Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead

By Shara Gonzales

Every so often in there are times that denote not just minor shifts in how we do things but larger shifts, more systemic shifts. These are the times that allow us the freedom to take hold of the moment and create ways of doing things that better fit our lives. We have been making changes by shifting more care and responsibility for our community and this is especially true with those of us involved in human services. Community has become the "place” we can truly change our lives and those around us. Perhaps it was the only place we have had direct influence over our daily lives. So it has been for New Beginnings.  One of our presentation displays says;

"There should be a place in the center of each community that offers hope, support, and the means to rebuild a life. This ‘place’ would do so by recognizing the fact that we are all one human family tied together in community. It would be the heart of the community, where unconditional live and unconditional acceptance is offered to each person who walks through the door. This then would be a perfect place for a new beginning.” 

Going forward we see ourselves expanding upon this theme, utilizing the concept of The Cycle of Self Sufficiency; moving people from homelessness or crisis back into stability and participation in the community eradicating long term or chronic homelessness. The truth is many people have or will lose their homes and stability. There will always be fires, and tornados or floods that cause people to lose their homes.  People will lose their jobs, or their partner, or their health.  And with a staggering 49% of all Americans being liquid asset poor (less than three months expenses in savings), people from all walks of life are vulnerable to losing the structures of their lives. To rebuild the life is a community wide effort; bringing together all the resources available within the community and where there are gaps finding or creating the resource. In "the Cycle of Self Sufficiency” there are the reasons someone has lost everything (homelessness is the bottom end of this cycle) and then there are things that community needs to put in place so that person or family can return and sustain their lives. These are the elements we have been helping with…such as affordable housing. In the next few years we will continue to participate in providing the elements of self-sufficiency.

  • A community crisis intake and assessment center that allows expedited triage of a person’s needs and moves them into the appropriate tier of service as is required, linked by software and followed clear through until stability is reached. Ending on going and constant repeat services because the problem was not solved.
  • Housing First – moving people into housing of their own as quickly as possible. Relying on grant funds, community funds, and vouchers to accomplish this and then providing ongoing support so they remain stable.
  • The continued development of job placement with "work ready” training in a transitional jobs program that brings going to work skills to the fore front and then transfers to employers who need stable employees.
  • Building in a program that encourages the development of "liquid assets” and the financial tools to manage them and by doing so increase self-reliance and less need of community social services.
  • Continue building housing for the community. Affordable, workforce, and renovations in re-developing neighborhoods. Concentrating on training people who come to us with little skills in a retraining program to renovate homes as energy efficient residences thus reducing the cost of utilities for a family or individual. (The Santa Fe Town Homes recently completed had a former client of New Beginnings as part of the building team).

Homelessness can be solved. We don’t have to suffer or watch other’s suffer because they do not have a home. In my eyes the primary cause for continued homelessness is the breakdown of relationships; our relationships to family, to community and from one generation to another. This lack of a connection to one another has allowed us in the past to walk by or ignore horrific human situations. But our community is changing this. We are reconnecting to every part of our community. We are rebuilding; creating a strong foundation for community by allowing, encouraging and providing the tools for everyone who might need them to rebuild their lives.

The future is ours for the making.  

About Shara Gonzales

Shara Gonzales has been the Executive Director of New Beginnings, Inc., a community development organization in Hutchinson, Kansas for over 20 years.

New Beginnings is designed to help people who have lost everything return to the fullness of life within the community.

Because of her vision, New Beginnings has gone from a dilapidated boarding house-turned shelter, to include an overnight shelter, 36 units of transitional housing for the homeless, and over one hundred affordable housing homes in three apartment complexes and individual homes and provides housing for several Oxford Houses which offer a sober living model.

Current projects include the creation of town homes as workforce housing, a transitional jobs program for the hard to employ, and permanent supportive housing for those with barriers to housing.

You can read Shara's other experiences on her personal blog. Find it here

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