Helping Families Get A Fresh Start

ShelterCare resident Matthew, his wife Charity, and their son Zelig sit on the sofa they received from Love, Inc. 

During this time of the year, we’re easily reminded of our early days as a small family shelter, and how far we’ve come throughout the years.

On Christmas Eve, 1970, ShelterCare first opened its doors thanks to a small group of community members who recognized the need for family shelters in Lane County.

“At the time, most shelters separated men and women, which made things difficult for many families,” said ShelterCare Executive Director Susan Ban. “We were one of the first places in Lane County where families could stay together.”

What was initially expected to be a “short-lived” housing program ended up being a helpful resource for many families, and a stepping stone to what ShelterCare is today. Not only did the program keep families together, but it provided them with the support they needed to build more stable futures. Today, this program is known as Housing, Health and Wellness (HHW).

“Family cohesiveness provides a sense of stability during a family’s homelessness episode,” said HHW Team Lead Yuki Kumashiro. “That stability plays a significant role in helping families transition into permanent housing.”

While a family is transitioning, HHW provides 3-6 months of shelter, as well as weekly support from a case manager who works with them on their barriers and goals.

“We discuss everything from their children’s school attendance, and transportation issues, to employment goals,” said Kumashiro.

Case managers also help connect families to important resources such as food banks, counseling, employment services, renter’s rehab, affordable housing, and other programs that help prevent homelessness in the future.

“Being able to support a family while they’re in such a difficult time of transition is invaluable,” said HHW Program Manager Katharine Ryan.

More often than not, families enter HHW without any belongings, which is why ShelterCare works with community partners to provide home starter kits. Kits include household necessities ranging from toilet paper and dish soap, to cookware and bedding.

“The home starter kit makes a big difference for those families that have lost all their belongings to a house fire, a domestic violence situation, an eviction, and other disasters,” said Kumashiro.

Most recently, SELCO Community Credit Union donated $5,000 worth of new household items from IKEA, which was enough to create 20 home starter kits for families in need. Each kit contains bedding, shower curtain, towels, trash can, a bathroom mat, broom and dust pan, cooking utensils, dishware, cookware, dish soap, doormat, flashlight, laundry basket, laundry detergent, mop, and paper towels.

SELCO had the items shipped directly to ShelterCare, and then assembled a team of employees who spent an afternoon sorting and packing the items into individual kits. The kits will be distributed to families at HHW as well as families in other ShelterCare programs.

Earlier this year, HHW played a significant role in helping ShelterCare resident Matthew Smith and his family move into their new home after 17 years of homelessness. Alongside receiving a home starter kit from ShelterCare, Matthew and his family also received furniture from Love, Inc., a community partner dedicated to helping people in need.

“Thanks to HHW, and all the other resources that ShelterCare has connected us to, we are finally home and here to stay,” said Smith.

You can read about the Smith family’s inspiring journey here.

Since January 2016, 72 percent of the families who have exited ShelterCare’s HHW program have exited into permanent housing.

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