In 2011, I worked with Genesis Home's involvement in Durham's Great Human Race. This program was established to raise funds to send all Genesis Home children to summer camp. It was such an amazing experience to be able to be a part of this great non-profit organization. The staff at Genesis Home is very passionate about the work that they do to end homelessness in Durham and they are always looking for new opportunities that they can become a part of. Genesis Home works very hard with all of their programs to best provide for the needs of the families that they support. While involved with Genesis Home, I really felt like they have built a family within their organization and I strongly feel that Genesis Home is a great non-profit organization!! -Lauren M.
For over two decades, Genesis Home has been a core institution in downtown Durham, North Carolina serving families and children in need of a safe and secure place to call home. The founders, staff, donors, advocates, and residents of Genesis Home have built a strong infrastructure which we draw upon as we move forward with our mission to end homelessness in our community and beyond.
The largest of our programs, Family Matters, seeks to pinpoint the root causes of homelessness while implementing a family-centered training and capacity-building model that will move our families toward independent housing. A second program, Turning Point, targets adults diagnosed with a disability. This off-site program offers rental assistance and supportive services designed for the specific needs of families. By focusing on families, case managers are more holistic in their thinking about the ways in which disabilities impact more than just the individual. Genesis Home’s newest program, Circles of Support, matches formerly homeless families with a group of individuals from local congregations and civic organizations. These networks provide a much needed safety net for families who have moved into permanent housing and come upon the various barriers to housing stability that may arise over time.
An exciting feature of programming at Genesis Home is the system of measurement and evaluation of program goals and outcomes being developed by a group of mental health, social work, nursing, education, and housing researchers. Genesis Home is on track to become an organization distinguished by evidence-based programming that can be used as a model beyond Durham.
Programming success at Genesis Home would not be possible without the wonderful efforts of the passionate and dedicated individuals of our development team. That old saying, ‘it’s easy to sell something that you believe in,’ comes to mind when I reflect on my time on the Board. Never have I come across a group of individuals who come from such diverse backgrounds and experiences and believe in a common cause—to end homelessness. From staff to Board members to hundreds of volunteers and residents, I am often energized by the lengths that individuals go in supporting our mission. I can say from experience that spreading the word about Genesis Home is contagious.
In the past several years, Durham has consistently been rated as one of the best places to live in the U.S. We, at Genesis Home, believe in making Durham not only a great place to live but also one that is full of individuals committed to building a solid community while enhancing the lives of families for generations to come.
Sherri Lawson Clark
President of the Board of Directors
Time to Figure Out a Future: Helen's Story
Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world to be able to step back from our day-to-day lives, take a deep breath, and figure out manageable steps toward making the wrong parts right. When Helen found herself four months pregnant and in a dysfunctional living situation in New York in 2000, she did not have the luxury of perspective that would allow her to see a brighter future. “I didn’t know how to understand or appreciate anything,” she says. “I was in such a depression. Something inside was missing.”
But deep down, she knew she needed to make a change. So she got on a Greyhound bus with $100 and one suitcase and headed to her home state of North Carolina, where she had a contact at a church in Fayetteville. She asked God to help her make it.
Helen stayed at several homeless shelters, but she knew she needed more than the short windows of time they allowed people to stay to get her life back in order. That’s when she found Genesis Home. She was relieved to be assigned a case worker for therapy, counseling, and career support at Genesis Home – and to have the privacy of her own apartment to spend time with her young son, Daniel. “Genesis Home had all the resources I needed and offered me relief from worrying about the necessities of life so I could give full attention to getting healthy and thinking about who I wanted to be,” Helen says.
Helen stayed at Genesis Home for 14 months. “It took that entire time to get to a sense of peace,” she says -- a peace she felt “for the first time ever.” She learned the importance of having goals and plans: “Knowing there was a possibility of coming out of poverty and pain gave me a whole new reason to live. I knew I could rise above my past.”
While living at Genesis Home, Helen began to work at retail hair salons (she had been a hair stylist in New York since the age of 17) and was able to find child care for Daniel. Eventually, she gained approval to move into her own apartment with Section 8 assistance. Realizing that the best way to economic independence would be to own her own business, Helen opened her own hair salon, The Beauty Spot, in 2004, and began building a loyal clientele.
Soon, however, she realized that it was tough making ends meet. A friend and customer who believed in Helen was willing to put up the collateral for her to get a microloan from Self-Help. With that support, Helen has been able to grow her business. “Through the support of my case worker at Genesis Home and the loan officer at Self-Help, I have learned about money and finances,” she says, “and I am still learning. I also learned to give back when I meet people with depression. My work lends itself to listening, helping, giving back. I love my job and don’t want to do anything else.”
In October 2010, Helen was approved for a home loan. “Now I’m a homeowner and a business owner! My credit score is going up. I am so proud,” says Helen. “Having come from a dysfunctional family and environment, I realized I had to choose to stay or wipe my hands of the past. I had to do a radical thing and step out. It was the hardest but most rewarding decision of my life.”
Helen has been back to Genesis Home to encourage others with her story. She says, “It can really happen. You can have a better life, be on the top and not always on the bottom.” She tells others that, when she was homeless, people treated her like she was different, less capable, “but now I can look them in the eye and say I am confident. This is who I am, who I’m going to be. I have self-esteem.” She reflects on how far she has come: “When we finally think of ourselves as equal to others, then we can really understand our self-worth and have respect for self and money. Everything can turn around. If you CARE, you can say thank you. You recognize others are helping.”
Helen admits that she must keep learning how to deal with setbacks, obstacles, and challenges. She is still learning how to manage money in both her business and personal life. She says it’s important to get back up and keep working. She also realizes the effects of her actions on her own children, Daniel, now 10, and Estelle, 8: “It’s very important to teach your children about saving and spending and having goals. They get it. They learn the value of money when you teach them and talk to them young.”