‘Behind the Hope Door’ gives glance at how people helped

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG  Staff Writer
Posted 9/28/17

Local nonprofit organization The Caring Place recently gave supporters a look at how it’s helping people break the cycle of poverty.

It held its annual “Behind the Hope …

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‘Behind the Hope Door’ gives glance at how people helped

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Local nonprofit organization The Caring Place recently gave supporters a look at how it’s helping people break the cycle of poverty.

It held its annual “Behind the Hope Door” breakfast Tuesday at First Baptist Church and highlighted a program its leaders say is revolutionizing how the organization approaches this goal.

Dr. Randy Howard, TCP’s executive director, thanked the organization’s donors and listed some of its successes.

These successes included having provided some 3 million pounds of food to approximately 146,000 different households over the years.

“That accumulates to almost a half million individuals in our community who have been helped,” Howard said.

While these numbers are “wonderful,” Howard said The Caring Place desires to help more people get to the place where they no longer need help securing necessities like food and clothing.

Howard said the organization decided last year that there was “greater work to be done” to break the cycle of poverty. A recently completed pilot program represented “a passion to begin to move families up and through and over the barriers that held them in generational poverty cycles.” 

The Caring Place last January began a pilot cohort of a program called “Getting Ahead In A Just Gettin’ By World.” The program, which has been adopted by organizations nationwide and has been recognized by the Tennessee Department of Human Services, attempts to help people in poverty find ways to better their lives.

Corinne Freeman, TCP director of social work, said many people trying to get out of poverty have a great deal of difficulty doing so.

“We want to address the variety of needs people have that go way beyond mere financial security, to address the hopelessness that comes from being stuck in poverty,” Freeman said.

She explained this hopelessness can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some also have to deal with the feeling that they, as people, are “less” because they have less.

Freeman noted that some people experience “a loss of dignity” when they have to constantly reach out for things like food and clothing. At the same time, many have to seek this day-to-day help, because they do not see a way to get out of poverty.

While assisting people in need with food and clothing remains part of the TCP mission, she said the organization is looking at helping people who are “caught in the tyranny of the moment” make long-term lifestyle changes.

“We are here to make sustainable changes in our community by working alongside those affected by generational poverty,” Freeman.

The “Getting Ahead” program consists of 16 sessions where participants identify the skills they have, make goals and find resources to help them reach their goals. Touching on everything from budgeting to self-esteem, Freeman said participants are given the support they need to make positive changes.

Freeman added this program is special for an unusual reason — participants are paid to attend. They are asked to take the class as seriously as they would a job, and The Caring Place receives “valuable information” about the challenges those living in poverty face.

“Nobody knows about poverty better than those who are in it,” Freeman said. “Plus, it gives the ability for them to have that living wage, so they do not have to worry in the moment,” Freeman said.

Leaders with TCP are eager to see what the pilot cohort’s participants do with their new knowledge. Freeman pointed out that participants in other areas have seen drastic changes in their financial situations.

Two participants from the recent cohort shared their stories and say they are also anticipating great things for their futures.

“I’ve lived most of my life in poverty or near poverty,” Morris said. “I moved to Cleveland to get a new start.” 

However, she noted this new beginning did not end up being a happy one. She was laid off from her jobs, and her husband had to go on medical leave.

She found out about the “Getting Ahead” program while visiting The Caring Place to get some food for her, her husband and her child.

Morris said the class helped her learn more about herself and what she might be able to do in the future. She now has a good set of personal goals, which include going to college to become a nurse.

“I’ve learned that success is something you have to make happen,” Morris said. “When you live at poverty or near poverty, sometimes you have no hope. This class has given me hope.” 

Fellow participant Donald Garner Sr. shared that his story involves many years of poverty, including 21 years of homelessness.

He said he had been living that way for a while, when he fathered a son. He was determined to make some positive lifestyle changes for his son’s sake, but he still found himself stuck in the pattern of having to focus on day-to-day needs, rather than future goals.

“Right now, I’m trying to show my boy that there’s more to life than just struggling, figuring out what you’re going to try to eat,” Garner said.

“I found out I’d been stuck for so long and using resources that did me no good,” he added. “Now, I have some resources that have already helped me some problems that popped up. ... I’m learning how to do things the right way.” 

Both students asked the audience to consider donating to TCP, to help make this program possible for more people like them.

The new “Getting Ahead” class is expected to begin in January of 2018, and applications are being accepted now.

The deadline to apply for the January class is Oct. 31. However, Freeman said applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis to form future classes. Anyone interested can pick up an application at The Caring Place, located at 130 Wildwood Ave. For more information, call 423-472-4414.

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christy.armstrong@clevelandbanner.com

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