The graduation certificate is just a printed piece of paper, but to Blair*, it is priceless. It represents a monumental milestone—the first time she completed something that matters.
She is the first graduate of the job-readiness class at Re:Center, a ministry that reaches out to homeless men, women and children. Re:Center has a 138-year history of caring for those who are homeless and believes broken lives can be made whole again through Christ.
The job-readiness class uses a nationally-known curriculum called Jobs for Life and is designed to ensure success in the job market. It includes training in writing a resume and interviewing, as well as lessons in character and conduct on the job.
Success began when Blair landed a job at Chick-fil-A by graduation.
“I feel accomplished,” she said. “I’m proud I stuck it out. I never finished much I tried. It’s a big stepping stone from where I was to now. Anyone who knew me before knows it’s a big accomplishment.”
Blair grew up in a fragmented family. She described life as a “war zone.”
“There was no discipline or support,” she said. “All my life I felt like nothing at all.”
Blair dropped out of high school and had two children before her 20th birthday. When one relationship ended, she walked into another laced with violence and abuse fueled by drugs.
“For years, my life was chaos and dysfunction, the very definition of despair,” she said.
She lost her home in 2017, but finally found a place to stay at Jacob’s Well, a faith-based facility for women and children in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Staff there encouraged her to participate in counseling and the job readiness class at Re:Center.
The goal at Re:Center is homelessness prevention, relief and recovery. The Drop-In Program provides a safe place for women and children, the 18-month residential LifeChange Program for men provides intensive recovery, and the Indiana campus provides case management and Biblical counseling for people at risk of homelessness.
Last fall, the Drop-In Program transitioned to provide a safe haven exclusively for women and children. It filled a gap in care and functions as the only Christ-centered program for women who find themselves homeless. Though 75% of those who are homeless are men, the Coalition for the Homeless found that women are most often the breadwinner trying to keep the family together.
Statistics support the need.
In Louisville over the course of a year, as many as 300 families land in shelters, live in cars or on the streets. Many more are homeless but find temporary shelter with relatives. According to Jefferson County Public Schools, close to 4,600 children did not have a permanent address during the 2017-18 school year.
Life on the streets is difficult under any circumstances. It’s terrifying for children.
That’s the gap Re:Center seeks to fill.
“There are no faith-based day services for women in our community,” said Re:Center Executive Director Cory Bledsoe. “Space still doesn’t meet the demand.”
Women come in and out during the day at the Drop-In Program to get their mail, do laundry, check on their belongings stored in a secure room, have some snacks, take a shower and get some encouragement and spiritual care from staff and volunteers. At Re:Center, people know their name and story.
The goal right now for homeless women is prevention and relief.
As the Drop-In Program in Louisville provides relief, the Southern Indiana campus focuses on prevention through counseling and crisis intervention.
Alexa Graham is the program manager at the Southern Indiana campus.
“We know the root causes of homelessness are varied,” she said. “It’s more than just not having a roof over your head. It’s childhood trauma, family breakdown, addiction, mental illness, joblessness and health crises—just to name a few.”
The Indiana campus offers free counseling.
“Many who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless don’t realize what’s happening,” Graham said. “Often some crisis triggers anxiety and depression. Our goal is to intervene in those crisis moments and give spiritual and emotional support.”
Though “free” may not be the best business plan, it erases the financial barrier for those who need help. That includes those in the surrounding community.
“We meet them where they’re at and walk through whatever happened,” Graham said. “Our partnerships with local churches provides a supportive community.”
The staff at Re:Center prays for the day they will have an additional building and approximately $300,000 more each year to expand the residential LifeChange Program to serve women.
*Blair chose not to use her last name as she continues to rebuild her life with her children.