Tucked inside an elementary school office is where you’ll find one of the 15 youth and family housing providers Greater Twin Cities United Way supports, Neighborhood House. United Way funds three areas of Neighborhood House’s work- food security, housing stability, and early learning- taking a multi-generational approach to moving families out of poverty.
Neighborhood House offers multiple services using a holistic approach: Early childhood education, after-school youth programming, adult education and college access, employment services, a small food pantry, clothing, community health counseling, housing support, and more. For families who are dealing with long-term homelessness, it’s a safe haven from the outside world, providing caring staff who listen when they need it most.
Family Center Manager Shellie Rowe has more than 20 years of experience- she got into her line of work because of her own experience with homelessness.
“After I immigrated to the United States, I was living in my car at one point,” she said. “I got connected with a place very similar to Neighborhood House and it changed my life.”
Family Coach Danisa Farley also overcame adversities and was drawn to working with those in a time of need.
“I didn’t choose the work. The work chose me,” she said.
Neighborhood House’s six Family Centers serve more than 600 families per year- their model is “housing first, and then we can work on other things,” said Farley. “We welcome everyone, and we meet families where they are at today- no judgement.”
Both Rowe and Farley believe there are misconceptions about who is homeless or falls on hard times.
“Sometimes people are homeless because they made a bad choice, but other times it’s through no fault of their own,” said Rowe. “No matter the reason, it’s not OK when people are sleeping in tents or in unsafe places that are not a home. A lot of us are just one crisis away from needing help.”
“Life happens- illness, addiction, loss of a job, death of a family member, an unexpected bill,” said Farley. “We want people to know it’s okay to ask for help. Everyone needs help sometimes.”
Both Rowe and Farley love the relational aspect of Neighborhood House- getting to know the families and celebrating their success.
“Seeing people make progress on and complete their goals- even the small ones- is huge,” said Rowe. “Everyone has hopes and dreams- we say, let’s figure out how to make them happen.”