The necessary combination of life skills that ensure a family’s lasting independence after homelessness prompted Family Promise Union County (NJ) to develop a series of educational workshops that will offer families the opportunity to develop and hone skills critical to long-term success.
Classes range from practical skills for parents – basic home repairs, budgeting, good tenancy best practices, the emotional implications of homelessness, CPR and first aid, and more – to kid-focused sessions like bike riding lessons and a “mini-med school” that explores the range of professions in the medical field.
Home Depot employees have instructed families about safety around the home and taught basic skills like unclogging drains and repairing drywall. The class also covers best practices and recommendations for landlord interactions. A financial management class addresses budgeting strategies and the emotions attached to money, spending, and debt.
“We’re giving families exposure to hands-on skills while also looking at the related but often subtle implications behind those skills,” explains Geleen Donovan, executive director of Family Promise Union County. “For instance, we address how it feels to open a credit card bill when you’re deep in debt and how that impacts your approach to spending and savings. Or how to determine, as tenants, when a situation is a matter for the landlord or something the occupant should address.”
Attendees come away from the workshops with the ability to put their newfound skills immediately to use. Students of the home repair class receive a step ladder and a toolkit. Budgeting class students take home small filing cabinets and a home economics organizer.
While parents are building their skill base, children are busy, too, participating in simultaneous workshops that offer fun ways to learn about career possibilities, nutrition, self-awareness, and more. Workshops for both parents and children are primarily volunteer-driven.
“This is another example of how volunteers help families achieve sustainable independence,” says Family Promise Manager of Volunteer Engagement Amy Jones. “Simple home repairs, budgeting, tenancy best practices: these are skills many of us pick up without realizing it. Low-income families are much less likely to encounter situations where they’ll learn these things. When your day-to-day life is consumed by making ends meet, your skill set is more about surviving in the moment than creating a strong foundation to build upon.”