For part three of our Great Give program feature series, we caught up with Director of Homeless Prevention Services, Shayene Weatherspoon, to learn more about Adopt-A-Family’s self-sufficiency programs.
What are some of the common barriers faced by families you serve?
Our families face a number of barriers—one of the largest being the lack of affordable housing in Palm Beach County. Even for families who work full-time, it is still a struggle to pay rent due to how expensive housing costs are in the community. Another barrier our families face is a lack of employer benefits such as paid time off for sick days. Sometimes a minor crisis like a child being sick is all it takes for a family to end up on the brink of homelessness.
What are some relevant and interesting success stories that stand out from your programs?
One family that we served recently immediately popped into my mind. A single mom who was working full-time and taking care of her son contacted our agency in desperation. A few weeks ago she was at work when she received a frantic call from day care informing her that her toddler had stopped breathing and an ambulance was on its way to take him to the hospital. Her son ended up spending more than two weeks in the hospital, forcing this loving and concerned mom to miss a great deal of work. She exhausted her paid leave and was forced to use a great deal of unpaid leave as well. This led to the family falling significantly behind on rent and being faced with eviction.
She turned to Adopt-A-Family with an eviction notice from the court. The Housing Stabilization Program was able to intervene, immediately stopping the eviction and bringing the family current on rent and utilities. We also provided resources to help the mom navigate her expenses and learn about budgeting and savings.The important thing is that she never gave up. Click To Tweet
What is one thing that comes to mind that you’d like to tell the community about vulnerable PBC families that your program serves?
One thing I’d really like to message to the community about the families that we serve in HSP and SEH is that these are families that are working, doing their best to care for their children, and trying their hardest to maintain their income and expenses. These families are living day-to-day life when an unexpected crisis happens – a crisis that could befall any of us. It could be a medical issue, a job downsizing, a fire…Any number of circumstances can leave at family at risk of becoming homelessness. There is not one type of homeless or at-risk family.
What are some key goals for families who participate in Adopt-A-Family’s self-sufficiency and prevention programming?
One of the most important goals in our prevention programs is financial stability. For each family that looks a little bit different. Primarily, we are working on helping families budget. We want families to ensure they are developing savings skills that will help to serve as a safety net for future emergencies and allow the family to plan for the future. One of the key objectives in our Service Enriched Housing program is to harness these skills so that families can eventually become homeowners. Additionally, it’s important that we link families to resources in the community to ensure they have all the tools they need to remain stably housed.
Why are the self-sufficiency and prevention programs important in Palm Beach County?
The work that Adopt-A-Family does to prevent homelessness in Palm Beach County is important. Without it, many people, people like you and I, would enter the homeless shelter system. It’s amazing to be in a position to keep that from happening.
Why is it important to support Adopt-A-Family?
If I could say one thing to the community about why it’s important to support our work, I’d like to say that we cannot do the work that we do without you. Our work to help homeless families, to help families at risk of becoming homeless, and to help kids that have been through trauma, would not be possible without support from the community.
“We are fortunate to be in a position to help those in need of housing, in need of stability, and in need of hope.” -Shay Weatherspoon
Our 2017 Great Give mission statement: When you give with your heart during this year’s Great Give, our families and children will thrive. We can only impact the lives of families with you. Create the opportunity for our families and children to grow. #GiveAAF17 during the Great Give.