I was having lunch downtown last week when a familiar face walked in the door. One of the young men who used to reside in our now defunct Independent Living Program was grabbing lunch with a group of friends. I was told long ago not to initiate contact with former residents in public to avoid the possibility of “outing” someone and potentially violating their confidentiality. It’s always been hard for me to resist the impulse to say hello and catch up. It was clear that he had come a long way from his time at Genesis Home and he looked good – healthy, happy, and hopefully able to spend a little money to enjoy a good meal. The chance encounter was a reminder of the hundreds of families, children and young people that have used our programs at Genesis Home as a stepping stone to a better life.
As we mark our 25th anniversary, we celebrate our past as we plan for the future. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to take the time to read our Board President Cindy Streett’s interview with founding board members Bob Jackson and Nancy Rosebaugh. It is a poignant reminder that while in some ways Genesis Home and our community has changed a great deal, in a very real way we continue a struggle with homelessness and poverty that dates back generations. Mayor Bell and the City have made poverty a priority in Durham and I suspect that this initiative will highlight two problems that create a persistent barrier for our families: the lack of living wage jobs and affordable housing in our community. In much the same way that we are told, “if you want peace, work for justice”, if we want to end homelessness we need to work to create safe, decent affordable housing and good jobs. We need your help to get that message through to our City Council and County Commissioners.
Genesis Home is planning a fall BBQ for our supporters, residents, graduates, volunteers and staff to celebrate the accomplishments of the agency and to share our plans for the future. Look out for information about the logistics in the coming months. Much like the many graduates who have exited our programs, you our donors and volunteers create a network of support for Genesis Home throughout the community. I have seen that we can move mountains when we work together and I ask you to stand with us as we begin our second twenty-five years of ending family homelessness. When you have the opportunity to sing our praises, volunteer your time or make a financial contribution, you are investing in the families and children that we serve. That is an investment that will bear fruit for our community. Thank you for all that you do for our families.
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.
Leaving eviction for a fresh start:
After 14 years of working for the same company fulltime, Mr. M. was laid off when his company downsized. His wife still had her job and with the cost of childcare expenses, it made sense for him to stay home and take care of the family and look for work. Then Mrs. M. lost her job as the recession hit full force. Knowing the eviction notice would come soon and not being able to find employment, they began searching for a family shelter and found GENESIS HOME.
Each and every day, Genesis Home staff work to provide secure shelter where homeless families and children can find safety and stability to rebuild their lives. The relief at finding a place to stay and a bed to tuck their children in at night is tangible. Each of our 15 families lives in a small private suite for an average stay of 6 months. On move-in day, they arrive to find fresh bedding, towels, toiletries and the basic necessities to care for their children. For many children, it is the first time they have had their own bed.
Donors, just like you, help us to prepare a welcoming room for families by providing funding for essential items such as pillows, blankets and towels. Right now, we're in need of simple things like toilet paper, diapers and cleaning products. Occasionally, when we have larger families move in, we need to purchase more bunkbeds, mattress, cribs and dressers. The generosity of our supporters makes this possible. We want every family who enters Genesis Home to feel valued and welcomed.
We are thrilled that Mr.and Mrs. M. will be moving into their own home this month after securing permanent fulltime employment and housing. They are just one of the hundreds of families we have helped. Taking a family from crisis to stability is one of the greatest gifts we can share with those in need. For over 24 years we have helped families take those critical, positive steps.
Won't you help us by providing a gift that will help us provide a welcoming space and restore the dignity of homeless families?
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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Director of Development