One of the most rewarding things that I missed during the two and half years we were in Palm Springs was helping the Women’s Empowerment Program in Sacramento. I first leaned about this program about four years ago when my wife started volunteering there as a mentor.
The program takes a group of homeless women (from 12 to 30 at a time) through a 12 week intensive program to help them gain housing, education, jobs, childcare, and many other community services. Their track record has been exceptional right from the beginning—they have an 86 percent success at getting women housing and/or jobs or in school by the end of the 12 weeks.
I’ve been to several of the graduations and I’m not ashamed to say I cried at every one of them because of hearing the difference that this program made for these women and their children. In this group there were some very young children—as young as 6 weeks old—who were homeless. One woman is in her late pregnancy. I am very honored to do my part with each group by going in and doing a workshop called “Overcoming the Inner Saboteur,” which helps the women identify and change their self-defeating coping styles.
Another amazing aspect about this program is that it operates without any government support and depends entirely on community and corporate donations to help these women. I’m putting a little information about Women’s Empowerment below from their website. If you want to learn more about this exceptional program please go to www.womens-empowerment.org/.
Working with homeless women, we have learned about the causes, the challenges, and the issues that have brought, and in many cases kept a woman homeless. In an effort to break the cycle of homelessness, we have created a safe, supportive and educational place called Women’s Empowerment (WE). Our eight-week classes offer homeless women the training, mentoring and support necessary to obtain and maintain employment. Our curriculum (view curriculum) includes in-depth job seeking and job development skills, but in addition, we offer personal empowerment exploration, personal issue problem solving and job retention support. It is this unique mix of experiences that we feel helps our students be successful.
Homeless women face many unique barriers that make it difficult to succeed in typical welfare-to-work programs. These women need help identifying their strengths, establishing a secure home and developing a recent work history. Individual case management and mentoring helps each women connect to the community resources and services she needs as housing, childcare and transportation. Eliminating these barriers help the women get one step closer to breaking the cycle.
We have found that women lacking a home often lack hope. Through the work in the classes and the support of their classmates, these feelings of despair and anger fade as women discover their strengths and begin to rediscover their potential. Self-confidence takes root and women blossom as they express themselves creatively through journaling, clay work and other experiential activities. Our staff and volunteers provide encouragement and mentoring to help the women participate in many of these unfamiliar and therapeutic activities. Within our safe and intimate classroom setting, the women have the opportunity to develop close personal relationships and begin to trust each other. These relationships, along with monthly support meetings, help provide an ongoing support system for our graduates.
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