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    Achieving a Houston Without Homelessness – It Can Be Done (Part 2)

    BREAKING THE CYCLE OF POVERTY AND HOMELESSNESS

    When most people think of someone who is homeless, they typically picture the man on the street corner holding a sign or the person sleeping under an overpass. They don’t usually think of a child. Yet families with children represent the fastest growing homeless population in our country.

    If we are to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and homelessness, we must start with the next generation.  SEARCH’s House of Tiny Treasures (HTT) preschool is working to do just that.  HTT is a nationally accredited early childhood education program dedicated to serving children, ages 2 – 5 years old, whose families have been impacted by homelessness. 

    Being homeless takes a terrible toll on children, negatively affecting their physical and mental health as well as their ability to learn.  Without proper interventions, homeless students will enter kindergarten up to two years behind their peers from more advantaged backgrounds.  HTT’s unique program is designed provide the necessary support and therapeutic services to eliminate this gap and prepare the children to succeed in school and in life. 

    HTT offers a full-day, year-round program that provides a full early childhood education program, including art, speech, and play therapy, field trips, healthy meals, transportation to and from their shelter or housing program, and support for the family from a dedicated case manager.  While the children are at HTT receiving a vital preschool education, the parents can go back to school or work and take the steps they need to get their lives back on track.  The Hay family is a perfect example.

    Fleeing an abusive relationship, Wendi Hay found herself homeless in Houston with four young girls.  Battling severe mental illness and trying to cope, Wendi felt lost, alone, and hopeless.  Then she found SEARCH and the House of Tiny Treasures.  With her three youngest girls enrolled at HTT, Wendi was able to take the steps she needed to turn their lives around.

    After addressing her own health issues, Wendi enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Houston student on a full academic scholarship while also working full time as a supervisor at a growing Fortune 5000 company.  She recently graduated, with honors, with a degree in business management.   She is now living completely independently, thriving in her career, and taking care of her girls.  Her girls are thriving as well.  Accomplished artists, they are excelling in the Gifted and Talented program at their schools, making straight A’s, and are very happy. 

    Wendi is ever grateful to SEARCH and HTT.  “While I had experienced a life of decline, it was the help and care of organizations such as SEARCH that started me back on the right path.  I needed someone to care; I needed someone to say, it’s okay to fall down because we are here to help you back up.  I would have never made it without SEARCH and HTT, without the support and charity of others. No way, no how. I didn't do it alone.”

    BEING PART OF THE SOLUTION

    At SEARCH’s Annual Luncheon in April, Mayor Turner addressed the crowd to confirm his commitment to this challenging issue and to commend SEARCH for its vital role in reducing homelessness in Houston.  As the Mayor stated, “Homelessness is a community issue that requires a community response.”  After talking about the tremendous progress that the City has made in reducing homelessness and SEARCH’s vital role in that success, he added that “We are Houston; we are the national standard; we are the city of compassion and action; and we must do more.  But to do more, our entire community must step up to the plate.  As long as there is one person on our streets, we still have work to do. . .  The greatness of our city will not be measured by the big buildings; it will not be measured by our athletic teams.  It will be measured by the people on our streets who had no hope, and we have given them a brand new start.”

    Like our Mayor, I invite you to be part of the solution – to learn more about this complex issue, to volunteer your time and talents, and to support organizations like SEARCH that are working to help the most vulnerable among us.  To quote Wendi again, “when you help one person, you truly do help change the world.”  That is exactly what SEARCH does - transform lives, one life at a time.  Many of those who are homeless have been on the street so long that they’ve given up.   SEARCH provides them with hope and with help.  SEARCH believes that everyone deserves a place to call home, and they work every day to help those who are homeless find their way home.  But they can’t do this life-changing work alone.  Will you join in the fight to end homelessness?

    For more information, to get involved, or to make a donation, please contact Sondee Hatcher, Vice President of Development, at or 713-276-3065 or shatcher@searchhomeless.org.

    Homelessness can be overcome – if we all will be part of the solution.  Thank you for being part of the solution and for helping us achieve a Houston without homelessness. 

    SEARCH Homeless Services has been chosen as one of the benefactors of the IREM Houston’s Fashion Fundraiser, scheduled for October 25, 2018.

     

    About the Authors: 

    Steve Jackson is the founding partner and CEO of E3 Electric, Ltd., which is a long-time IREM Houston Industry Partner. Steve serves on the IREM Houston Public Policy Committee who is monitoring Houston’s homeless landscape. He is a board member for SEARCH Homeless Services as well as for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

    Sondee Hatcher has been with SEARCH Homeless Services since 2015.  As the Vice President of Development, Sondee oversees all aspects of fundraising at SEARCH.  SEARCH is one of the leading organizations in Houston helping those who are homeless move from the streets into jobs, homes, and stable lives.  SEARCH relies heavily on generous community support to fulfill its mission of providing hope, creating opportunity, and transforming lives for the thousands of men, women, and children experiencing homelessness in our community. 

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