Single-mother-led families are among the most invisible yet rapidly growing segments of the exploding homeless population. Saint John’s Program for Real Change offers life- changing services to help these women and children break the cycle of poverty and dependence, one family at a time.
Founded in 1985, Saint John’s transitioned in 2007 from an emergency shelter to an up-to-18-month comprehensive residential program, recognizing that 30 days of shelter wasn’t enough to help these families change the trajectory of their lives.
“We provide whole-family care,” says Sasha Wirth, Saint John’s vice president and chief development officer. “We address physical, mental, spiritual, educational and logistical challenges, and we offer the tools to build confidence and self-sustainability. The end result is that these women become independent, positive role models for their children and become contributing members of society.”
Services include mental health therapy, alcohol and drug counseling, family and individual counseling, an on-site high school diploma program, life skills coaching, financial literacy, employment training, and career education and placement services. Three Saint John’s social enterprises, Plates Café and Catering, Plates Midtown, and First Steps Child Development Center, provide participants with hands-on job training.
“We serve up to 270 women and children daily,” says Wirth, “but still have 250-300 on our daily waiting list. Our pressing goal is to dramatically reduce the number of women and children waiting to enter. We rely largely on community support, and are grateful for the support of our many community partners.”
Having reduced reliance on public funding from 70 percent in 2007 to less than 30 percent in 2019, Saint John’s greatly appreciates monetary donations, event sponsorship, in-kind donations and volunteer time. “We also encourage the community to dine or hold events at our restaurants, and/or to hire Plates to cater your corporate or personal events,” says Wirth.