BENEFITING: WAKING THE VILLAGE
Tubman House is no 30 day shelter. We are in for the long haul. Our clients do not manage crisis- they conquer it.
Tubman House offers 18 months of housing and support so that Sacramento's homeless, parenting or pregnant youth and their children can get busy living rather than surviving. Through Tubman House, young parents (18 to 21 years old) experience healthy living, relentless support, and educational guidance so that they leave prepared to be leaders in their own lives, and leaders in the lives of their children and communities. In exchange for housing, child care, and wrap around support, Tubman residents grow as leaders as they govern Tubman and pursue goals to uplift their futures and their communities.
In Tubman tradition, each graduate poses in her new apartment, keys held high and smile wide, on the day she moves from Tubman. She will leave with much more than an apartment key. She will leave with the knowledge that she has the intelligence and gumption to claim a home, a career, and a future of meaning.
Last year, 92% of clients secured a job. 67% of clients attended college or worked toward GED completion. 92% committed to counseling. All actively parented, built a network of support, cleared debts and exited into sustainable apartments. Since opening our doors in 2002, over 90% of our clients have never experienced homelessness again. All Tubman's children attend a free, on site child development program.
In 2014, 20 young adults and their 18 children lived at Tubman. 4 of those children were born at Tubman and were welcomed into the world with our Tubman coaches cheering their mothers through the contractions and bringing love and better lunches during the hospital days.
Nine of those residents have graduated from Tubman. All live in their own apartment with affordable rents, stable income, childcare and support in place to sustain momentum. They visit often and call even more. Not a week goes by without my phone humming with good news from a graduate or a call for advice. “I got promoted!” “What does it mean when my car groans when I brake?” “Can you talk?” These calls reassure us. It means our graduates know Tubman was not a shelter- it was a home. The relationships we built were authentic, and never came with business hours. Crisis has a funny way of happening after 5 pm.
Aftercare is long and constant at Tubman. In the last year, we have offered extensive aftercare support to over 30 clients, some of whom graduated Tubman ten years ago. We helped out with microloans so that cars could be repaired so that transportation to work and college was not jeopardized. We helped graduates secure health insurance. We made sure our graduates without U.S. citizenship (all of whom grew up in the U.S. from a young age) applied for Dream Act status so they might work legally and secure long needed rights. We provided employment opportunities to many graduates both within Art Beast and Tubman House.
As always, we tackled poverty and trauma from all sides. We focused on education, healing from abuse, health, pursuit of career, and the overcoming of social injustices. All residents tackled their education goals as they prepared for the GED or started college. Many hours were spent by staff teaching a young adult how to find the equation hiding in the word problem or guiding them through their first college essay. Sometimes language barriers or learning disabilities amplified the challenge. We reminded our residents that a degree that took 6 years works just as well as one that takes 4. We also reminded them those able to keep trying in the hard times are the ones who go far.
Our residents have suffered far too many horrors. We hear too many stories of abuse and neglect. We meet too many clients in the ER after an assault and we deliver too many restraining orders. The trauma inflicted does not go away. It is managed. It is soothed. It flares and consumes a resident with depression or anxiety at the worst times possible- at the end of the semester, at the start of a job, in the days after a child’s birth. We fight back with what we can: long walks with a strong adult, healthy dinners where the elbows knock as the salad is passed, adventure, time in nature, creating art, writing poems, and sharing the work of telling the kids stories and wiping noses. We find good counselors. All our couples attend couple counseling to strengthen their communication. The parents grow their attachments through Parent Child Interaction Therapy.
Our residents also find the uplift of working hard. Last year, 15 of the 16 residents secured jobs before their exit. Twelve of them developed job skills working at Art Beast, our cottage industry, leading children’s camps or working the art studio floor. Five have become permanent employees of our nonprofit, sharing the wisdom earned with the next generation of residents.
In July 2014, we launched our new Graduate Academy through funding from The California Wellness Foundation. The year long academy is developing leadership and social work skills in 8 Tubman graduates through intensive training and paid community internships. Since July, Academy members have created a powerful spoken word piece that educates our community about youth homelessness, organized a community art show, developed a new fundraiser for the agency, participated in community forums to strengthen the mental health network for youth and youth adults, and begun work in the social work field.
Every Friday, residents gather for a leadership workshop. They dig into the larger social issues that have impacted their lives as they consider the effects of racism, sexism, poverty and a lack of access to healthcare, quality food and good schools. They come to realize that their struggles have a larger context. In some ways, it makes the work ahead seem much bigger. At the same time, the joining together to uplift our society ensures they feel far less alone. In the last year, our residents have spoken at legislative hearings, worked with kids in the poorest schools, and learned how to access the healthy food and attentive doctors their families deserve.
While our young adults have been busy, the children have been exploding with their possibilities. Tubman treats each child as a client rather than a sidekick. Each child has an intake and a plan. Our child development teachers plan and offer 35 hours of activities each week in our center to ensure each child has an opportunity to grow, rest, play, and unfold. The center is always full of energy and joy. Each day the children sing, read stories, play inside and outdoors, and learn. Some children may need extra support for health conditions or developmental concerns and Tubman ensures they are connected quickly to a good doctor or specialist. All the children are connected to an Early Head Start home visitor to monitor growth.
Our residents put it best:
"Tubman helped me see my potential as a woman, and a person. I was a person who deserved a healthy fresh start in life. Finally, I made my final break from an abusive relationship. I started on the road to an actual new journey."
"I got to know and love my child for exactly the person she was. My child got to bond with everyone in the community. Tubman is our own tribe with each person in the community helping take care of each other and our children."
"I received so much support and love here- more than I ever expected. I've also been through a lot here at Tubman as I face both the good and the bad of my life so far. Tubman has always been there for me, reminding me to be a better person, not just for my family but for myself as well. I’ve learned so much about parenting and communicating. But the one thing I've learned the most is to try new things and to live life to the fullest."
In monitoring visits, reviewers from foundations and federal agencies wrote:
“Tubman embraces a youth development philosophy committed to involving youth in activities that improve local conditions, provides them with skills, and gives a chance to feel useful within their community. They strive to create an environment in which youth are valued. The staff does a great job of providing a positive and supportive living environment; there is obvious mutual respect and sincere concern demonstrated by staff members and residents.”
“Coaching encourages the development of a strong bond between staff and residents. A former resident visited and it was clear that a strong, lasting relationship had developed. Youth demonstrated a high regard for staff. That relationship is highly valued and cared for. The staff is extremely committed, passionate and dedicated.”
At Tubman, our residents chase dreams. It’s a giddy and terrifying business- as all dream chasing is. Inherent in the quest are moments of crushing doubt. This is why Tubman is a community. In these moments of fear, each of us needs to be surrounded by people looking at us with absolute confidence in our ability to succeed. We need people to insist on our possibilities. At Tubman, we ensure each resident is immersed in the supportive community she or he needs to claim a new day.
Our wait list continues to grow with young mothers and fathers and children waiting for their turn to join Tubman, and try their wings.
We hope you will consider supporting our work- and the possibilities of the young mothers, fathers, and children of Tubman House.