a message from our executive director:
Monday April 20, 2009. That was my first official day as Executive Director of the YWCA of Helena. Really, though, I was so excited to start that I came in a volunteered the week before. That was the week I had supposedly given myself as a vacation between jobs. Ha! I couldn't stand it. There was so much to do!
And, oh, what we have done in five short years.
That first month, with me as the only staff, we were barely renting rooms to 13 or so women at a time. These were women struggling to face each new day. Women who no longer dared to have hopes or dreams. These women had suffered systemic poverty, familial abuse, mental illness, addictions, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorders, and involvement in the legal system... One of my first assignments from the Board was to fill all the rooms.
How, I wondered? How?
Flash forward to today. We have 30 women flourishing in our research-based, proven effective, WINGS Transitional Housing Program for women experiencing homelessness and their children, if they have children. These women receive customized case management from one of two full time Advocates on staff. This case management follows them when they graduate into permanent housing they can afford.
Our success comes with a waiting list. Someone asked me why we have a waiting list. In addition to the 210 women documented as homeless in Lewis &Clark County during the January 22, 2014 Point In Time Homeless Survey, it’s because of our success. The tone in the house has changed over the five years from a “just-barely-getting-by” vibe to a positive team-inspired culture. Women want to enroll in WINGS.
And you know something else? Our community partners recognize the work we do to help women succeed. Women working to regain custody of their children are told they need to enroll in WINGS. We have lots of kiddos at the YWCA. Staff from the Country comes in and provides Circle of Security classes for the parents of the children. This is a great partnership! Probation and Parole works directly with us as well because of the successes they see in our shared clients.
We have gone from a staff of zero, to a well-planned staff of five. We have increased our budget each year to ensure quality services provided to the greater community. I’m proud to say that we are close to our Capital Campaign and Building Renovation goal. As of this writing, fingers crossed, we are short approximately $650,000. We should begin construction in November of this year.
We have gone from silence to a seat at the table. We are a recognized leader in homelessness, women’s issues, child development and parenting, access to healthcare, and social justice. It feels pretty good!
We have gotten here because of you. This has never been a one-person show. We have made it this far because of volunteers, Board members, donors, foundations, cheerleaders, believers, and your prayers. And we will continue to succeed with the same formula.