"Helping Families in the Heartland" was the theme of the Bethel House float in Whitewater’s Fourth of July parade this year, and the float won First Prize in the Neighborhood and Adult Category.
Bethel House helps families through its seven private housing units where families can live for up to one year while working on the issues that led to their homelessness. We also aid far more families who are on the brink of homelessness by providing financial support to help them get through a rough spot and remain housed. The following accounts are for three of the 17 families aided with financial support in the last three months.
Digital Stories from Former Clients
If you were to be asked: "What does a homeless person look like?" what would be the first image the pops into your head? It probably would not be an individual who lost his job and then his house, or a college graduate. In reality, people who have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives are more like the rest of us than you would think.
In order to help the public get a better idea of the families that Bethel House serves, former clients were invited to tell any story they wanted about the time they were homeless, and Bethel House would work with them on producing a digital story. These digital stories combine a spoken narrative with photos, video, and a soundtrack. No recognizable images of any family member would appear in the digital story. The first story, Recovering from the Recession, is above.
Bethel House Developing Financial Management Materials
One of the most effective parts of the Bethel House case management program for families who are staying in one of the transitional housing units is a financial management program, in which families learn to pay off debt and begin saving. We currently utilize Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Curriculum. Although useful, it is not aimed at struggling working-class families, and does not address issues such as the dangers of payday lenders that are applicable to the families Bethel House serves.
For that reason, we decided to develop our own curriculum. We have received financial support from the Pillar Grant program of the United Way of Jefferson and North Walworth Counties. An advisory committee has been formed, with representatives from local financial institutions, Community Action, a community credit counseling agency, and UW-Whitewater.
The Advisory Committee will assist Dr. Jim Winship, Bethel House Vice-President, and Kristy Weinberg, Bethel House Executive Director, in developing the materials. These materials will be used by Bethel House with its housed clients, in a six-week class Bethel House offers to the general public through its Rebuild Program, and will be made available free of charge to other non-profit organizations.