PART FOUR: ADVOCACY. Lend YOUR voice and change lives.

The following is part four of a short series written by Seacoast Family Promise’s on-staff Case Manager, Melissa Cardin. This series comprises Melissa’s reflections after attending the 2010 Family Promise ‘Dare to Dream’ Conference in Florida. Her workshops included trauma among guests, knowing the correct role for staff and volunteers, self-care for staff and time to restore balance, setting boundaries and knowing limits, and the importance of being an advocate for our guests. Melissa and several other representatives from Seacoast Family Promise attended the event and returned to New Hampshire inspired with fresh ideas, and an even stronger passion for the families we serve at Seacoast Family Promise.

“The Mission of Seacoast Family Promise is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.”

PART FOUR: ADVOCACY. Lend YOUR voice and change lives.

One great thing that Seacoast Family Promise volunteers, staff and board can do is be an advocate for those who are experiencing homelessness. The 2010 advocacy campaign that Family Promise is rolling it is through a part of the program called Voices Uniting. The theme is “A Place to Call Home.”  Many people already acquainted with Seacoast Family Promise are advocates but aren’t aware of it. People don’t have to know a lot to become an advocate, just talk about what they know. We need to encourage guests and former guests to take part as well. We need to involved our state and local congress people – bring them in to volunteer, or get someone on their staff to do it! Let’s get involved in writing our state and local senators and representatives and create broad based partnerships. The stronger our partners, the better!

Some interesting statistics that our advocates can share:

  • Nationally, we are 3.1 million homes short. That means that for every 40 homes there are, we need an additional one.
  • There are only 37 rental homes available and affordable for every 100 households with incomes below 30% of their area’s median income.
  • Approximately 1.5 million children experience homelessness in any given year.
  • The high school graduation rate for homeless students is less than 25%
  • There is no city or county anywhere in the U.S. where a worker making the minimum wage can afford a fair market rate one-bedroom apartment.
Volunteers Are Key to Our Success

Seacoast Family Promise: Building community, strengthening lives

I’ve included at the end of this report some charts I made up with resources I was introduced to in this workshop as well. They are some interesting fast facts about poverty and homeless rates both nationally and state wide.

In part five of this series Melissa explores the power of mentoring and building partnerships.

*If you believe someone is in crisis, is an immediate threat to themselves or someone else, or is in imminent danger, please call 9-1-1, or visit the local emergency room. If you would like to learn more about the services offered by Seacoast Family Promise, we can be contacted at 603-658-8447.

For other information on SFP including ways to volunteer or donate, please visit our website at: www.SFPNH.org

Housing Matters National State
Fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment $959 $1,023
Housing Wage (required to afford a two-bedroom apartment) $18.44 $19.67
Actual average renter’s wage $14.44 $14.08
Minimum wage $7.25 $7.25
Weekly hours of work required at minimum wage to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment 102 109
Our Children, Our Future National New Hampshire (2008)
Child Poverty in the United States
Number of children living in poverty 14,068,000 25,622
Percentage of children living in poverty 19% 8.8%
Percentage of children living in extreme poverty 7.8% 4.0%
Number of children who receive food stamps 12,559,379 25,313
Percentage of eligible people who receive food stamps 65% 55%
Number of children who are victims of abuse and neglect 905,000 822
Child Poverty and Race
Percentage of white children in poverty 13.3% 8.4%
Percentage of black children in poverty 34.5%
Percentage of Asian children in poverty 12%
Uninsured Children
Number of children without health insurance 8,900,000 21,000
Percentage of all children uninsured 11.3% 6.6%
Who Is My Neighbor? National State County
(Strafford)
Percent of People Below the Poverty Line 13.2% 7.6% 10.7%
Number of People Below the Poverty Line 39,829,000 97,158 12,365
Percent of Children Below the Poverty Line 19% 9% 9.0%
Number of Children Below the Poverty Line 14,068,000 25,878 2,321
Median Income by Household $52,175 $63,989 $60,230
Who Is My Neighbor? National State County
(Rockingham)
Percent of People Below the Poverty Line 13.2% 7.6% 4.0%
Number of People Below the Poverty Line 39,829,000 97,158 11,902
Percent of Children Below the Poverty Line 19% 9% 3.4%
Number of Children Below the Poverty Line 14,068,000 25,878 2,290
Median Income by Household $52,175 $63,989 $75,424
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Part Three: Balancing Boundaries.

