Wearing a 1,000 watt smile that shines even brighter when talking about her family, you would never know Mrs. Hafiza Marshall has experienced significant trauma over the past two years.
In 2011, Hafiza and her husband Lawrence were working and raising two boys in a town north of Philadelphia when the unthinkable happened – Lawrence was laid off from his job of 14 years. Then just a short while later, the police department where Hafiza worked downsized its staff due to budget cuts, leaving her unemployed as well. “We just didn’t have enough,” said Hafiza. “We got evicted.”
Lawrence’s uncle invited the family to stay with him in Durham, but just a few weeks after arriving, they had to seek shelter elsewhere because there just wasn’t enough room.
Fortunately, Hafiza found her way to Genesis Home. Tammy Mauldin, the Genesis Home Family Services Coordinator for the Marshall family, recalled the first day that she met Hafiza.
“I was coming into work one morning, and I saw Hafiza standing at the door with headphones on,” said Tammy. “She must have been there at 5 a.m. just waiting to talk to someone. She was determined to move her family into Genesis Home.”
And Hafiza did just that. She, Lawrence and their two boys Devin (age 9) and Isaiah (age 3) moved into Genesis Home’s Family Matters Program in January 2012.
In working with Miss Tammy, Hafiza revealed that the trauma of losing both of their jobs, their housing, their car and suddenly finding themselves in a brand new place without shelter was impacting her both mentally and physically.
For Hafiza, the five key interventions identified by Genesis Home (Housing, Income, Mental Health/Substance Abuse, Financial Literacy, and Family Health & Wellness) played a crucial role in empowering Hafiza to address the impact of the trauma she experienced and to move forward.
“We were just losing stuff, one by one,” said Hafiza. “When you can’t provide, you feel like you’re failing your children, your marriage, yourself. It takes you into a depression.”
A tenet of Trauma-Informed Care is supporting consumer control and choice. Trauma often strips a person of control over their own life, and one way to give that back is by providing clients with the opportunity to have a say in their own care. For Hafiza, that choice came from Tammy after getting to know her and seeing the depression manifest through unhealthy behaviors.
“I told her to choose—either probation or therapy,” said Tammy. “Hafiza chose therapy, and it has worked out really well for her.”
Hafiza agreed. “I’m dealing with everything a lot better. My therapist and Miss Tammy have helped. Miss Tammy gets to know you as a person—not as a homeless person—but as a person. She gets to know you on a human level. She knew something was wrong and helped me get help.”
But the challenges didn’t end there.
In addition to Hafiza being diagnosed with depression upon entering Genesis Home, her youngest son Isaiah was diagnosed with a mild case of autism.
“I noticed Isaiah wasn’t talking as much,” said Hafiza. “At first, they diagnosed him with just a speech delay, but we took him back and he was diagnosed with autism. My depression got worse after that. You blame yourself. Where did I go wrong? But I have learned that wasn’t the case.”
The autism diagnosis and treatment plan for Isaiah was part of addressing the Family Health and Wellness intervention. Isaiah is attending a special needs preschool and Hafiza and Lawrence have been learning specific parenting techniques to address his needs.
“Genesis Home gives you that little tap for you to go forward, but you end up pushing yourself forward,” said Hafiza. “The self-sufficiency I learned here was very important for me. I learned parenting skills, budgeting and how to adapt to a different type of environment. I learned responsibility, even as an adult.”
The Marshall family has now graduated and moved into a rental home. Hafiza says Isaiah is talking more and is much calmer, and their oldest son Devon has been excelling academically, making the honor roll at school. She credits our after-school tutoring program for helping him achieve this success.
When asked what her hope is for her family’s future, Hafiza has her sights set on being an entrepreneur. “One day, I want to own our own home and start a daycare business,” she said. “I just want us to keep moving forward. And I’m going to come back to Genesis Home and volunteer.”
According to a recent study, nearly 90 percent of participants in programs based on Trauma-Informed Care have either remained in Section 8 housing or moved to permanent housing.* With the skills they have gained and the innate determination of both parents, we are confident that the Marshall family will be in that 90 percent.
And we look forward to seeing Hafiza’s smile back at Genesis Home as a volunteer, supporting our mission to end homelessness for families with children.
*Laura Winn, et al., Trauma-Informed Care: What Do We Know? Homelessness Resource Center, http://homeless.samhsagov/Resource/Trauma-Informed-Care-What-Do-We-Know-50016.aspx (February 13, 2013).
“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.
Your donations help us make a shelter a home, and we thank you for providing the support we need to run programs like our points system incentive program.
With a mission-driven process of fostering independence and offering positive reinforcement, the program staff at Genesis Home are utilizing donated goods to incentivize and generate excitement around goal achievement. While we will continue to use donated items to furnish our family suites and help our graduates in their new homes, we are offering basic necessities to our current families in a “points system” incentive program.
Here is how it works:
We sort donations as they arrive and set aside the items we need for incoming families. The needs of a new family are the top priority. When a family moves in, our case managers advise our staff of the family size, and the room is completely set up for them with items such as towels, bedding, toiletries and cleaning supplies. We call this our “Welcome Wagon.”
Items that are not needed immediately for new families are set up in a “store” and a point value is assigned to each item. Toothpaste may be 10 points while a set of single sheets could be 300 points.
When Genesis Home families move in, they work with their case manager to set long term goals that are broken down into weekly goals. We believe in rewarding hard work and recently our staff built a point system to recognize accomplishment. Points can be acquired in categories such as Finance and Asset Building, Parenting, Personal, and Community. The points within each category are directly linked to overarching goals we have for our families. Even the children can be involved. Every school-age child must take part in our after school tutoring program. Points will be awarded to the children for their academic accomplishments and they will be able to spend their bonus points on donated books, toys or games. Once points are acquired, our clients can go shopping in our “store” to spend their points on family necessities.