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.