When Sarah (name withheld) came to Our House, she was living in a homeless shelter with her 4-month-old daughter,
jobless and abandoned by the baby’s father. All she hoped for, she says, was a job that would allow her to get out of the shelter and be able to pay bills.
Today she is in the Master’s Program at Emory University and currently employed part time at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and as a Research Associate at Emory.
“The person at Emory who showed me I could do this I met through my family advocate right here at Our House,” says Sarah.
“People ask me how did I do it… it’s because I had Our House. I trusted them with my baby. I trust the people here,” she adds. “They were with me all the way.”
Our House is celebrating its 25th anniversary helping to end homelessness through comprehensive support services and early childhood education.
“We are proud of our 25 years of providing a place where homeless children can learn and get a great start on their lives and education,” said Tyese Lawyer, Our House executive director, “and where their parents can find the support they need to ‘break the chains of homelessness.'”
Our House was founded in 1988 by a group of shelter volunteers who saw a need to assist homeless women with their childcare needs. The women were required to vacate homeless shelters each morning with their children in tow and not return until the evening.
“These women had to juggle finding a job, securing a home, acquiring job training and getting access to mainstream benefits, all while caring for their children. They did not have dependable, affordable childcare assistance,” Lawyer says.
The reality is that homelessness most negatively impacts the children involved, she notes. Statistics show more than 41,500 children experience homelessness in Georgia every year. Additionally, 16 percent of homeless children are not as proficient at reading and math as their classmates and fewer than 25 percent go on to graduate from high school.
Our House, a 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award recipient, has as its primary objective to make certain every child that comes to them is school ready. The students are taught in small classrooms that are geared towards providing more structure for those students who may have emotional and behavioral issues and developmental and cognitive needs. The children who attend the program range from infant to Pre-K.
The teachers at Our House use a creative curriculum in their classrooms that is focused on supporting the development of pre-literacy skills, self-help skills, confidence and resiliency all geared towards helping the children to accelerate in kindergarten once they leave the program.
“As a mother, you want the best for your child, and with Our House, they have advanced with my son, and I can see when my son hits kindergarten, he will be ready,” says Ivory (name withheld) whose 5-year-old son attends the program. “That’s what Our House does for my child from the time I leave him here until the time I come to pick him up.”