [that] it’s okay because you’ve learned a lot from here, Mercy Home has taught you a lot, it’s helped you to grow.”

As Telisa reflects on her 12 and a half years at Mercy Home, she said that her favorite part of her time with us is seeing the evolution of the kids and watching them grow up. She said that she’s had the privilege of getting to know kids from her time working in Daley and Mahoney Home who are now grown up.

“I’ve seen them [as kids] and in their late twenties, and [I’m] actually continuing to be able to help them,” she said. “I think that’s probably been the best part.”

“I’ve seen them [as kids] and in their late twenties, and [I’m] actually continuing to be able to help them,” she said. “I think that’s probably been the best part.”

She also added that she was grateful for the people she met during her time at Mercy Home, particularly Daniel Nelson, Monica Payton Cook, Monti Clayton, Juan Medina, and Rhonda Murrell.

“I feel like those people really took me under their wing and really helped me grow within the agency,” she said. “They’ve been here for forever and those people have continued to hold me down.”

She also added that she appreciated all the trainings and professional growth opportunities that Mercy Home gave her.

“I went to grad school, and when I [was there], I was so happy that the book they had us study from and purchase was something that was already [in] a training that I had at Mercy Home,” she said. “Most places of employment don’t have that for their staff members. They don’t train the way Mercy Home trains. … I started at Mercy Home at 24, and I’ve grown and I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned a lot about kids and teaching them through Mercy Home, so I’ll forever take that with me.”

0 replies

Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0 replies

Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *