We now start a series exploring the challenges facing women and families that are attempting to build their life again after being incarcerated. Stable housing is the most critical element for successful re-entry. Many of us would first think of employment as the foundation for rebuilding a life, but actually, stable housing and a safe home is an even bigger factor.
This is the first post in this series named “Not a Prisoner of the Past,” and Andrea VanHorn shares about her work at the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Passage Point, a supportive residential community for parents discharged from the corrections system who would otherwise be homeless and who seek to reunite with their minor children and families.
Written by Andrea VanHorn, YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Community Resource Coordinator
People often approach me and ask, “Just exactly what is it that you do?” It is at this point where I stumble and my head starts reeling with the best answer I can give, which is either a long diatribe about my career or what I usually say: I work for the YWCA at Passage Point. This answer is usually returned by blank stares as the majority of people would like a de-briefing of my daily activities, job skills and to also know about the program I work in. But for me – it’s all about the program and the families and why Passage Point exists.
So, just exactly what do I do?
YWCA Passage Point is a supportive housing program for parents who are re-entering the community after incarceration, survive domestic violence, or graduate from drug and alcohol treatment centers. These parents are here to reunite with their children, become self-sufficient, and provide safe, loving homes for their families. We exist because people with histories of incarceration face particular challenges in accessing and maintaining housing as there are few housing options targeting this population and there is resistance in many neighborhoods. Too often, people are released from jails, prisons, or hospitals without sufficient reentry planning to ensure housing stability and success (Committee to End Homelessness).
That is the big picture. The smaller picture is the day to day achievements and challenges we all face. It is about working side by side with parents and their children, who have struggled, overcome, fought, and forged ahead with their own strength to come out of a hurtful and painful past and make something better for themselves. Passage Point provides affordable housing, case management, access to resources and family activities where parents can realize their dreams with their children and do just that.
It is helping them to never being a statistic again.
It’s about mentoring a mother and seeing her home crying and smiling because she won her right to keep her child and the joys of knowing that child will not be one of the 79% of children in foster care that will never see their mother again.
This child will also no longer be at risk for poor school performance, drug use and mental health problems, and will less likely be exposed to parental substance abuse, extreme poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence because of reuniting with his mother at Passage Point.
And this mother, and other mothers and fathers like her, will no longer be one of the 8,000 homeless on any given night in King County.
Every day at Passage Point is a defining moment in the lives of the residents and the staff members. We learn and grow, cry and laugh together, and share moments that are embedded into our own little history.
Over the next few days I am excited to share with you our journeys and exactly what it is we do.
Welcome to Passage Point.
To learn more about Passage Point check out these past articles: