Helping Hand

November 2017 View more

Jane Tyschenko-Mysliwiec has always been an advocate for the homeless. She saw her first transient person huddled on the street outside the Willis Tower when she was a child and the memory never left her.

“Why wouldn’t they have a home?” she wondered.

Today, Tyschenko-Mysliwiec is executive director of the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans (MSHV) in Wheaton. Its mission is to provide veterans and their families housing and supportive services that lead to self-sufficiency. “We want to give people a hand up, not a hand out,” she says.

Tyschenko-Mysliwiec understands the plight of veterans firsthand. Both her father and her uncle served in the military and she has close friends who are vets, too. But she admits not all of them were prepared for life after discharge. Although there are programs to advise them, they are not always enough.

“It’s a very complicated system,” she says. Different ranks are offered different levels of support. Ultimately some are unable to support themselves afterward for a variety of reasons, from the inability to return to the workforce to issues with mental illness.

“Sometimes service exacerbates pre-exisisting conditions,” Tyschenko-Mysliwiec says. “Other times they may get PTSD after being in combat.”

The nonprofit was founded ten years ago by Bob Adams, a medic in Vietnam, and Gulf War veteran Dirk Enger. MSHV offers a wide range of services to veterans from DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle and Will counties, including everything from housing options to counseling and employment help. Its Freedom Commissary, based in downtown Wheaton, is a voucher-based free thrift store designed to meet the clothing, household and basic needs of low-income veterans and their families.

The Community Outreach program touches more than 200 homeless individuals, many of whom are veterans. Each week MSHV staff, residents and volunteers take to the streets engaging with those who need help accessing water, food, blankets and transport to local shelters.

Veterans Day is an important holiday to the organization.

Tyschenko-Mysliewiec explains: “It’s one of the biggest times for donations. Veterans Day celebrates veterans, so we do a lot of speaking events like school assemblies, plus we are involved in a lot of other events.”

As executive director, Tyschenko-Mysliewiec is responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating daily operations. Prior to her current role, she served as director of programs for two years. For 15 years before that she worked at Catholic Charities, providing direct supervision of case management staff, program development and implementation, as well as grants management of various homeless programs, ranging from emergency shelter to homeless prevention to transitional housing and permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless families and individuals, as well as programs specific to veterans.

She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which she received in 2000, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, also from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Tyschenko-Mysliewiec is married with two sons and lives in Bolingbrook.

“I do a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff,” she says. “I write grants, which is a viscous cycle because as soon as one finishes, another begins. The most rewarding thing for me is when I’m able to find a new funding opportunity, which we can use to provide help. Every day brings up something I’m not expecting. Whether it’s problems arising from caseloads to fire alarms, there’s always something.”

To learn more information about the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans and find out how you can help, visit