By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
Believe it or not, there are children and families in Richmond who are not able to have a hot dinner or comfy bed to sleep in each night. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, more than 3,000 children are without a home in Richmond and surrounding areas. HomeAgain, a local non-profit in Richmond is helping families and children have a place to live and eat, and somewhere to temporarily call home. The men, women and children who enter the programs are provided with life’s most basic needs upon arrival: a warm shower, healthy food, and a safe place to sleep. And then, the work of making life changes begins. HomeAgain is restoring new hope, and new skills, by giving Richmond residents a new opportunity at life.
Founded 32 years ago under the name of Emergency Shelter, Inc., HomeAgain is a United Way member agency and participates with
Homeward, the local coordinating body for homeless services. HomeAgain provides shelter and support services to almost 160 homeless men, women, children and veterans each night, and works closely with other shelters and homeless service providers and networks with many community organizations. HomeAgain is a proud participant in the regional shelter entry system, Homeless Point of Entry, a program of Commonwealth Catholic Charities.
“We go well beyond just housing,” comments JoLinda Underwood, HomeAgain’s Development Coordinator and Child Services Coordinator. “We get to know the person, the family, and help get them back to a state of independence.”
The mission of HomeAgain is to assist homeless families and individuals in metro Richmond by providing emergency and transitional shelter as well as programs designed to build skills leading to increased self-sufficiency and to identify resources needed to obtain permanent housing. HomeAgain is indeed a leader in the community of homeless services through offerings of new hope, new skills, and new life.
VIDEO: Homeless Children in Richmond
The men, women and children living in the emergency programs participate in a scheduled day that provides a framework for the rebuilding of lives that must occur. Residents are expected to work or seek employment while they also tend to the rigors of connecting with other community services. Residents work closely with the case management team and participate in a variety of case management and life skill services that include mental health services, budgeting and money management, substance abuse and relapse prevention counseling, parenting groups, and personal goal development. Children in the family shelter are immediately enrolled in school or in a child development program. While their mothers work on realistic plans for how to achieve permanent housing, children are provided with tutoring, nutritious food and numerous enrichment programs. Residents in both programs complete daily chores and routine house upkeep. Most residents are referred to HomeAgain from Central Intake, the Department of Social Services, or other shelter and homeless service providers.
“HomeAgain has been an uplifting experience.” comments Kevin Sire, a resident at HomeAgain’s Men’s Shelter.
HomeAgain empowers Richmond’s homeless by helping them transition to permanent housing and self-reliance. Under the leadership of Katie Chlan, the agency’s Executive Director, HomeAgain currently operates five programs.
The Espigh Family Emergency shelter for women and children serves families and single women. Residents are able to stay for up to 90 days. In addition to assisting residents in obtaining permanent housing, services include case management for both adults and children, parenting groups, life skills, budgeting, tutoring and referrals for community support.
The Men’s Emergency Shelter serves single men. Residents are able to remain at this program for up to 90 days. Services include case management, relapse prevention, budgeting and referrals for community support. Recently the men have been participating in Richmond’s First Fridays by hosting an open mic night, giving them an opportunity to experience the arts and culture of Richmond.
The Family INRICH transitional shelter program, located on the North side of Richmond, serves any composition of family and individuals. The Family INRICH program opened on July 1, 2008 in response to recent changes in community needs. HomeAgain spent considerable time making the decision to merge two existing transitional programs, Single Women’s and Women and Children’s, into the new Family INRICH program. Residents can stay for up to one year, if needed, to address barriers for permanent housing. Services include case management for adults and children, parenting groups, life skills, budgeting and money management, tutoring and enrichment, and referrals for community support. This program allows HomeAgain to provide housing and intensive services to adults and children who live in a variety of family compositions. INRICH is based on the principles of: individual strengths, needs-based programs, reunification and stabilization for families, integrated community services, change orientation, and housing focus.
“I am very happy and blessed to have the opportunity to be housed in the HomeAgain program to rebuild me and my children’s lives with all the resources that they offer like parenting class that we have every other week to the budgeting services that they offer.” said Michele Wilson, a resident at HomeAgain’s INRICH Transitional Shelter. “It has truly been a blessing to my family and I’m looking forward to the rapid but realistic transition.”
The Veteran’s Transitional shelter program is located on the grounds of Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Center and can accommodate up to 18 men. Residents may stay in the veterans transitional program for up to 24 months. Transitional clients are also provided intensive case management services that include parenting groups, relapse prevention counseling, budgeting and money-management, and life skills services and referrals for community support.
Permanent Supportive Housing for families provides a permanent rental subsidy and case management to assist families with a documented disability to exit homelessness and maintain housing in the community.
