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.
All Stacey had was her children and the clothes on their backs when the walked into Genesis Home. She left her home after discovering her children’s father had staged a robbery in their apartment to steal the rent money for his drug habit. It was one more time the rent wouldn’t be paid, the lights or water would be turned off because the money had gone to buy drugs. Stacey was 22 years old.
Stacey had learned to be independent while in the foster care system where she always made her own way. At Genesis Home, Stacey was assigned a case manager to give her help she was not used to having. “It was a time for me to swallow my pride, be in a transitional setting, look at my own life and the lives of other resident families, and make the decision to never be in this situation again. I didn’t see myself as a victim; I saw it as my time for growth. I could have let life knock me down, but I used this time as a stepping stone,” Stacey explained.
She added, “This wasn’t just a home or a safe refuge; this was place to help me figure out where I was going. Working with the staff, we found a safe apartment to go to, organized child care vouchers, and put a financial plan in place to help me manage my budget. “
Genesis Home works to end homelessness for families with children by providing housing and supportive services to foster independence. Genesis Home envisions a community in which everyone lives in safe and sustainable communities and shows compassion to neighbors in need.
Always a hard worker, Stacey set her sights on becoming an attorney. She earned her G.E.D. and put herself through community college. She currently works full-time as an office coordinator while taking criminal justice courses at night and on the weekends. Once she graduates she’ll head to law school.
But Stacey has not left Genesis Home behind. As part of her college internship, she volunteers at Genesis Home. She shares her story of when she was a resident there and hopes to serve as an example to those at the facility.
“My philosophy is that whatever you do in life comes back full circle, so do it to your best ability and always make extra strides to make it better. Everything we do affects our future and that of our children. When we make mistakes, we have to shake them off, learn from them and grow. Take everything you have learned and adjust it to make your life even better,” Stacey says.
Over the course of the summer of 2012, Genesis Home updated its strategic plan to ensure that the agency’s programming continued to be aligned with best practices and new federal goals related to the national Opening Doors initiative to end homelessness. As part of this effort, Genesis Home has updated its outcome goals for all three programs and has implemented a new case management curriculum that details the programmatic interventions that are most correlated to our desired outcomes. While our process and timeline have changed, our primary goals – to increase the income of our residents and to move our families from homelessness to housing – remain the same.
The biggest change with our programming relates to our attitude toward the work and the families that we serve. No more discussions about "readiness" for housing. Housing is a right and all of our families come into the shelter deserving to be housed as soon as possible. Housing is not a reward for meeting someone else’s expectations. It is in itself an intervention that yields improved employment, physical health, mental health, substance abuse and scholastic outcomes. This philosophy by its very nature moves us away from traditional notions of service that put the caregiver at a higher level than the client. We are not saving anyone at Genesis Home. We are helping people help themselves. This is a partnership, not a project.
As we continue the work of implementing our new client curriculum by revising our housing guidelines, creating forms, updating policies and training staff, we are striving to be clear in our expectations for staff and for current and incoming families. The first step in empowerment is expectation: expecting more for yourself and your family. When our case managers work with parents to set realistic, attainable goals, they see that good things come to those who put in the work. Success breeds confidence. As our families participate in programming that is designed to build their skill sets and to promote stability, they are empowering themselves with the knowledge and information that they need to make a better life for themselves.
This process does not end when families leave the shelter. We have seen firsthand that many of our families continue to need ongoing support and services as they transition from homelessness to housing. This reality led to the creation of our Circles of Support program and it is the reason that we are formalizing our aftercare case management for program graduates. Empowerment does not mean going it alone. We have an obligation to ensure a successful transition when families leave our program. Housing retention will be an important indicator of whether our new approach is working.
Empowerment isn’t just something that we strive to foster in our residents. It’s a mindset that should envelop the entire agency from the board to the staff to the families that we serve. Much of 2012 was spent educating the board and staff around the new federal standards for homeless programs. I feel strongly that our updated strategic plan takes a proactive approach to meeting these new expectations and I have been impressed with the staff’s engagement and attitude as we define the philosophy and processes that we utilize to create positive outcomes.
While I know that some of you may have been more comfortable with our old model, let me assure you that these changes were made primarily with our families in mind. We owe them our best effort and that entails using new models and practices that have been proven to be more effective in ending homelessness than traditional transitional housing. I hope that in sharing the reasons, the process and the promise of our new approach over much of the last year that we have empowered you with the information that you need to feel that Genesis Home is a sound investment. Our families deserve your support. Thank you for making our work a priority.
A Common Thread Shifting to Trauma-Informed Care for Homeless Families at Genesis Home, Durham, NC
The families who come in and out of Genesis Home are, in a word, diverse. They arrive from different places, have varying backgrounds and bring distinct personalities to the house. But there is one common thread among them – at some point in their lives, the families who enter Genesis Home have experienced trauma.
