Homeless families are like any other family in that they are concerned with the health and welfare of their children. Often the head of household is so consumed with worry about the basics of shelter, food and clothing that they can’t address the larger, looming issues in their lives. DW ensures that all their basic needs are met: culturally sensitive and nutritious meals, warm private bedrooms, personal care products and attractive good fitting seasonal clothing.
Residents take part in providing for their needs by participating in daily activities such as kitchen chores, housekeeping duties, and doing their own laundry. By responsibly participating in these activities they learn homemaking skills and earn points that they can spend in the shelter’s “store”. The store has household items such as pots and pans, dishes, linens, storage items, and even toys for their children. These items are symbolic as well as useful: they give hope that someday they will have a home of their own.
Supportive Services at the Shelter
Dakota Woodlands is the parent that most residents never had or at least didn’t take advantage of when they had the chance. It is impossible to quantify the value of an encouraging word when a mom ensures her child is getting to school every day on time or a child brings home an improved report card. Even a complement on appearance or for the meal they just prepared can create confidence and self-worth.
DW has the advantage of being with the residents every day, becoming a family that cares and worries about them. This also requires “tough love”, residents must fulfill program requirements: attend various educational opportunities, for example financial literacy instruction, parenting classes, responsible renter course, and healthy lifestyle instruction. They must also reliably keep their appointments with their county appointed service workers such as social workers, psychologists or counselors, and medical personnel.
They need to meet with their children’s teachers when asked and make sure that they tend to their children’s needs at all times. DW provides childcare for the residents to make it easier for them to fulfill the social and educational requirements of the program.
DW also provides tutors and offers to fund their GED instruction should they choose to pursue it, even after they leave the shelter.
Continued Support after Leaving the Shelter
When a household leaves the shelter, DW makes every attempt at keeping in contact with them, introducing them to community connections that will continue to assist them in their recovery and including them in family activities such as picnics, community arts, and school functions. DW provides transportation for these activities and admission fees.
Former residents are also assisted with emergency expenses: diapers, formula, small loans, and other immediate needs that could fling them back into homelessness if unmet.