Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
Welcome Chris Flitter, of SHELTER, Inc., to Dreams Coming True! Tell us a little about SHELTER:
SHELTER, Inc. believes every child should have a home. We give families a safe place to live meeting their most basic needs, while offering individualized services such as education, employment development and counseling. With the help of the community we provide families life-long tools that allow them to transform their lives and the future of their children.
When did SHELTER begin?
SHELTER, Inc. was founded in 1986 in Contra Costa County.
How did this project/idea get started?
An independent, non-profit organization created when the local community became aware of the increased need for homeless services in Contra Costa. They used an old armory in Walnut Creek and volunteers would come every night and set up shelter for the homeless population. As a result of community meetings, the Contra Costa County Task Force on Homelessness was created. In 1986 they started SHELTER, Inc. to alleviate the Contra Costa County’s homeless crisis.
What makes your organization stand out from the crowd?
We are the only full-service housing and prevention program serving low-income families in East and Central Contra Costa County.
What are the goals and intentions of this project?
To prevent and end homelessness in Contra Costa County.
How does your project create community?
We have many volunteer opportunities for the community to participate in. These opportunities allow people of all ages help others who are less fortunate. We also have two fundraising events each year, Swing for SHELTER, a golf tournament and auction at Round Hill Country Club and Hike for SHELTER, a hike and fundraising event in the Mt. Diablo Hills in Danville. These two events create awareness and raise funds for SHELTER, Inc.
Many have creative ideas but trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly…but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
Our mission is to prevent and end homelessness. We have to be creative and forward thinkers. We successfully end homelessness for 87% of the clients we serve. That is 20% more than federal programs. Our case managers are proactively working with each client and constantly thinking of ways to help clients overcome their individual challenges and barriers. It’s not just about giving a hand out but giving a hand up.
Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your project. Where do the ideas come from? How many are involved in the process? Does each contributor have a specific role?
We have many teams, case managers, housing, development, finance, and programs. The teams meet many times a month to brainstorm and create plans for serving our clients best.
What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
Our agency is already off the ground, but we are always sharing our story with the public so more people know about our mission, advocate for us, and raise public awareness for those who need housing.
What have you learned?
I’ve learned there are many misconceptions about homelessness. Many people think homelessness is not a problem in our community because they do not see many people with cardboard signs asking for money on our streets. Homelessness in communities like ours is rarely seen. Homeless families are sleeping on garage floors, couches, and in cars. Getting these families housing is our #1 priority. Many have lost their jobs or do not make enough to make ends meet. But in order to get a job or higher pay, they need an address for the employment application. If you are low-income, you may not have transportation or a phone, which is another barrier. We help with these barriers, get them housing and then work on their employment so they can remain housed.
What are some ways you promote your project?
We promote our agency through newsletter marketing, fundraising campaigns, media, donors, and volunteers.
What social network has worked best for you?
Facebook has worked well for us.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
Stay open to new ideas and be persistent when trying to achieve your dream.