CEDAR RAPIDS — Mission of Hope is removing 28 shelter beds in favor of transitional housing and classes to help clients plan for the future, find a job and manage their finances.
Since Mission of Hope was founded in Cedar Rapids in 2002, it has served thousands of free lunches and assisted clients in finding clothes and shelter. But Executive Director Kim Reem said the mission realized during its strategic planning process in 2016 that it was “enabling people to continue to live in crisis.”
“We’re feeding some of the same people lunch today we were feeding lunch to 17 years ago when we opened,” Reem said.
The board of directors began evaluating Mission of Hope’s services and thinking critically about how to provide long-term solutions for people in poverty.
This month, Mission of Hope removed 16 men’s and 12 women’s emergency beds at its two shelters at 209 and 211 Park Court SE in Cedar Rapids. It plans to reopen the shelters as transitional housing in the spring.
“We see a lot of people in emergency shelter who loop from shelter to shelter and have no intention of getting a job. We want more for them,” Reem said. “The community is going to be missing the 28 shelter beds, and I know that, but for every person we can get out of this cycle — self-sustaining and on their own — in time, it will have been well worth it.”
Reem is not yet sure how many transitional housing spots will be available. There are nine bedrooms total among the two shelters.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
While emergency shelter stays were limited to 30 days at Mission of Hope, the stay for clients in the transitional housing program will be six months to a year. There will be an application process and a small fee for rent.
To quality for transitional housing, clients will need to have a job and be willing to work with a counselor to set a budget.
“It’s a baby step to being on their own,” Reem said. “It buys them time to save, so they have first and last month’s (deposit) to get their own apartment.”
Classes help manage finances, land a job
Mission of Hope also launched pilot classes, which will continue this year, designed to help people with as little as $2 learn how to manage their finances, how to get a job and professionalism.
Steve Callison, who volunteers to teach a faith and finance class at Mission of Hope, believes the class has the potential to change lives.
“It’s like give them a fish or give them a fishing pole,” Callison said. “You’re giving them a means, a way to meet their financial goals on their own. When you consistently support people in financial crisis, you don’t really teach them how to change their lifestyle.”
Work life — a class about how to enter the workforce — is a 19-session class that will be taught twice a year. Faith and finance is an 11-session class that will be taught once a quarter.
Ron Zeigler, facilitator of the work life class and director of Hope Community Development Association, said people who grew up in generational poverty often face an inability to look toward the future. Work life teaches goal setting and planning skills that can help in the workforce.
“There’s so much emphasis, when you’re living in crisis, in solving today’s problem and not worrying about the future,” Zeigler said.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The work life class is “a proving ground,” Reem said. Clients have to show up on time and do their homework. While Reem can’t promise after completing the class a client will find a job, she promises someone will work beside them and be an advocate in helping them find employment.
Reem wants anyone enrolled in classes to have a one-on-one volunteer mentor.
“We’re always in need of volunteers,” Reem said.
Classes are $10, and the minimum education needed is a GED certificate.
Both classes are faith-based and have certified facilitators.
Anyone interested in volunteering at Mission of Hope or for services can call the mission at 319-365-1782 or email Kim Reem at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments: (319) 368-8664; email@example.com