On November 7th, the London Community Foundation announced recipients of the 2018 Community Vitality Grants. The excitement and anticipation in the room were palpable and those of us who attended on behalf of Mission Services of London could hardly contain our enthusiasm. We were there to accept a $250,000 Community Vitality Grant in support of Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter’s Prevention of Homelessness Among Families (PHAF) Program! Our hearts were full as we watched the evening unfold.
Gratitude, healthy pride and hope – I felt all three of them as I sat in the audience on November 7th. I felt (and still feel) deeply grateful for the generous support granted to families seeking help through Rotholme’s PHAF Program; proud of the efforts of my colleagues who come alongside families in crisis every day; and hopeful for the future of families who will contact Rotholme in their time of need.
Rotholme is the only shelter of its kind (family emergency shelter not violence-against-women shelter) in about an hour and a half drive radius of London. It serves men, women and children in need, with families seeking help being two-parent or single-parent families, male or female led. Families sometimes include grandparents caring for grandchildren; what “family” looks like can span the gamut, as can the ages of the children and youth served through Rotholme with their families. Last fiscal year alone, Rotholme provided safe shelter for nearly 400 children and 250 adults within the context of a family.
With 20 rooms, Rotholme offers safe shelter, nourishment, counseling and other support services, some of which may also be accessed by families who are not currently in the shelter, but who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. The PHAF Program is a prime example of that. It has three components:
•Shelter diversion (the first line of response whenever possible) to help families at immediate risk of homelessness avoid emergency shelter altogether
•Housing selection for families who cannot be diverted to help them exit shelter and find stable housing more promptly
•Housing stability to help families with life skills coaching and ongoing support after they exit emergency shelter (the goal being to help them avoid facing homelessness again in the future).
A research partnership project through Rotholme, studied by the Lawson Health Research Institute (LHRI) and funded in part by The City of London and Ontario Trillium Foundation, demonstrated that early intervention prevents (not just remediates) family homelessness. In fact, the study found that, of the families who avoided emergency shelter and attained stable housing through PHAF’s shelter diversion component, 90% remained housed 18 months post-diversion! This is a game-changer.
Through PHAF, families can avoid emergency shelter (or if they must come into shelter, they exit quickly) and maintain stable housing; they also avoid further risk of homelessness or re-entry into emergency shelter. This can have tremendous impact in ending the poverty cycle for parents accessing services, but also for generations to come through their children.
That is why I felt so hopeful at the Community Vitality Grants ceremony: the effects of PHAF services ripple into the future; by equipping today’s parents with the life skills they need to achieve stability, the skills will be passed on to their children and their children’s children, who will hopefully never know what it is like to stare homelessness in the face.
Government funding helped launch and evaluate the PHAF Program – now a proven approach in preventing family homelessness. With that seed funding winding down in Spring 2019, the London Community Foundation’s grant will provide just over a year of funding for PHAF to continue helping families. This extended time will also give other members of our community the opportunity to come alongside families in need through their own support of PHAF services. Together, we can work toward a future where all families can thrive in a caring community.
On behalf of Mission Services of London, I extend thanks to contributors of the Smart and Caring Community Fund at London Community Foundation, which funded the PHAF Program Community Vitality Grant. I also express gratitude to each of the kind donors who has made a donation in support of PHAF services directly through Mission Services of London. You are making different tomorrows possible for hundreds of families in the London area!
*To make a financial contribution toward PHAF, please follow the link here (click “I would like this donation to go to a specific appeal” and type “PHAF” on Screen 3) or call our offices at 519-433-2807 ext. 2106.
Written by Ericka Ayala Ronson, Director of Development & Communications