The most rapidly growing segment of the homeless population across California and the Country is single-mother-led families. In December 2015, a ground breaking report by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institute was released on how to reduce poverty and restore the American Dream. It affirmed the following:
1. Increasing security for children will better prepare them to break the cycle of poverty grow up to be more responsible adults
2. To produce adult citizens who will exercise responsibility we should do as much as we can to improve the security of childhood to produce self-sufficient children
3. The most important criteria for any social program is to strengthen people's ability to take responsibility for themselves and their children
Saint John's Program for Real Change has been operating on these core principles for years. We support homeless mothers in getting back on their feet, caring for themselves and their children, and changing the trajectory of their lives once and for all.
When a family enters Saint John's 18 month rehabilitative program, they are immediately encircled with structure, with mental health therapy, with alcohol and drug counseling, with parenting education, with budgeting classes, with healthy relationship training, AND with hands-on employment training in one of our three social enterprises. All services are onsite and are designed to support these women in taking responsibility for themselves and their families. Each family receives an average of 675 hours of service each month. 96% of mothers are placed in non-subsidized employment upon completion of this employment training program!
While their mothers work on themselves, we work with the children to counteract the devastating effects of homelessness that can last a lifetime. When children are raised in a chaotic and unpredictable environment they become more attracted to immediate rewards rather than larger more distant but more impactful rewards. At Saint John's, the family, together, experiences the benefits of living in a safe, structure, and predictable environment. Children learn positive behavior from their teachers while their moms learn to role model positive behavior for their children and the ongoing cycle is broken.
One key element in Saint John's programmatic success is that we require sobriety of our clients. However, the requirement of sobriety, as well as the requirement to be engaged in services to improve your life, run counter to the national direction of public funding. Saint John's has recently lost hundreds of thousands in federal funding as a result as we refuse to ignore the importance of sobriety in the self-sufficiency equation.
Saint John's serves up to 180 women and children daily, translating to over 500 annually with a $4.5 M operating budget that is less than 18% reliant on public funding. Our daily wait list includes 300 women and children.
Our greatest challenge today is that we due to our belief in accountability and sobriety, we are excluded from the majority of the public funding available in this arena. Moreover, Sacramento does not yet have the corporate or foundation base that would enable us to expand our annual operating budget.
Our goal in 2016 is to raise an additional $4 M beyond our $4.5 M annual operating budget, to purchase and renovate a building adjacent to our primary facility that will allow us to expand capacity by 90 women and children, as well as to expand our development and operational capacities. We are 38% of the way there, with $1.5 M in commitments thus far.
Our five-year vision is to take this program statewide, and eventually, nationwide, as single-mother-led families are the most rapidly growing demographic within homelessness. This will require another $2.5-$3 M beyond our current annual operating budget.
The numbers and needs of single-mother-led families entrapped in poverty and homelessness are growing. Saint John's has a plan to address both the need and the numbers, moving families permanently out of that vicious cycle. We need your support to make this plan a reality.