The following is part three of a short series written by Seacoast Family Promise’s on-staff Case Manager, Melissa Cardin. This series comprises Melissa’s reflections after attending the 2010 Family Promise ‘Dare to Dream’ Conference in Florida. Her workshops included trauma among guests, knowing the correct role for staff and volunteers, self-care for staff and time to restore balance, setting boundaries and knowing limits, and the importance of being an advocate for our guests. Melissa and several other representatives from Seacoast Family Promise attended the event and returned to New Hampshire inspired with fresh ideas, and an even stronger passion for the families we serve at Seacoast Family Promise.

“The Mission of Seacoast Family Promise is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.”

PART THREE: Boundaries.

We have to keep an environment of self care for the staff. We need to demonstrate how to care for ourselves so our guests can learn to care for themselves. “It’s not healthy or a badge of honor that you don’t take a vacation or turn off your phone,” as a presenter said. We have to remember that we, as caregivers, can experience vicarious trauma by working with the guests we work with. As the Dali Lama put it, “In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering… if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have long-term perspective.”

This is a great lead in to describing a session I attended called Self Care – Knowing Your Boundaries. Hospitality is all about breaking boundaries, but some boundaries are good. They help preserve identity, prevent people from being used, and create respect. Some boundaries are about saying yes or no, but some are about setting limits. They allow us to connect without absorbing, or being absorbed by, others. It isn’t wrong to recognize our limits, but acknowledging them is the most difficult. The best quote I took from there is that “the end of boundaries is not freedom; the end of boundaries is the end of life.”

Volunteers Are Key to Our Success

Seacoast Family Promise: Building community, strengthening lives

Knowing our limits can prevent us as staff, board and volunteers from becoming arrogant about our helping. We are not here to feed our own egos. We may try to remake our guests into our own image, instead of helping them become the person they are but we need to remember that this is the family’s journey, and we need to let them take it with our assistance. It isn’t our journey to take for the guests. They need to be allowed to do for themselves.

In part four of this series Melissa explores the issue of ADVOCACY and how one can lend their voice and change lives.

*If you believe someone is in crisis, is an immediate threat to themselves or someone else, or is in imminent danger, please call 9-1-1, or visit the local emergency room. If you would like to learn more about the services offered by Seacoast Family Promise, we can be contacted at 603-658-8447.

For other information on SFP including ways to volunteer or donate, please visit our website at: www.SFPNH.org

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Part Two: Knowing the Correct Role for Staff and Volunteers

The following is part two of a short series written by Seacoast Family Promise’s on-staff Case Manager, Melissa Cardin. This series comprises Melissa’s reflections after attending the 2010 Family Promise ‘Dare to Dream’ Conference in Florida. Her workshops included trauma among guests, knowing the correct role for staff and volunteers, self-care for staff and time to restore balance, setting boundaries and knowing limits, and the importance of being an advocate for our guests. Melissa and several other representatives from Seacoast Family Promise attended the event and returned to New Hampshire inspired with fresh ideas, and an even stronger passion for the families we serve at Seacoast Family Promise.

“The Mission of Seacoast Family Promise is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.”

PART 2: Our Role.