Making a Real Difference in the Community
Many things make HomeAgain different from other homeless services providers in the community. The agency has the ability to assist with a variety of family compositions and concerns. Recently HomeAgain’s Child Services Coordinators participated in a community based training which deemed them the only State Certified Child Services Coordinators who only work with children experiencing homelessness in the metro Richmond region. The case managers and child services coordinators do an excellent job to help residents get acclimated to their community. Residents have become members of the YMCA and Boys and Girls clubs, joined running clubs and community wellness groups, volunteered with various organizations, become involved in community faith groups, and many other community integration activities.
Recently, HomeAgain has embarked on a new venture to meet the community’s needs. Rapid Re-housing is a model that shortens the household’s stay in the shelter, while providing the tools necessary to quickly return the household to safe, affordable rental housing in the community. Each household then has access to the necessary services to assist them with remaining stably housed in the community.
HomeAgain’s housing specialist and case managers are working with landlords to assist in housing families and individuals who may have barriers to obtaining permanent housing, including a past eviction or judgment, a criminal record, or past due utilities. HomeAgain has families and individuals who may have satisfied a debt while in shelter; however it remains on their credit report. We know that most households, given the opportunity, will maintain housing once leaving the shelter. For them to get back to a place of independence and stability, we encourage landlords to partner with us to help.
Thanks to a great partnership with the CARITAS furniture bank, HomeAgain case managers are able to refer residents to this service to shop for necessities to have in their new home.
How You Can Help Create New Hope
During this time of year, HomeAgain likes to bring awareness to the community to remember those in need. In October, HomeAgain begins to prepare for the holiday season with their Annual Appeal and Holiday Hope Campaign. Holiday Hope is a partnership with the community to help residents of HomeAgain receive gifts during the holiday season. Volunteers sign up to “adopt” a family or individual from one of our programs – or multiple ones if they choose. Residents complete a wish list of 3 -5 items in addition to their clothes and shoe sizes and provide the lists to the volunteers. There are also opportunities for volunteers to donate wrapping paper and to join HomeAgain staff to wrap gifts that will be given to the residents.
The Holiday Hope team would love to have your support this season. Please email Lynne Dunne at email@example.com if you are interested.
HomeAgain has been very fortunate to have a strong support system with community partners. Volunteers and donors are a huge asset to the organization, and they would not be able to fulfill their mission without them. HomeAgain is connected to some great organizations, both civic and faith based. Volunteers help in a variety of ways including data entry, cleaning, organizing, painting and cooking. The agency has had volunteers host donations drives or host a day of service for the programs. In their family programs, volunteers help celebrate children’s birthdays by providing decorations, goody bags, cake, ice cream and a gift. They also have dedicated volunteers who contribute year round, seasonally and for special events.
In addition to the many volunteers who come through their doors, Hands On of Greater Richmond has been a staple in their programs. Every month, volunteers provide arts and crafts to their children in both the emergency and transitional shelters. The hour they spend with the children while their parents are participating in parenting or life skills groups not only provides an hour of fun, but it also relieves the children of the stress and trauma of being homeless. The volunteers also provide comfort to the parents, as they know that their children are in good hands and involved in activities that allow them to be children. The items that the children create help to decorate their rooms and to take ownership of their temporary space.
The faith-based community has assisted in the sustenance program at the men’s shelter for over twenty years. Members from different congregations provide meals on a daily basis to the residents. In each of the programs, churches play a key role in providing in-kind as well as monetary donations. HomeAgain values this support and could not do the work that is done without it.
The future for HomeAgain is promising. HomeAgain looks forward to continuing to serve people who are facing a housing crisis by assisting them with obtaining permanent housing.
Ongoing donation needs for HomeAgain include: pillows, pillow cases, twin sheet sets, blankets, comforters, towels, wash cloths, hygiene supplies, laundry detergent (powder and liquid), dish detergent, cleaning supplies (disinfectants and sanitizers, mops, brooms, dust pans), paper products (paper towels and toilet paper), non-perishable food, new or gently used household items (pots and pans, dishes, cups, silverware, lamps, shower curtains, small kitchen tables and chairs). If you are interested in donating items to HomeAgain, arrangements can be made for pickup or delivery. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteer and internship opportunities are available. If you have a skill or a passion to help, contact Lynne Dunne 804-358-7747 x104 or JoLinda Underwood by email at email@example.com. If you have further questions, please contact Katie Chlan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With your support, HomeAgain can provide more than a roof over someone’s head; you can help give them the tools and temporary assistance they need to change their lives forever.
The people who stay with HomeAgain have dreams of success. They have goals of building their families, providing for their children, and becoming self-sustaining individuals. The opportunity to have a better life is in their hands. The only difference between those who have a home and those without a home…is a key.
You are the key that makes a difference. You are the key that can turn someone’s life around.
“God is the giver of second chances.” said Anthony Glover, a resident at HomeAgain’s Men’s Shelter.