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!
Genesis Home's Expansion Serving More/Doing More
Family homelessness emerged as a growing problem in the 1980’s and Genesis Home’s founders responded by establishing G.H. in 1989. Serving 15 families in the Family Matters Program and 5 in our Turning Point Program, we are the largest transitional shelter for homeless families in Durham, North Carolina.
Recently the climate for transitional shelters has changed. Federal guidelines for transitional shelters through HEARTH (Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing) are moving towards shelter stays of 30 days; transitioning families quickly from shelter to housing. In response to HEARTH, and working through a strategic plan Genesis Home is moving towards reducing the length of stay to six months and increasing support to newly housed families which allows us to serve more families in crisis. Currently, the average stay is 9 months.
Genesis Home is working with other service providers in Durham in an effort to provide better services to homeless families. Starting in June 2012, a coordinated intake process began where homeless families or those at risk of becoming homeless work with an intake officer at the Department of Social Services. The staff person completes a barrier assessment to determine the best program for the family and makes a referral to the agency. Due to the structure of our program, Genesis Home receives referrals for families with the greatest barriers or challenges.
For over twenty-three years, Genesis Home 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. Genesis Home celebrates hundreds of families who have graduated from and transitioned into permanent housing.
Families need to feel safe and secure in order to begin their journey from homelessness to sustainable, independent living. Our case management staff meets with every family to plan a course of action to address educational, vocational, health and emotional needs. Referrals are made to partner agencies if a family needs additional counseling. Meanwhile the children are enrolled in school or daycare and we provide mandatory after-school tutoring to help bring or keep our children at grade level. We also provide funding for camp for all school age children for the entire summer so that they can have a safe, enriching summer and their parents can focus on their employment and educational goals.
Our holistic approach recognizes that education and improved employment skills are necessary for achieving independence. As part of the program, parents attend sessions on job readiness, debt reduction, financial literacy, parenting, and health and wellness. Clients and staff have weekly case management meetings for progress assessment and intervention/redirection if necessary.
With a theme of Serving More/Doing More Genesis Home is working towards helping even more families in crisis. When you make a gift to Genesis Home you give us the financial support to offer shelter and training to help homeless families get back on their feet and rejoin the community.
$50 - Helps us furnish a suite with fresh bedding and towels for a new family
$40 - Provides start up grocery money for a new family settling in
$30 - Provides bus passes for our parents to get to work or job training
$20 - Provides educational supplies for our school age children
Genesis Home's Family Matters Expansion
There has been a 50% increase in the number of homeless families from 2009 to 2010 in Durham, North Carolina. Each day there are new requests at our doors from families looking for help. To address this issue, Genesis Home reopened the older, original building to accommodate 4 additional families in the summer of 2010.
The rooms are smaller than our family suites in the "addition", but they are cozy. Newly painted and decorated by volunteers, we can take single parents with a single child. Within 10 days, interviews were completed and the rooms full. We now have a "full house" with 16 families transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing in a safe, supportive setting.
The happiest days at Genesis Home are when families successfully graduate to permanent housing and employment and the days when we welcome a new family to the safe atmosphere of our shelter.
Your support of our program helps us do just that! For over 21 years we have watched over 400 families transition to independence with a 75% success rate of retaining permanent housing. Please help us continue to address a growing and unprecedented need.
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