"The Genesis Home is not for [homeless] people. It’s for people that need to [find] a home.”
-Josh, age 7
Josh is right. Genesis Home isn’t just about providing shelter for homeless families.
It’s about empowering families to achieve housing stability.
When we found Josh’s letter in our archives, it reminded us just how powerful our youth enrichment efforts within the Family Matters program can be.
The goal of Family Matters is to help families identify and overcome the root causes of their homelessness, while taking a holistic approach to teaching life skills essential to obtaining and retaining permanent housing. That holistic approach includes providing youth enrichment programs for our Genesis Home children.
From summer camp at the YMCA to after-school tutoring and reading programs, we work to give our kids the tools they need to focus on academics, build confidence and learn skills that will help them both inside and outside the classroom. However, we would not be able to achieve these goals without our Genesis Home supporters who donate both their time and money. In fact, thanks to the efforts of fundraisers, volunteers and corporate sponsors, we raised nearly $25,000 for our youth enrichment programs and direct client assistance through the 2013 Great Human Race.
Former Genesis Home Board member and our 2013 Great Human Race Honorary Chair Barbara Smith said working with children during their stay at Genesis Home is paramount. “There’s a great amount of work done for the children at Genesis Home,” Barbara said. “They need a lot of help and support, and there are so many different programs at Genesis Home that achieve this with leadership and guidance from our family services coordinators and volunteers.”
Recent Genesis Home graduate Hafiza Marshall echoed that sentiment. She attributes her son Devon’s academic growth to our youth enrichment efforts, specifically the after-school tutoring program. “He’s made the honor roll,” said Hafiza. “Genesis Home gives you that little tap for you to go forward, but you end up pushing yourself forward.”
Thanks to your support, we are able to continue providing youth programs that empower our Genesis Home children to push themselves toward a bright future.
Do you remember what you wanted for your 5th birthday? For Isa C., it was helping people who are experiencing homelessness.
“When it was time for Isa’s 5th birthday last spring, we explained to her that we don’t usually do presents but that she could collect for a cause if she wanted,” said Amy, Isa’s mom. “The cause she was most concerned about was homelessness and poverty.”
Some might be surprised that a five-year-old would be concerned about such an intense topic, but not when you learn about her family.
“We have always refrained from having people give our kids gifts at birthday parties because we have enough ‘stuff’ and don’t want more to clutter up our house,” said Amy. “Isa understood that she was going to get gifts that she could open, but that she then had to pass them along to others who needed them.”
The C.'s are long-time supporters of Genesis Home, having donated financially and by bringing meals to our families. When Amy learned that Isa wanted to help families experiencing homelessness through her birthday party, she felt the Barrels of Joy program would be a perfect match. The program is designed to supply items our families need year-round. We provide a colorful hand-painted barrel, informational brochures and tax receipts to make collecting these items for our families fun and easy.
“It’s a great way to get kids involved in giving early in their lives so they understand the importance,” said Amy.
In addition to Barrels of Joy, there are many other ways donors have supported our families. From donating online and through sites like Global Giving to raising money at garage sales to using the workout app “EarndIt” to earn money for Genesis Home, the generosity and resourcefulness of our supporters is why we continue to be able to serve our families.
For Amy and Isa, supporting Genesis Home through Barrels of Joy was as simple as asking for donations in lieu of gifts in the party invitation, which proved to be quite successful. Isa and her friends filled a barrel with supplies for Genesis Home children going to summer camp. When asked how she felt about the experience, Isa said, “I felt good about it. It was good because I have goggles already and other people needed them so they can have fun at camp.”
Isa is a perfect example of how both donations and donors come in all shapes and sizes and that with a little creativity and a lot of heart, anyone can have a tremendous impact on the families we serve.
Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world to be able to step back from our day-to-day lives, take a deep breath, and figure out manageable steps toward making the wrong parts right. When Diane (name changed for privacy) found herself four months pregnant and in a dysfunctional living situation in New York in 2000, she did not have the luxury of perspective that would allow her to see a brighter future. “I didn’t know how to understand or appreciate anything,” she says. “I was in such a depression. Something inside was missing.”
But deep down, she knew she needed to make a change. So she got on a Greyhound bus with $100 and one suitcase and headed to her home state of North Carolina, where she had a contact at a church in Fayetteville. She asked God to help her make it.
Diane stayed at several homeless shelters, but she knew she needed more than the short windows of time they allowed people to stay to get her life back in order. That’s when she found Genesis Home. She was relieved to be assigned a case worker for therapy, counseling, and career support at Genesis Home – and to have the privacy of her own apartment to spend time with her young son, David (name changed for privacy). “Genesis Home had all the resources I needed and offered me relief from worrying about the necessities of life so I could give full attention to getting healthy and thinking about who I wanted to be,” Diane says.
Diane stayed at Genesis Home for 14 months. “It took that entire time to get to a sense of peace,” she says — a peace she felt “for the first time ever.” She learned the importance of having goals and plans: “Knowing there was a possibility of coming out of poverty and pain gave me a whole new reason to live. I knew I could rise above my past.”
While living at Genesis Home, Diane began to work at retail hair salons (she had been a hair stylist in New York since the age of 17) and was able to find child care for David. Eventually, she gained approval to move into her own apartment with Section 8 assistance. Realizing that the best way to economic independence would be to own her own business, Diane opened her own hair salon, The Beauty Spot, in 2004, and began building a loyal clientele.
Soon, however, she realized that it was tough making ends meet. A friend and customer who believed in Diane was willing to put up the collateral for her to get a microloan from Self-Help. With that support, Diane has been able to grow her business. “Through the support of my case worker at Genesis Home and the loan officer at Self-Help, I have learned about money and finances,” she says, “and I am still learning. I also learned to give back when I meet people with depression. My work lends itself to listening, helping, giving back. I love my job and don’t want to do anything else.”
In October 2010, Diane was approved for a home loan. “Now I’m a homeowner and a business owner! My credit score is going up. I am so proud,” says Diane. “Having come from a dysfunctional family and environment, I realized I had to choose to stay or wipe my hands of the past. I had to do a radical thing and step out. It was the hardest but most rewarding decision of my life.”