Getting Ahead

For families that experience poverty and homelessness, meeting their basic needs is often the only thing they have on their minds. “What will we eat tonight? Where will we sleep tonight?” or “What will we wear?” are three questions families ask themselves every day. In these awful circumstances, often questions such as “How can my children’s reading level improve?” or “How can I find a job that pays a self-sufficient wage?” are luxuries to even think about asking.

Thankfully, organizations such as Solid Ground have housing programs that help families meet their most basic needs, and lay the foundation for other kinds of growth. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, individuals must establish their basic needs, such as housing, food, and clothing, before they can work on their emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs. Once families find housing, then we get to work on their goals.

One way I work with families at Solid Ground to improve their lives is through our weekly group, “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World”. Through readings, discussions, and investigation assignments, we explore what causes poverty, social class differences, hidden rules of success, and the difficult, but important, work of improving their own lives and creating a future story for their families, and their community. We approach this work with no agenda of what changes we want the families to make, and let them decide for themselves what changes they want to make in order to build their own resources. After learning about Ruby Payne’s eleven resources and conducting a self-assessment of resources and stability, they make a SMART goal plan to get started.

In January, our first group finished and we had six participants graduate the Getting Ahead program. We are already seeing the amazing results of everything they have learned. All of these graduates are engaged in their community; several of them are community leaders in Solid Ground resident council, and one participant is beginning to lead a men’s parenting support group. A group of graduates even attended “Homeless Day on the Hill” advocacy at the Minnesota state capitol, advocating to their legislators on behalf of affordable housing measures. All of them are engaged with employment or education, with one participant close to graduating an adult GED program, several others beginning or continuing college, and another who has graduated from a CDL program. I am incredibly proud of their work and their leadership in the community and the example they are creating for their children to follow.

Submitted by Ellen Stavreff, Solid Ground’s Employment & Education Coordinator