It isn’t our job as staff or volunteers to provide counseling for [our guests], but it is our job to make sure they get the help that they need. With that said, we can make accommodations for these people to help them regain control of their lives again, such as having well lit halls and bathrooms in our faith communities, making sure guests have privacy when changing their clothes or bathing. Even things like the temperature or the number of people at a church can affect how comfortable someone feels. Did you know that people who have experienced multiple traumatic events actually are cooler in temperature than those who have not? Though faith communities may be trying to save money on their heating bills, this may cause great discomfort to our guests, and we need to be aware of this. I believe that it is essential to make sure that the board, staff and volunteers receive proper training on how to work effectively with guests who are suffering from traumatic stress.

At Seacoast Family Promise, our vision is a community in which every family has a home, a livelihood, and a chance to build a better future together.

The biggest thing that we, as the staff, board and volunteers need to remember for our guests is that we can’t get secure in who we think our guests are, but to look at who they really are. Not every guest that comes through our doors is “just like us, but homeless.” If the volunteers begin talking to our guests, and information begins to come out about a traumatic event that happened in that guest’s life, it isn’t the volunteer’s responsibility to counsel them through it. It is their responsibility to notify the staff, so that the appropriate referrals can be made.

In part three of this series Melissa explores the issue of balancing boundaries.

*If you believe someone is in crisis, is an immediate threat to themselves or someone else, or is in imminent danger, please call 9-1-1, or visit the local emergency room. If you would like to learn more about the services offered by Seacoast Family Promise, we can be contacted at 603-658-8447.

For other information on SFP including ways to volunteer or donate, please visit our website at: www.SFPNH.org

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Part One: Surviving Trauma with some help from Seacoast Family Promise

The following is part one of a short series written by Seacoast Family Promise’s on-staff Case Manager, Melissa Cardin. This series comprises Melissa’s reflections after attending the 2010 Family Promise ‘Dare to Dream’ Conference in Florida. Her workshops included trauma among guests, knowing the correct role for staff and volunteers, self-care for staff and time to restore balance, setting boundaries and knowing limits, and the importance of being an advocate for our guests. Melissa and several other representatives from Seacoast Family Promise attended the event and returned to New Hampshire inspired with fresh ideas, and an even stronger passion for the families we serve at Seacoast Family Promise.

“The Mission of Seacoast Family Promise is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.”

Part One: Surviving Trauma with some help from Seacoast Family Promise.

I wanted to start my description of the Family Promise conference, Dare to Dream, with some startling statistic or an interesting fact. The truth is, I can’t pick just one thing to start with. Maybe it’s that a startling 92% of homeless mothers are survivors of some kind of trauma. Maybe it’s that nationally, 3,450 families were served by IHN’s and Family Promise networks all over the country. Or perhaps, it’s just the reminder of what the broader Family Promise program is – a place to take care of people, love them, guide them, and steer them back into the communities the families so long to return to.

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. The conference began on Friday morning with sessions for program staff. The first session I attended was on Trauma Informed Service with Families in Crisis. This is where I learned the statistic about the homeless mothers and traumatic events. Often times, this is where homelessness begins for these families, and [the trauma] just compounds as the families move into our program. So, why should Family Promise staff care about these traumatic events? For one, these survivors can present a unique set of challenges to case management. These people can appear “non-compliant” with the program, or may appear to have ADHD. They can also appear to completely dissociate from everyone – “spacing out” or having “inappropriate emotions” such as smiling while discussing rape.

There are two different types of trauma that people can experience – Acute (such as a natural disaster or a car accident), and Complex (exposure to multiple traumatic events such as abuse). People suffering from Acute Trauma will likely move on with minimal amounts of assistance, where as people suffering from Complex Trauma are completely unaware that there is a different reality from the one they’ve known. Think for a second about how you feel after having a car accident: your heart starts racing, your palms are sweaty, and you don’t really know what to think or feel. People suffering from Traumatic Stress feel like this all the time. There are a lot of signs that people in our programs have been through some sort of trauma, and as the case manager, I now believe that it is my role to advocate for these people when I begin seeing these signs and symptoms before allowing their situation to get any worse.

