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).
Your support helps us empower our families to move toward a life of stability. In 2012, Genesis Home served a total of 42 homeless families, 37 of which had women as the head of the household. Additionally, we served a total of 93 children: 43 were from the ages of 0-5, 23 from 6010 and 27 were 11 or older.
Below is a story from Andrea, a Genesis Home graduate, who tells us how the programs helped her family:
“If someone had told me that I would end up in a homeless shelter, I would have said they were crazy. I came to Genesis Home directly from the Crisis Center. My prayer while I was in the battered women’s shelter was: Lord, give me a place to go where I won’t have the sole responsibility of taking care of myself, because I need a place of refuge and solace to rebuild my life. That is what I found at Genesis Home, an opportunity to heal. It wasn’t a handout; it was a step up.
“With emotional and mental abuse, you don’t know how bad it is until after you’ve left the abusive situation. I was timid and terrified of everything. I had to believe that I could start a new life, but when you have lost your confidence for so long that seems impossible. I had been slowly dying, breathing in and breathing out, but not living, just making myself go through the motions of taking care of a house and family. I was invisible. My daughters tell me I smile more now. That is because I am not hurting.
“I would not be where I am today without Genesis Home. I needed the time to process, grow and heal. I learned to take small steps, set goals and then take the next small steps and reach those goals. I learned to believe I could rise above the situation that had placed me here. Now as I rediscover myself and come back to life, I like the new me. I am on my way to a better life."
After 14 months at Genesis Home, Andrea worked as a part-time substitute teacher and a receptionist caring for her daughters in their new home. Her journey is just one of the stories you would hear if you spoke to the families and children living at Genesis Home. Our families are rebuilding their lives every day and are working with trained staff to find their way to a brighter future.
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Director of Development