by Lila Anna Sauls, CEO, Homeless No More
and Music for a Cause partner for Masterworks 1
We’ve long known the issue of homelessness among families is largely an invisible one. You rarely find families “on the streets,” but instead making do the best they can, living out of cars, in run-down motels, or moving from place to place trying to piece together an existence for their children. This instability has a heavy price. For instance children who are homeless fall behind in school at an alarming rate—one that is higher than those who live in chronic poverty.
And yet studies show eight out of ten at-risk or homeless families who receive support only need it once.
It’s a compelling argument for the value of the work we do at St. Lawrence Place. As part of the Homeless No More continuum of services, St. Lawrence Place serves families who need stabilization with a 30-home community that offers support services, life skills training and up to two years of transitional housing.
It’s a model that works. Families who come to St. Lawrence Place move on to permanent housing 95% of the time.
There’s no great mystery surrounding the secret to our success. Our focus is not on housing but on life skills training that prepares our families – and each member of the family – for life beyond St. Lawrence Place. From budgeting and parenting skills and relationship classes (for the adults), to programs designed specifically to meet the needs of teens, pre-teens and young children, our approach is one we have refined over 25 years of serving the families in the Midlands and today it is recognized nationally as a best practice.
As I mentioned, St. Lawrence Place is part of the Homeless No More continuum of services which also represents a new approach in addressing the complex set of circumstances at-risk and homeless families face. We’ve recently expanded our reach to offer housing and support for those in crisis through a close relationship with Family Shelter; transitional housing and support through St. Lawrence Place; and affordable housing (sprinkled throughout our community) for those families who have achieved stability but still lack the economic base to afford our community’s median rent of $819 per month. In each of these situations our focus is not simply housing but education and support that leads to real self-sufficiency. This is a key consideration in the seemingly unsolvable issue of breaking the cycle of poverty: By addressing the challenges families face across a comprehensive continuum we can meet them with the programs and services they need when and where they need them. Equally as important, we keep families together.
There are other barriers to success we cannot manage, of course, but that we can help families navigate. We are going about that work, as well. For the past year we’ve convened service providers from across our community for conversation and work sessions to better coordinate offerings and to identify issues we can address collectively. These include transportation, healthcare, childcare and housing. We are excited with the possibilities this initiative offers; in addition to greater community collaboration there are actual adjustments and deliverables that positively impact the way families access services. It is a key consideration in removing every obstacle we can in our goal of ending family homelessness in the Midlands.
Let me also offer my thanks for the support of the South Carolina Philharmonic through their Music for a Cause program. Every ticket for the popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans performance October 14th that is purchased with a “St. Lawrence Place” or “Homeless No More” mention will benefit our organization. Please order by calling the Koger Box Office at 803.251.2222.
For some populations homelessness is a chronic issue that cannot be solved but can be temporarily relieved with an ongoing stream of financial support. (There is no doubt this is important work.) But studies show families are different. While it may seem like an audacious goal, we believe we can effectively end family homelessness in the Midlands. Homeless No More is committed to doing just that.