In part two of this series Melissa takes a look at the role we can take on to help families in crisis…

SFPNH.org Building Community, strengthening lives

*If you or someone you know is need of the services offered by Seacoast Family Promise, we can be contacted at 603-658-8447. For more information on SFP including ways to volunteer or donate, please visit our website at: www.SFPNH.org

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Seacoast Family Promise Builds Social Captital

There is a type of collaborative, spontaneously
generated giving that strengthens communities by
connecting diverse individuals and organizations
through civic engagement initiatives, creating what is
termed “social capital.” At Seacoast Family Promise, we
believe in a nation where individuals are strongly
connected to their neighbors and play an active role in

Linda Sherouse of North Hampton UCC, 2009 Volunteer of the Year

shaping the destiny of their communities. This increase
in ‘social capital’ results in communities that are safer,
healthier and more vital.
Seacoast Family Promise is, to this writer, the epitome
of the definition of social capital: A network of loving,
caring individuals who give of themselves, donating
goods, services, talents, time, and expertise to ensure the
safety of families with children and create a community
built on the concept of love for our fellow human
beings. The beauty of all of this spontaneous giving is
that it not only benefits the recipients, but research
shows that it benefits the givers as well.

As Wayne Dyer points out, the “… beneficial effects of kindness on the immune system and the increased production of serotonin have been proven. Conversely, unkindness weakens the body and puts us into a state of dissonance. So extend acts of kindness; ask for nothing in return.”

Over the past fours years, as director of the Seacoast
Interfaith Hospitality Network, I have increasingly
become aware of the goodness in people, all people,
ranging from the guests served by this organization to
congregational leaders and volunteers and the general
public at large. I have seen their generosity grow, its
effects radiating out from our small day center in
Stratham through the many lives our program touches.
Recent reports have indicated that New Hampshire is
one of the healthiest states in the country, and I can see
why: The serotonin levels in the Seacoast must be off
the charts! From where I sit, I can feel the abundance of
social capital that has increased through the
spontaneous good works of hundreds of individuals,
businesses, organizations, and faith communities all
across the Seacoast. So let’s keep the kindness flowing -
– and build a stronger, more caring community for all.

-Pati Frew-Waters

Executive Director, Seacoast Family Promise

Find out how YOU or your organization can make a difference at: http://www.sfpnh.org

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Seacoast Family Promise is About Communities Helping Families in Crisis.

Any family can meet with hardship causing loss of income, health, and home. When these crises present themselves, a community shares hospitality and transitional assistance with families facing temporary homelessness. Seacoast Family Promise (SFP) provides a structured path toward self-sufficiency, consistent income, and stable housing. SFP relies on hundreds of community volunteers from different faiths. Our mission is to meet the food and shelter needs of guest families while preserving their dignity and privacy. Families with children under 18 years old are admitted to the SFP program following an interview process. A family counselor designs a custom goal-oriented plan with the family that defines steps to regain self-sufficiency and secure housing. Until that plan is fully executed, usually 8-12 weeks, guest families receive compassion and encouragement from our volunteers.

Local faith-based institutions open their facilities to serve meals, provide private sleeping arrangements, and distribute personal necessities to up to 14 guests at a time. Professional staff operate the Day Center by day where families receive information and advocacy to services including public housing, employment, training, and education. The Center also provides a kitchen, children’s play area, computers, and telephones.

A typical day in the network begins early at the host congregation where families pack lunch, have breakfast and board the agency van or drive themselves to the Day Center, school, work, or training programs. In the evening, guest families return to the host congregation for the evening meal, followed by playing, sharing, and doing homework. Each family then retires to private quarters for the night.

The community rallies to empower and encourage families to become independent and to maintain that independence after leaving the network.

Find out more about us and ways you can make a difference in your community by logging on to our website at:  http://www.SFPNH.org

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