Good samaritans

 

When East Dallas resident Natalie Blankenship heard of Interfaith, a provider of transitional housing for the homeless, she signed up as a volunteer, hoping the 3-year-old agency would help make a difference.

Those hopes were realized. Now nine years and a national award later, this East Dallas-based agency helps hundreds of families a year with its 90-day transitional housing program.

“It’s rewarding to be a part of this program and see what a difference it makes to the homeless people who come to us,” says Blankenship.

Last year, Interfaith Housing earned the Samaritan Award. This national award recognized the group as the most effective and compassionate homeless shelter funded by the private sector in the country.

While the program helps homeless families find shelter, Program Director Ruth Cheatum insists it is not a “shelter”.

“A shelter only provides accomodations for one night,” she says. “Interfaith teaches them the skills to survive and rehabilitate.

“Over 65 percent of our residents are completely self-sufficient two years after leaving the program, which saves the government a lot of money because we’ve gotten these people off government support, ” says Cheatum

Interfaith gives each family accomodations for 90 days, and requires both parenting and budgeting classes.

“Most shelters separate the men and the women and the children according to age,” says Cheatum.  “For many families, our program represents their last chance to stay together.”

Each family is supplied with a furnshed apartment that includes utensils, linens and a week’s worth of groceries.

In exchange, the residents must maintain their jobs. The residents who do not have jobs are required to seek work through the agency’s job center. Blankenship, who helps in budget counseling, says most of the residents find work within three weeks.

After the 90 days are over, the residents are not only armed with new-found knowledge, but a job and a savings account.

Once the residents move on, they are welcome to come back for the weekly classes and are eligible for emergency assistance in times of need. The volunteers are glad to see them again.

“I love seeing the residents after they’ve left and know that I’ve somehow contributed to their success,” Blakenship says.


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