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Community Action’s Supportive Housing team

Community Action’s Supportive Housing team (from left) Aleah Alt, Lee Heflebower, Angel Dwehus and Heather Klein hold up a picture that a child in the program drew of himself lying happily and cozily in his own bed.

PHOTO BY HEATHER LOUGHMAN

Home: that special place where children get to experience the wonders of childhood – the thrill of making blanket forts and turning cardboard boxes into firetrucks. That place where indescribable comfort can we found tucked between the sheets of a warm bed – where wholesome meals are prepared and served around a kitchen table, where homework assignments are completed, and where Friday night movies are enjoyed with a bag of buttery popcorn. Home: that place where lifelong memories are made; where all future goals, hopes and dreams seem possible.

In 2017, Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties received a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care Program to administer a program designed to connect homeless families with home – that place we need, as humans, to reach our full potential. The program, called Supportive Housing, works with homeless families to connect them with permanent housing and subsequently provides weekly case management support up to 24 months. Through case management, families receive empowering support in personal financial counseling, goal planning, employment search and stabilization, parenting skills and tenant education. By the end of the 24-month period, the goal of the program is for participants to be completely self-sufficient.

Since the fall of 2017, the Supportive Housing Program has successfully housed 21 homeless families, with many more who are in the process of searching for that place to call home. Tanya, a young single mother of four, is just one who has recently been housed. When Tanya first entered the program, her outlook on life was bleak – she and her children had been living in an emergency shelter for several months after fleeing domestic violence. She had lost hope that things would ever get better and wasn’t sure how to begin the process of rebuilding her life. All of her belongings, her job, and general dreams for the future had been left behind for the sake of keeping herself and her children safe. Keeping her children safe – this is all she really cared about.

After being homeless for several months, Tanya began the process of figuring out a way to rebuild her life. Soon after applying, she was accepted into the Supportive Housing Program where she immediately began to work with staff to look for and secure a home to call her own.

Throughout this process, Tanya had trouble believing any of it was real. And even when she was signing the lease on her apartment, she refused to tell her children out of fear of getting their hopes up. It was only when Tanya was handed the keys to her new apartment – her new home – that everything seemed to sink in. She was getting the chance to start over. Her children would have a safe place to go to sleep at night and grow up. They were going to be okay.

“I don’t remember the last time I’ve cried tears of joy,” Tanya said as she recalled the experience of taking her children into their new home for the first time.

Since moving into their home, Tanya has newfound hope and excitement to work toward achieving her dreams. She has already started working on obtaining her GED and would ultimately like to continue her education. Through participation in the Supportive Housing Program, Tanya is receiving all of the support she needs to achieve these goals and more. Not only does the program provide weekly empowering support via weekly home visits, it also provides some financial assistance with college tuition/fees/books and other costs that might help families achieve their goals.

The Supportive Housing Program depends upon support from the community to provide the support families like Tanya’s need to regain stability. Community members can help by designating financial support to the programs, which could be used to provide participants with food and gas vouchers, tuition assistance and/or utility deposits. Donations of household items – such as dishes/cookware, bedding and towels, and table and chair sets – are also happily accepted.

To find out more about how to help and warm the homes of those finding hope through the Supportive Housing Program, visit communityactionatwork.org or call 402-471-4515.

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