Our House, and the world, have had to navigate through challenging waters this year. While the pandemic has been hard for all of us, it has been even harder for the hundreds of families that Our House serves. Just as most of us have been spending more time at home, they have had to work even harder to escape homelessness. While the Our House team has made innovative changes to the way we support those individuals and families that reach out for our services, none of those changes are as remarkable as our clients who have battled financial loss, childcare concerns, job insecurity, and more. We have been inspired to witness our families face these unprecedented challenges head-on, with resilience and resolve, and we have stood beside them to provide the resources, support, and encouragement to help them succeed. It inspires me to see the joy of a client who lands a job they are excited to start, to see a mother work hard to be reunited with her children, to talk to a family who will spend the holidays in their new home, and to see the fire in the eyes of a person who begins to believe that their dreams are achievable.
None of this work would be possible without our community of supporters. In our time of great need, as always, our generous community has stepped up to provide catered meals, make homemade masks, pour in hundreds of hours of volunteer support, and provide thousands of generous donations. We are humbled by and forever grateful for the amazing care that our supporters show for struggling families in our community like the ones you will read about on the next several pages. From everyone at Our House, to everyone in our community, thank you for being a part of this life-changing work. And happy holidays! – Ben Goodwin, Executive Director of Our House
Rosetta Dunlap is no stranger to adversity. Growing up with a loving mother in a single parent household in Chicago, Rosetta learned early on the struggles that life can bring. From experiencing violence in her childhood to losing her family during her formative years, Rosetta has had the odds stacked against her. After the heartbreaking loss of her mother and brother to illness and violence, Rosetta experienced bouts of depression, alcoholism, and homelessness that contributed to the end of two different marriages.
After suffering ten miscarriages throughout her life, motherhood did not seem to be in the cards for Rosetta. She was forty one when she found out she was pregnant once again, but she did not get her hopes up that this pregnancy would be successful. Despite this concern, Rosetta’s pregnancy continued, and when she learned she was pregnant with a son, she made the decision to come to Arkansas to get away from an abusive relationship and start fresh. Rosetta stayed with friends, in motels, and at other shelters before entering the Housing programs at Our House where she was finally able to find the stability of a warm bed and nutritious meals as she focused on bringing her child into the world.
Through all of her challenges, Rosetta remained committed to her education and her desire to enter the healthcare profession. She diligently worked two jobs in the care-giving field while living in Our House’s Shelter—all while in her third precarious trimester. After three months at Our House, Rosetta saved up enough money to move into her own townhouse, shortly before giving birth to a healthy son, Torrod! Today, Rosetta remains involved in Our House’s homeless prevention program, CAFSI, and with the help of her case manager, Rosetta has worked hard to maintain permanent housing, make plans to return to work as a CNA after giving birth, and continue to grow her parenting skills.
There has never been a barrier that Rosetta let stand in her way, and facing homelessness was no different. While Our House provided her with the essential support she needed to begin her life with Torrod on strong foundations—from mental health services to money management—Rosetta’s own determination has always shined through. Now, Rosetta feels confident that she’s created the peaceful life for her son that her own mother strived to create for her.
Albert has been in and out of prison seven times throughout his life, but he lacked the familial support and guidance he needed to exit the prison system permanently. Albert’s turbulent times in and out of prison left him in a cycle of drug abuse and criminal behavior. However, Albert’s life reached a turning point a year ago when a shooting led him to undergo a serious surgery. At this point, Albert realized he was ready to turn his life around, find an honest living, and build a better relationship with his daughter. Albert flushed every drug in his possession down the toilet, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Dedicated to finding employment, Albert began his job search—still in recovery from surgery and without the skills to fill out a job application, he struggled to have any success. Albert learned about the Our House Career Center from other community members while riding the bus to different interviews. When Albert met with an Our House Employment Coach, Laura, his life changed.
Albert worked with Laura to write a resume, learn how to properly fill out applications, and practice his interview skills. His criminal background barred him from many jobs, Albert continued to work with the Career Center team, becoming more confident than ever and decided to transition into our Housing programs to remain focused on finding stability in his life.
Since then, Albert has been involved in almost every Our House program and has excelled at each step: working in the Career Center as the housekeeper, enrolling in our Reentry program, opening a bank account, and even saving enough money to invest in his own car! Albert officially graduated Our House’s job training program in October—a nine-month work-based learning program where Albert gained valuable employment experience. Using the job skills he learned at Our House, Albert has now found full-time employment as a dishwasher in a local restaurant.
“Without Our House, I know that I would be back in prison right now,” Albert says. “I never imagined I could change like this. I’ve learned to love myself and my life which has brought me so much closer to my daughter.” Albert remains passionate about his personal progress and focused on his future more than ever with a duplex lined up through Jericho Way which he will move into this month!
A single mother of two, Crystal never expected herself to become homeless. More than that, she never expected to experience homelessness with one daughter while fighting to regain custody of the other. Crystal’s life had been rough for many years. After leaving her abusive husband to keep her family safe, Crystal fought to keep her family afloat—living in a small trailer in Texas and working two jobs while taking care of her two children and her grandmother. Last year, after a series of incidents with family members, Crystal decided it was time to move her family to Arkansas for a clean break. Her oldest daughter, Monica made the choice to stay with family friends in Texas and the youngest, Makayla came to Arkansas. But when Crystal couldn’t find a job to pay the bills, she was forced to move into a hotel for several months, and eventually found her way to the Shelter at Our House in January.
Living in a shelter was not easy at first, especially as life spiraled out of control for her two daughters. Monica became involved in a string of incidents back in Texas which landed her in juvenile detention and led Crystal to give power of attorney over Monica to her cousin. The past year’s events also took their toll on Makayla which led Crystal to seek residential mental health services for her young teenage daughter.
As she dealt with the struggles of her daughters, Crystal was making great strides for herself in Our House’s programs. Crystal enrolled in Our House’s job training program and has worked across campus in security, as a housekeeper, and now as the Shelter’s Intake Clerk. Crystal has evolved from someone who never saw the importance of saving money to someone who appreciates the structure of planning for her financial future. Through her current job as the Intake Clerk, Crystal is developing valuable job skills that she hopes to take into a future career in the clerical field.
Makayla has completed her residential mental health program and is back with Crystal and enrolled in a new school. They have even moved into Our House’s transitional housing—the Family House—where Makayla and Crystal enjoy the quiet and privacy of their own room. With the support of the Housing team and her case manager, Crystal is working hard to regain custody of Monica and reunite their family.
Once Crystal completes her job training program, she would like to continue to build her savings with the goal of saving $10,000. She also plans to use this time to prepare for reentry into the workforce by working on her interviewing skills and beginning the job application process. She and Makayla plan to move into their own place—and out of homelessness—at the end of the school year.