When Project Home is hosted at Mount Zion Temple, volunteer Phil Goldman, takes family photos and makes prints to give to each family. “Carmen” is pictured here with her youngest daughter only, since she was separated from her oldest daughter while in shelter.
By Sara Liegl, Director, Project Home
Over the years, watching hundreds of local families find brief refuge in Project Home, we saw the need to develop a program for those who needed and wanted more support. Many of our families only need the safe nighttime respite we offer through Project Home and find the resources to restabilize through our key partners, The Family Place and Coordinated Access to Housing and Shelter (CAHS). However, some families have cycled in and out of homelessness many times and need more. Some parents are currently unable to work, or have never held a job consistently, due to physical or mental health issues. Families with these types of barriers do not flow through the emergency shelter program quickly. It takes time to find the right housing program for them.
Going Home is an opportunity for interested parents, waiting for their housing placement, to begin to delve into their personal history, examine how their lives are now, and challenge themselves to create a brighter, healthier future for themselves and their children. Interfaith Action provides a 16-bed short-term supportive housing component for families, pairing four months of communal housing with life skills training. This endeavor is a partnership between Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul, Casa Guadalupana House of Hospitality, and The Family Place.
Helping families stay together
Sometimes when families enter shelter, they are not complete. Older children are occasionally taken in by a relative. It is a very complicated and difficult decision to make. While it may give older children a more stable environment for school purposes, the separation affects each household member deeply. Such is the case with one of our Going Home participants, “Carmen”. In need of emergency shelter, Carmen entered Project Home with just her youngest daughter, leaving her 9-year-old daughter with her grandmother. Carmen began attending the Going Home life skills classes at The Family Place and soon moved into the Going Home supportive communal housing program located at Casa Guadalupana.
After several weeks, Carmen asked if her oldest daughter could join them at Going Home. Interfaith Action staff met with Carmen, her mother and her oldest daughter. After learning that in Carmen’s particular situation, the right stable housing program might take a few months to secure, and that Carmen was working so hard to make positive changes, everyone agreed that it was time for the family to reunite. Now, as the school year begins, Carmen will be able to walk both of her daughters to school, just down the street, as the youngest enters Kindergarten and the oldest begins fourth grade – together.
“When I walk in the door, I feel like I’m home, not in a shelter. I have a chance to learn and grow during the day, and my girls have a safe, stable place to lay their heads
each night.” — “Carmen”
Building healthy futures
Communal living at Going Home means everyone pitches in and everyone helps care for each other. Each Sunday night, the families enjoy “Chef Night” — a local chef shares simple, low-cost, healthy recipes and cooking techniques with the families. After a delicious meal together, everyone gathers for the weekly house meeting. Updates are given, concerns are discussed, successes are celebrated, and weekly chores are assigned. Beyond normal household cleaning chores, families also sign up to make a weeknight snack for everyone.
Recently, Going Home participant “Queen” and her family, worked with staff to recreate a marvelous treat from a Bon Appetit magazine — fresh vegetable flatbread pizza! Toppings included roasted beats, donated from the local farmers market stand and fresh basil picked in their new garden boxes built by a Boy Scout from a local troop as his Eagle Scout project.
“I really enjoy being able to take the time to think about my week to week goals. I know what I want to do in the future. Going Home is helping me get there.” — “Queen”