Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Putting family first for 15 years

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Picture your home for a moment, and all the treasured memories you have there. We’re betting most of them involve your family.

Our Tenants Empowerment Network (TEN) recognizes the intrinsic connection between home and family. Since their start in 1996, TEN has been striving to provide a safe, supportive sanctuary where families who are homeless can renew their hope, gather their strength and, most importantly, stay together while they rebuild their lives.

Now, TEN is celebrating a major milestone: their 15th anniversary of service to the community. In that time, they’ve undergone many changes. They’ve dealt with some pretty difficult budget cutbacks. But through it all they’ve stuck to their mission, to develop partnerships with homeless families to empower them to attain lasting stability in housing, work, and community. Through that mission, they have enacted powerful positive change for the families they serve.

For Sr. Mary Louise Wessell, founder and Program Manager of TEN, one of the most rewarding parts of her work is providing each family with a home. “The families come from a lot of disruption,” she said. “They’ve slept on floors and in shelters. So they’re very thrilled to have their own apartment.”

The program provides stability in other forms, as well. Parents who need it attend addictions support meetings—TEN boasts a 92% rate of maintained recovery. Many also receive job training or further their education, which qualifies them for better employment opportunities. These women and men have all the skills for success; they just need an environment to support them. And that is exactly what TEN offers.

The kids are major beneficiaries of a family’s newfound stability in TEN. Sr. Bernadette Longtin, a social worker for the program, said the children really open up and grow more trusting after a few weeks. During the evenings, many of them gather in the common area to play together—over 50 kids! Though the room was quiet and tidy on a weekday afternoon, it was easy to picture the place swarming with little ones.

It’s plain to see these little ones have a soft spot in the hearts of Sr. Bernadette and Sr. Mary Louise. They emphasized that if there’s one thing they want to do more of, it’s programs for the children and family-centered events. With the economic downturn, there’s been less money for fun, recreational activities at TEN—yet these activities are a vital component of community-building within and among families in the program.

TEN is holding a small anniversary event later this week—we’ll be sure to post photos from the celebration here on our blog! In the meantime, if you’d like to support the great work that TEN is doing for families who are homeless in Washington, DC, here are two ideas:

  1. Part of the fun of a new home is furnishing it, right? For only $1800, the staff at TEN can furnish an entire two-bedroom apartment for the families they serve. You can host a small fundraiser and use the proceeds to equip a family in need with all the things that make a house a home.
  2. Be honest—don’t you love getting gift cards? So does TEN! They can use cards from places like Target or a grocery store to buy snacks for the kids’ playtime or to recognize outstanding TEN residents.

Families who enter the TEN program face many challenges. But after two years, they are more confident, more connected and with a great community to encourage their continued success. Thanks, TEN, for all the hope and help you’ve given families for the past 15 years!