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How one homeless mother found more than shelter

How shelter and services got Sharon back on her feet

Furniture Co-op helps families make homes

Turning an empty apartment into a home

How one homeless mother found more than shelter

Jessie arrived at the front door of New Haven Home Recovery’s CareWays shelter with her 11- and 2-year-old daughters tagging along behind her. She was 26 years old, pregnant with a third child and grappling with substance abuse issues. She had been homeless for three or four years, dragging her girls through from shelter to shelter throughout the city.


A case manager at CareWays got Jessie into treatment for substance abuse, and found a counselor for her 11-year-old daughter, who had been acting out in school, which is not unusual for a child experiencing homelessness. Both of Jessie’s daughters got involved in the shelter’s SEARCH Program, which provides education and activities for homeless children, and they began to find some enjoyment when a volunteer worked with them on a quilt. Finally, after a few months, a case manager found Jessie a permanent subsided apartment and she delivered her baby. Now she’s getting by on food stamps, but things are changing. Jessie is working with the case manager to set some brand new goals: a high school diploma, a resume, a job.

 

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor LifeLine program recently gave New Haven Home Recovery a $15,000 grant to support its CareWays and Martha’s Place Shelters. Lately NHHR has been getting an alarming increase in calls from women who need shelter. At a time when we could face serious budget cuts, the Neighbor-to-Neighbor grant is helping NHHR keep its shelters open to serve women like Jessie who might otherwise end up on the streets or returning to unstable environments. Once we put a roof over their heads, we can establish an action plan to identify all the possible barriers to more permanent housing and all of the available resources to overcoming those barriers, including security deposit programs, rental assistance programs, furniture assistance and behavioral health assistance.

 

Thanks to the Neighbor-to-Neighbor, NHHR will be able to help more women like Jessie settle in long enough to get back on their feet.

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How shelter and services got Sharon back on her feet

Sharon came to New Haven Home Recovery (NHHR)’s Martha’s Place emergency shelter from another state. She was in her 60s and feeling completely alone.

In her previous life, Sharon was a teacher with a master’s degree, but all that fell apart in when she experienced a psychotic episode. She never shared the details, but other women who have passed through Martha’s Place have described similar experiences – they had been in a violent relationship, abused as a child or raped. Years later post-traumatic stress syndrome kicked in, complete with flashbacks and nightmares. The experience left Sharon unable to function, and soon lost her job and apartment, along with all of her furniture.

She thought she could stay with a friend in New Haven. When that fell through, she found NHHR, which provides housing and support to women and their children. Martha’s Place is mostly for single women with a myriad of social issues and a wide range of needs. Case managers there provided Sharon with food, clothing and toiletries. They found her mental health treatment and worked with her on issues such as finding work again.

It was clear that one of Sharon’s biggest roadblocks was her sense of isolation. NHHR connected her with Fellowship Place, which provides support and community for people recovering from mental illness. Sharon stayed at Martha’s Place for about two months, then Fellowship Place helped her find housing.

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor LifeLine program recently gave New Haven Home Recovery a $15,000 grant to support its CareWays and Martha’s Place shelters. For single women like Sharon, Martha’s Place is the only place in New Haven that provides a stable place to stay not only at night, but also during the day. It’s a place where elderly and medically compromised women who are homeless can receive visiting nurse care. NHHR puts a roof over their heads and puts together an action plan to identify barriers to permanent housing and resources to overcoming those barriers, including security deposit programs, rental assistance programs, furniture assistance and behavioral health assistance.

Sharon is an example of how shelter and supportive services help women get back on their feet. Today she is living on her own, but she still visits Martha’s Place as a participant in NHHR’s peer mentor program, helping other women find a better way to live.


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Furniture Co-op helps families make homes

One Tuesday morning at The Furniture Co-op, Alva sunk back into one of the donated couches with her two small children, and patted the bulge on her stomach. Her baby was due in a month, and her newly remodeled, subsidized apartment was empty except for a toddler bed and a couple of mattresses. She was looking for a couch, a table, some towels and small items to turn the place into a home before the baby arrived.

“This (making a home) is challenging,” she said. “But you can do it – you can do it on your own if you have a little help.”

 

The Furniture Co-op, located off Route 34 in West Haven, offers new, used and gently used furniture, house wares and other items to clients of 20 member agencies. Everything is absolutely free. Donations are by appointment, and clients can “shop” on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Co-op warehouse. They sometimes take one look at the mass of new, used and gently used tables, chairs, lamps, sheets and other household goods, and their eyes well up with tears.

 

Jean Davis, a Furniture Co-op volunteer, recalled an African-American family that found a set of dishes with a pattern that looked like an African textile. “For me, what I see most often, when they are picking out cups and bowls and things, is that people are all the same – we all want to have a few pretty things around us,” she said.

 

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor LifeLine program recently gave New Haven Home Recovery a grant to support The Furniture Co-op. This money will help a program that has had an amazing impact on families moving out of shelters and settling into permanent housing. If it wasn’t for The Furniture Co-op, most of these families would start out in an empty apartment, with no bed to sleep on, no table to eat at, and none of the small items that can make an environment feel comfortable and special. Thanks to this generous donation, NHHR will be able to help more women like Alva create satisfying new lives for themselves and their families.

 

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Turning an empty apartment into a home

Talk to anyone walking around The Furniture Co-op during “shopping hours” on a Tuesday or Saturday morning, and you’ll find they have an amazing story. One recent client was Ruth, who is 63 years old, and never thought she’d be living in a subsidized apartment, unable to afford furniture, lamps, dishes and picture frames on her own.

In a previous life, she was a teacher raising her children in a single-family home in a quiet, sunny neighborhood in North Carolina. Her life took a turn for the worse when she was in her 50s and diagnosed with a serious case of clinical depression. Right around that time, her children left home, and she had to get used to an empty nest. Then the disease forced her to give up her teaching job. Soon after, her husband, who had been growing increasingly distant, told her he wanted a divorce.

After a few years, Ruth ran out of money, and she came to New Haven to move into a small apartment in the home of a relative. But the house was in a dangerous neighborhood, and there were gunshots at night and fights, and she was sure that other people in the house were selling drugs. The apartment itself had peeling paint and plumbing problems her relative wouldn’t fix.

Finally she made some calls and found a room at Martha’s Place, one of New Haven Home Recovery (NHHR)’s emergency shelters. After several weeks there, an NHHR case manager helped Ruth find an apartment. She’d given up many of her belongings when she came to New Haven, and left everything else at her relative’s house. When she visited The Furniture Co-op, she was amazed and then grateful. “I thought there was nothing left for me,” Ruth said. “But now I see there is a way for me to make a home for myself again.”

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor LifeLine program recently gave NHHR a grant to support The Furniture Co-op, which NHHR established to provide furniture and housewares to families in Greater New Haven who have been homeless, or are living with disabilities or insufferable hardships. People throughout the Greater New Haven area make donations to The Furniture Co-op, and volunteers help sort and organize them. Clients who have been prescreened by NHHR or a partner agency come to The Furniture Co-op warehouse at 30 Morris Street in West Haven to look for items they need and can take for free. Thanks to Neighbor-to-Neighbor Lifeline’s generosity, more women like Ruth will be able to use The Furniture Co-op to make a home for themselves as they rebuild their lives.

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