Flying curls, high-pitched giggles, and a flash of tiny white teeth. A little boy sped past me riding a colorful toy truck in the gently sloped parking lot of Genesis Home. His mother carefully watched from the nearby picnic table.
I thought to myself, “This little boy is the face of homelessness.”
Moments like these are a reality check: Homelessness doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, or educational attainment. Sometimes, all it takes is one job loss, one medical catastrophe, or one abusive relationship to shift from stability to perpetual struggle.
A friend recently told me she first realized this fact when she saw a former college classmate in a soup kitchen line. And I have also met a bright college student whose family lived in a shelter during part of her university experience.
Thankfully, Genesis Home is a bright spot. I volunteer because Genesis Home has a 25-year track record of helping families move to permanent housing and secure living wages. I have heard the success stories firsthand, and I am always in awe of the fortitude of those women, men, and kids.
However, there is so much more we need to do. North Carolina experienced a 10 percent increase in family homelessness between 2011 and 2012, according to a 2013 State of Homelessness in America report. At the same time, North Carolina’s median income and per capita spending on public assistance decreased.
Homelessness can only be eliminated when the entire community takes action for change. Please take a moment to renew your support for Genesis Home and the families we serve. Through your contributions, the faces of homelessness will become fewer and far between, taking us another step closer to ending family homelessness in Durham.
We can’t do it without you. Please make a donation today so our families have a better tomorrow.
Genesis Home Volunteer
All of us understand this past year has been difficult for families in our community and across the country. Many families, who never expected that homelessness could happen to them, are finding themselves living in cars, shelters, and in the worst cases, on the streets.
One such family was Shameka and her two sons, ages 16 and 13. Shameka’s family graduated from Genesis Home this past October, but their road to independence has been filled with struggle and loss. Shameka and her husband moved to Durham to look for work after she lost her job due to the economic downturn. Just three weeks later, her husband died of a massive heart attack. She held several jobs as a cook in local restaurants but had to stop working due to an on-the-job injury. Shameka and her sons eventually found their way to Genesis Home.
“I learned a lot of things at Genesis Home,” said Shameka. “We had professional people coming in and talking about our health, nutrition, how to eat, how to talk to your kids, how to deal with everyday life. They were lessons you couldn’t just buy or find anywhere.” Genesis Home also served as a safe place for her sons. “They got close with the other kids,” said Shameka. “They’re not hanging out in the streets. Instead, they’re hanging with their friends at Genesis Home. I don’t have too much family, but I consider a lot of the Genesis Home staff and families as my family. They’re closer to me than blood.”
Today, Shameka is living in a three-bedroom apartment with her sons and is working toward becoming a peer counseling specialist for people who are struggling with addiction. When we asked Shameka if she had anything she wanted to say to our supporters, she responded with great conviction: “Thank you. If it weren't for people like you, I don’t know where I would be. Having somebody have your back and understand that anybody can fall on hard times—you may never know the extent you have helped people. My family will succeed because we had help from Genesis Home.”
Genesis Home is on track to set an all-time high for the number of families placed into permanent housing in one year. Your financial support provides the case management and programming that our families need. Please take a moment to help families like Shameka’s. Each gift keeps our doors open to families and children in need, providing them with a stepping stone to a better life. Thank you for all you do to support our efforts to end homelessness, one family at a time.
Happy Holidays from Genesis Home’s Residents, Staff, and Board of Directors
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.
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