So many households in the community live paycheck to paycheck. Checkbooks are so fragile. Any small, unforeseen circumstances, if unexpected, can create insecurity. If there are no savings, if the budget cannot absorb the costs of rainy-day events that happen to everyone from time to time, especially if they have no safety net of family and friends, some families find themselves suddenly out on the streets.
Greg Johnson, the President of the Board of Trustees at The Road Home says that there are more people in that category than he had ever imagined, and those are the people his organization is working hard to help:
“The Road Home provides a vehicle for those who feel so inclined, to help via services or financially. It can be as simple of dropping off clothing. We work with community programs to support children and teens with their needs. It is really an attempt to be very broad based and supportive.
“What would happen to these people if The Road Home weren’t there? Where would they go? It brings me such satisfaction is that we are providing basic human needs: there is a roof over their heads, and there is food available. Another thing that tugs at my heartstrings is the children who come here through no fault of their own. They have an opportunity to have some of their basic needs met.
“We have the skill set, to see someone who had it lost it all, come back to have it again. There is an appreciation there. The stories that come out of The Road Home are just wonderful and heartwarming because you know you are lifting someone who couldn’t help themselves in that moment. It is one of the more gratifying things that can happen in life is helping someone get to a better place than they were today.”
Over 200 full time staff coordinate shelters for men and women and families. The temporary shelter is what The Road Home is most well-known for, but they also help individuals and families find new housing. They also offer permanent housing and rapid re-housing.
Staff at The Road Home constantly reach out to landlords, imploring them to work with these vulnerable individuals and families, offering to pay for the first month’s rent and deposit, or helping with other issues to overcome the regular barriers to getting back into a home. They also have a new roommate matchmaking program in the works to coordinate helping people get into a home with a roommate, which is more affordable than a single person living alone.
Jeniece Olsen, Director of Supportive Housing Services explains, “We don’t want to predict what a family might need. We are not good at predicting who will recover quickly. We will have families come in with layer upon layer of difficulty and still come out successful and then there are other families whom we would expect to do really well, struggle with the system.
“We have families with high barriers to getting a home. They might even have a criminal background. So we have a team of housing specialists looking for units that are affordable. They sell the program and encourage the landlord to take a chance and we offer our services to them as well. We may cover some damages if they need it, whatever we can do so that they know that if they work with us, they aren’t going to be left alone.
“We want to get people and families back into their homes as fast as possible. When a family comes to us, it helps if they have income, but it is not a requirement. It is better to have someone housed first before any other needs are met. When a person has sleep and safety, then he or she will be more effective at working on longer term goals.”
Living at The Road Home is a new beginning for many. A woman and her son recently moved into housing with help from The Road Home’s Housing Team. She was excited to be in a home of their own but had been struggling with depression and felt like no matter what she did she would end up homeless again. The woman continued working with her Housing Case
Manager and recently acquired a job as a cashier at a grocery store. She told her Case Manager that her job has helped her to feel more confident and her depression symptoms have lessened. She wakes up each day excited to work and begin a new life full of confidence and security for her, and her son.
Greg Johnson recalled another heartwarming story,“I remember one dinner that we had. A lot of people were coming through the line, and there was this one young mom who had a baby on her shoulder. My job was putting cheese on hamburgers. She was coming through, and I remember her coming up behind me, asking me if she could have just one more piece of cheese for her child. Well, I wanted to give her the whole plate of cheese. Carrying that little one – I saw that she was doing all she could to take care of her child, and your heart melts in that situation.”
The Mission of The Road Home cannot happen without support from the community. There are partnerships with hotels and other organizations to temporarily house the homeless. Grants come in from the government and private individuals. Volunteers offer support and help cook meals and bring in materials.
Greg Johnson explains,“I have full time employment with an employer who is supportive of me stepping away from my regular work for board meetings and other service opportunities. We do have an Executive Director and management team who work day to day, but when you look at the board members, there are a variety of skill sets that provide expertise that create relationships from fundraising to working with government, legislative up to the governor’s office, etc.
“In my tenure I’ve had the opportunity to meet with state, county and city officials. We provide support to management and to the programs the agency runs. You are able to rub shoulders with people who are amazing and talented with big hearts.”
If there is anything The Road Home would have people know it is that even though the downtown shelter is closing, The Road Home is still up and running and providing services in the community. In fact, they are currently seeking out a new administration building to house
their 80+ administrative staff members.
“The Road Home isn’t a building—It is a service provider. The new building will be for administration, development, fundraising, accounting, and human resources to support the organization and its people as they are serving those experiencing homelessness, but it will also serve as a service center so that people who are experiencing homelessness can come to apply for services. It won’t have shelter services – those will be provided by new resource centers.
“The Road Home is going to serve 12,000 people this year and they all have their individual stories. To be a small part of that, is beautiful.”
► You’ll also like: Helping Families and Pets Through “Ruff” Times