What’s Next… for our Graduates

It has been a while since I have posted and I wanted to move the conversation away from my past to the challenges, joys and hopes of men and women we serve every day.

This is a long conversation so it will come out in pieces, but the most exciting things is … it is being developed as I write. The end has not happened . We have a dream but reality has yet to come alive.

Here is the challenge we face:

Upon graduation  from our transitional programs our graduates are very excited. For many, it is the first thing they have started and finished  and this ‘first’ in their life may become the thing that saved their life. The graduation ceremony culminates in each man/ woman giving their testimony of their journey. It isn’t required but many men/women do want to do it. Those speeches are heart breaking while at the sames time hopeful. In the beginning of their journey with us some 24 months ago the men/women entered the door broken and hopeless and now I can’t say anything but WOW ; a miracle that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Their transformation is nothing, but remarkable.

So my question is “what now…” for many of the graduates that questions is answered by “I have no idea what’s next”. Our staff works tirelessly with outside agencies to help find the graduates housing and employment, however many will graduate with neither. I brought this dilemma to our staff and they came up with a potential solution that we call THE DREAM. THE DREAM is a pictorial depiction of our  mission and values as an organization with one big addition THE DREAM’s goal is Salvation, Housing and employment. The power of the pictorial is the entire staff is able to see how we can act upon those values in our daily work. It is becoming a very powerful tool.

The goal of THE DREAM is:

“…provide an opportunity for our clients to live in safe affordable permanent housing working towards a living wage job while walking in God’s light…”

Don’t let me get ahead of myself. I need to break down the issue a little before we get started.  HOMELESSNESS is a result of our societies inability to deal with POVERTY, Poverty’s main issue is HOUSING (people living in poverty have a daily struggle with affording their homes). The main issue that arises from housing is having a good JOB that gives the person the ability to afford it. The good job is unattainable today because the graduate does not have the SKILLS necessary to get that good job (when I say good job I mean a living wage job), so the challenge becomes getting our graduates the skills they need to get the job, to rent the home, to get out of poverty thus not being homeless. So our DREAM is to get our graduates the skills that are necessary to get the job. That skills development may start with teaching someone to read and may culminated is  our men/women graduating from Welding School  or becoming a Nurse’s Aid before granduation or after graduation depending on the length of the training.

More information: About 20% to 25% of our homeless population will require society to take care of them for the rest of their lives because of mental illness or another life-long disability. OK, as a member of society I am willing to support those men, women and children, however that leaves 75% to 80% of the population, some 470,000+ (numbers calculated from numbers provided by 1/12/2012 State of Homelessness 2012 – Chapetr One – Homelessness Counts  National Allaince to End Homlessness Washington, DC) nationally and 3,700+ (numbers calculated from numbers provided by 2011 Annual report on Homelessness In Earie County summarized by The Homeless alliance of WNY) in Erie County who are able to work. Our DREAM  is focused on the homeless population that is able  to work. We will always welcome everyone who comes to our door for emergency help and we will do all we can for them continuing to elicit the help of partnering agencies. THE DREAM is focused on the client’s who are able to change their life’s trajectory. We are also aware that a client needs to work through their addictions and issues before they can move forward. We are committed to helping them through that struggle and helping them understand the possibilities of walking a new path and giving them Hope for a better future.

This is only the beginning and I look forward to continuing with the next steps of THE DREAM as they unfold. Stay tuned…



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