More than 25 years ago, a group of people in Durham had a vision. They wanted to create a place where families with children who were experiencing homelessness could find shelter and resources to help them regain their independence. On February 1, 1989, that group succeeded in opening the doors of Genesis Home to families in need.
I had the opportunity to sit down with two people from that original group who also served on the first Board of Directors: Bob Jackson, an IT manager in the Department of Sociology at Duke University, and Nancy Rosebaugh, a nurse practitioner at Croasdaile Village. The following is an excerpt of our conversation as they shared their memories of Genesis Home’s beginnings and their thoughts on our progress throughout the past 25 years.
Cindy: You both were there from the beginning, and I think you had a lot to do with getting Genesis Home started.
Nancy: There was a whole group of people. It was a constantly evolving and growing group of folks who were interested and committed.
Cindy: What made you decide that we needed a family-oriented site?
Nancy: I worked for the Durham Presbyterian Council, which was a consortium of all the Presbyterian churches in Durham that wanted to do ministry together. I would receive people who came in asking for whatever kind of help they needed. I encountered people who were moving to Durham for work because they heard it was a great place to live and there were jobs. There were also people who were very poor—chronically poor—who had to leave wherever they had lived. They came to us for help, but there was nothing we could do for a family with children who had no place to stay.
I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about how to help these folks. We started talking about it at First Presbyterian and the Council, then we took it to Durham Congregations in Action (DCIA) with the help of Joe Harvard who was the minister of First Presbyterian at the time. That was my motivation: I was trying to figure out how I could sleep at night.
Bob: In the mid ‘80s, Watts Street Baptist Church had set up an overnight women’s shelter that functioned for about four years. We’d go downtown every night and pick up whoever was outside the courthouse. That could be two, three, four, five women. We’d bring them back, give them a meal and a place to take a shower, and they’d sleep overnight there. Then the next morning, we’d take them back downtown. In the course of doing this, we became very aware that families were being affected by homelessness as well. Bob McClernon (the pastor at Watts Street Baptist Church) made me aware of what DCIA was doing with the committee for a family shelter. I joined their group and started meeting with them.
Nancy: I do remember [that getting the house donated to us] was the catalyst. Everybody said, “You could’ve done this from scratch and spent less money.” But I’m not sure we could’ve raised the money for a “from scratch” project. We got the house and the land donated…people mobilized and gave money to complete the facility and start the program. It was really a hand-to-mouth existence. We moved the house without having all the money to pay the house mover. Every time we reached a place where we had no more money, we started another process of reaching out. We went to the United Way, and we were accepted as a member organization. We went to the Self Help Credit Union for a construction loan. Throughout each of these steps, we had to develop our structure as an organization with a little more sophistication. We had to apply for nonprofit status and set up a board of directors and bylaws and find a financial auditor —all the things that an organization needs to survive. Before the house was donated, we were just a committee that kept meeting and saying, “What can we do?”
Bob: At first DCIA was ]our umbrella organization. At a certain point, I think we felt it was important for our project to go out on its own. None of us had done this kind of work before. We were just figuring it out as we went along.
Cindy: How many families were able to stay at Genesis Home at the beginning?
Bob: It was 4 or 5, depending on how many people were in each family.
Nancy: I remember the first night that Barry Greever (Genesis Home’s first executive director) was staying in the home with the residents. Arabella Meadows-Rogers (a Board member at the time) went to the grocery store and came back with supplies to cook supper and breakfast—what a leap of faith!
Cindy: Do you recall any of the families or any stories of families who were residents back then?
Bob: One story I remember that was very poignant is from the year I was president of the board. There was a family who had experienced a SIDS death while at Genesis Home. That was a very sad occasion. It was just very difficult to go through. Maybe 15 years later, I was over at the house for a volunteer event, and there was a young woman there to volunteer. She was a teenager—probably 16 or 17. She said, “My sister died in that corner room.” She was a member of that family. I remember her pointing to the room and telling me that.
Cindy: Fifteen families can be housed at a time now. We’re always full. If we have one moving out, we have another one ready to move in. I’m curious to know—was it always full back then, or did you ever have any open slots?
Bob: There were openings at times, but it stayed mostly full. I remember a couple of instances when we had families where there was some issue with a husband, and he had to be sent out of the house but the rest of the family remained. He might have been a drug user or there were issues that had arisen during their stay. I can remember some of those guys would set up a tent in the woods beside the house and actually stay there.
Cindy: When you first started this 25+ years ago, did you think that it would go for 25 years? What were your expectations?
Nancy: I certainly hoped that it would. I don’t imagine homelessness will ever be gone. One great thing about working on this project was that nobody ever said, “Why do we need that?” Everyone appreciated that it was something that was needed, desperately needed, and they wanted to be part of it.
Cindy: Is there anything you would like to say to all the donors, volunteers, and staff who have helped over the last 25 years to make Genesis Home what it is?
