Trailblazing: Sheffield Place
Homeless mothers and their children have received assistance from Sheffield Place since the organization opened its doors in 1989. Founded by Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries and the YMCA, Sheffield Place seeks to empower homeless mothers and their children to heal from their trauma and become self-sufficient. Some of the barriers to wellness the mothers face include mental health and addiction issues, domestic violence abuse, low educational attainment, felony convictions, and a childhood spent in foster care.
Families stay at Sheffield Place for an average of three months. During that time, they receive an individualized treatment plan. To begin the healing process, each mother participates in individual therapy sessions with a licensed therapist each week. They also work with a case manager each week who focuses on a plan of action for improving the mother’s physical and mental health and that of her family, assisting with job placement, and securing permanent housing.
In addition to individual therapy, mothers also benefit from 20 hours of group therapy and life skills training each week. These groups teach the women basic skills, including meal preparation, managing money, parenting, and employment attainment and retention, as well as vital topics, such as addiction recovery, grief and loss, and more.
The 24 private living units serve as the home for the residents of Sheffield Place, with shared facilities including the kitchen and laundry room. While mothers who do not have income are not required to pay rent (they do an extra chore), residents with income pay rent on a sliding scale. In the residences, the women are able to model the skills they learn while receiving guidance from the Sheffield Place team.
Jelena, one of the mothers who sought services from the organization, came to Sheffield Place following a stint in federal prison and after losing everything to drug addiction. Prior to coming to Sheffield Place, she had been living on the streets and was separated from her children. During her time staying in the private living unit, Jelena was a model resident and leader in the house. She attended weekly case management and therapy sessions and participated actively in groups. She viewed her required daily chores as a way to express gratitude for the help she received. Today, Jelena is sober and has been employed full-time for several years. She has one child in high school and two others in college. Jelena has a goal of home ownership and has been saving money for a down payment. When asked about her experience with Sheffield Place, Jelena said, “Sitting here in my house with my kids enjoying a cup of coffee after making them a huge breakfast and thinking about how lucky I am. Wishing there were words to express my gratitude for the impact you’ve made on my life.” Jelena is resilient and views her story as one of triumph; punctuated by hope, strength and victory.
In 2021, during the pandemic, Sheffield Place served 129 families, with 101 families finding shelter at the facility. Twenty-eight families participated in the community-based aftercare program. The success of the program is demonstrated by the fact that 79 percent of mothers who stayed more than 30 days were clean and sober at the time of discharge, and nearly 90 percent of the families in the community-based aftercare program remained in permanent housing and maintained their income.
Board Chairman Susan Escher is dedicated to the mission of the organization and said, “I am always encouraged by the families at Sheffield Place that transform their lives by getting jobs, staying sober, and dealing with their children positively. Each family faces substantial issues, and, with the agency’s help, builds a strong foundation of healing, hope, and self-sufficiency. As a board member, I am happy to serve given the many positive outcomes and generational impacts.”
The community has been an essential partner in the organization’s ability to grow and serve more homeless mothers and their children. There are many ways volunteers can support Sheffield Place, which include adopting families during the holidays and providing items from their wish list or donating items for the holiday store. While 505 families called the organization in search of services in 2012, that number hit 887 in 2021. The organization will continue to expand in the years ahead to meet the growing needs of the community.
Featured in the March 19, 2022 issue of The Independent.
Photo credit: J. Lew Photography
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