According to an article from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 90 percent of homeless women have been abused by their intimate partners and 50 to 60 percent of mothers became homeless because they were fleeing a violent relationship. Moreover, homeless children are exposed to violence at very high rates.
However, trauma is not limited to physical violence. Through the loss of stable shelter, family connections and accustomed social roles and routines, the event of becoming homeless also can lead to trauma.
These findings have led to a shift toward “Trauma-Informed Care” (TIC) for the homeless population, where the focus is on identifying and addressing the trauma that led to and could prohibit a homeless person or family from securing long-term housing stability.
What exactly is TIC? A recent study defined it as “a strengths-based framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.”
While the concept is fairly new and continues to evolve, a review of research literature by the Homelessness Resource Center found that it has promising results. Programs that incorporate TIC show better outcomes, improved self-esteem and relationships for children, a decrease in psychiatric symptoms and abuse, and a positive effect on housing stability, all while being cost-effective.
Genesis Home has embraced this philosophy. Our staff is trained to get to know each family on a deeper level to identify the trauma that would prevent long-term housing stability and a higher quality of life. Once we achieve this, we work to empower our families through six key interventions identified within our Strategic Plan, which serve as the strengths-based framework to understand and address the impact of the trauma: Housing, Income, Mental Health, Financial Literacy, Family Resilience and Health, and Children’s Enrichment.
For each family in Genesis Home, we create an individualized plan based on a needs assessment that maps out the required program elements within the six key intervention areas. We then link each family to natural and community resources for support. For example, we look to family or friends who are in stable situations to provide support to a family within the housing intervention. Additionally, we can draw on resources such as the Durham Economic Resource Center for budgeting, vocational training, job readiness and resume building support for the income intervention.
By providing training to our staff, evaluating and improving our programs and rethinking the way we communicate with our families, we hope to create a more efficient program based on Trauma-Informed Care that reduces the length of stay and empowers our families to achieve long-term housing stability.
Trauma may be a common thread among our Genesis Home families, but it is our goal to cut that thread and in its place build a strong foundation for their futures.
Please visit our website to see how you can help end homelessness--one family at a time.
 Trauma Informed Care for Mothers Experiencing Homelessness, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, http://www.usich.gov/issue/trauma_informed_care (February 13, 2013).
 Addressing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Caused by Homelessness, National Alliance to End Homelessness Solutions Brief, http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/addressing-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-caused-by-homelessness (October 17, 2012).
 Elizabeth K. Hopper, et al., "Shelter from the Storm: Trauma-Informed Care in Homelessness Services Settings," The Open Health Services and Policy Journal 3 (2010): 80-100.
 Laura Winn, et al., Trauma-Informed Care: What Do We Know? Homelessness Resource Center, http://homeless.samhsa.gov/Resource/Trauma-Informed-Care-What-Do-We-Know-50016.aspx (February 13, 2013).
Debra and her cousin left a difficult situation in Georgia to make a fresh start in North Carolina, moving into a family member's home with their children. What had looked promising from the outset turned out to be a nightmare and they left an explosive, dangerous household to seek shelter at Genesis Home; a shelter for homeless families.
This began a journey for Debra, who embraced the program support of our shelter and took all the right steps to rebuild her life for herself and her two young daughters.
For over twenty-three years, Genesis Home, in Durham, N.C. has provided a shelter program where homeless families can rebuild their lives and prepare for permanent housing and employment. Our ultimate objective is to end the cycle of homelessness for each family by building their overall capacity to create stable, healthy households. We currently provide shelter and supportive services to fifteen families at our on-site shelter facility. Debra and her family are just one of hundreds of families we have helped over the years.
Debra worked with her case-managers to set reasonable goals. With a background in nursing, Debra took courses, became certified as in N.C. and began working by doing nursing home visits. She also embraced all the Genesis Home workshops on parenting, healthy living, financial stability and becoming ready-to-rent. Debra attended the children's enrichment classes that were offered to our kids, learning to enjoy activity time with her daughters and becoming a better, more engaged parent.
When all the pieces were in place and it was time to move into her own apartment, Debra was matched with our volunteer "Circle of Support" group, offering her support group in her first year of permanent housing. This Circle proved invaluable when she fell ill and was hospitalized. Her support group was there to care for her children, be there for hosital visits and help her over a rough patch.
Just two days ago, we received news that Debra is now employed as a full time nurse in a local hospital, earning a wage that will support her family and receiving a benefits package that ensure even greater stability!
Debra is one of those wonderful, determined success stories. She did everything right--step by step--by recognizing a dangerous situation, taking action to seek shelter, embracing a program, working hard at her goals, accepting the help of a support circle and ultimately reaching an employment goal that will provide for her family.
Your support of Genesis Home programs help the families just like Debra's who are hitting the reset button and ending the cycle of homelessness for their family. Our house is full of parents just like her who rely on program support and we rely on YOU--our wonderful donors who help make the success stories happen.
Thank you from all of us here at Genesis Home!
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Director of Development