Nancy: Thank you for making our dream come true! There’s no better investment than in the future of children and their families.
Bob: Keep the faith. I’m just amazed that Genesis Home has lasted this long and remained healthy and such an integral part of the community.
Cindy: Thank you both for your contributions. There wouldn’t be a Genesis Home without you. I know there were many other people so when I say thank you, I’m saying it to everyone who was involved. There’s a lot more work to do. It isn’t over.
Nancy: That is how it goes in this business. We’re grateful for the folks who come after us and pick up whatever needs doing next.
Bob: The work is never done.
What can you achieve in a month? For Ebbini, a recent graduate of Genesis Home, she and her newborn were able to go from homelessness to permanent housing in just 28 days.
In August 2013, Ebbini was homeless and eight months pregnant. “Throughout my whole pregnancy I was homeless,” said Ebbini. “I was in foster care all my life so I don’t know my family. I had to live in a car and in motels until I could find a place to stay.”
The need to find housing became critical when her doctor said there were complications with her pregnancy and that they would have to induce labor a month earlier than her due date. “I thought I would have to leave my baby at the hospital,” said Ebbini. Fortunately, that was not the case. When her baby arrived, Ebbini called the Durham County Department of Social Services’ Coordinated Intake Program and said that she needed shelter immediately because of her newborn. Thankfully, Genesis Home had room and Ebbini and her baby moved into the shelter in mid-August 2013. During her time here, she worked through our Family Matters program with her Family Services Coordinator Tammy Mauldin and attended therapy sessions. She also continued taking classes to earn her certified nursing assistant (CNA) license.
Through hard work and determination, Ebbini graduated from our program just 28 days later, one of the shortest stays for a household exiting to permanent housing in the agency’s history.
“I would’ve never been able to do it without Miss Tammy,” said Ebbini. “I thought I’d be staying at Genesis Home a lot longer than I actually did, but she really worked with me. Miss Tammy helped me with budgeting and resources to help me get daycare. She helped me get the place I’m staying in right now. She’s still working with me on therapy and other plans.”
In fact, one of the resources Ebbini had access to after graduation was a means to reliable transportation. Genesis Home partners with Wheels4Hope, a faith-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income families and individuals by providing them reliable, affordable vehicles. Genesis Home referred Ebbini to Wheels4Hope, and in December 2013 she received a car.
When asked how she felt when she received the keys to her car, Ebbini exclaimed, “I was so excited! I can’t even explain how happy I was.”
It also was a great experience for Executive Director of Wheels4Hope John Bush. “To celebrate the gift of independence that a car provides with someone as hard working and gracious as Ebbini was a special moment. When a client has persevered and stands tall through the support offered by Genesis Home, taking hold of the keys to a car is in fact taking hold of a new lease on life. This is why our partnership is vital. It opens the doors to employment, stability, education, and housing options.”
And according to Ebbini, receiving those keys did in fact help her take hold of her new lease on life. Between her job and taking her son to doctor appointments, the car was crucial in her path to independence. “I had been catching the bus everywhere I was going, and it was just starting to get very cold right before I got the car,” said Ebbini. “I didn’t want my son or me to get sick because I wouldn’t be able to go to work. Now I’m able to drive him to his doctor appointments, and I don’t have to rush around to catch the bus to meet clients for work.”
Today, Ebbini is working as a nursing assistant at a local nursing home and is living in her own home. As far as her future, she said she wants to keep moving forward. “I’m hoping to never be homeless again and to make sure my family is safe and healthy. I want to continue my therapy and do what I’m supposed to so that I can do something with my life.”
In the midst of so many challenges, Ebbini achieved housing stability and independence in less than 30 days through perseverance, a commitment to herself and to her family, and a positive attitude. In her actions and attitude, Ebbini has shown all of us the true meaning of the word “fortitude”.
As Genesis Home approaches its 25th anniversary in 2014, the occasion got me thinking about what separates organizations that last from those that quickly come and go. In an age where many seem to be obsessed with securing their own fifteen minutes of fame, what stands the test of time? In a disposable society, what’s really important? As a parent, this question has added relevance as I consider the kind of people that I want my children to be and try to limit their exposure to unhealthy behaviors in a world where right and wrong isn’t always crystal clear.
My personal belief is that the difference between success and failure often comes down to values and how those values are demonstrated within the organization and the community at large. While we don’t always trumpet our values and accomplishments, I’d hope that the following facts would reinforce your faith in the agency and the way that we operate.
One of the biggest challenges for any nonprofit is retaining donors, volunteers and supporters in a competitive environment. While we’re no longer the new, hot cause, I hope that our track record and direction give you the assurance that you need to continue to support our work. In my mind, substance never goes out of style. If you believe in these values and our mission of ending homelessness for families with children, I ask you to find a way to get involved. Our updated website is a great way to learn more about our work and how you can help. With your support, we can stand the test of time.
In thanks,Ryan J. Fehrman
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.”
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).
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.
Director of Development