At Tubman House, children are not an afterthought

Tubman House opened in 2003 and provides 18 months of housing and support so that Sacramento's homeless, parenting youth and their children can get busy living rather than surviving.  At Tubman, young parents experience a holistic program centered on youth development, the strengthening of physical and mental health, educational attainment, career development, and financial management so that they leave prepared to be leaders in their own lives and leaders in the lives of their children and community.  Children experience stability and blossom in a nurturing home with an on site child development program.  In exchange for housing and support, Tubman residents lead Youth Corps, developing leadership and spearheading projects to build up their neighborhoods, schools and natural spaces.  Youth Corps reconnects youth to their community as leaders.

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Through Tubman House, young homeless parents work toward futures of the same potency as those pursued by children of successful families. Tubman is fierce in its belief that ALL youth need environments that encourage, and ALL youth need support in transitioning into adulthood. Having these needs does not mean a youth is troubled- it means a youth is alone. When given the same supports most youth take for granted at this juncture, our residents choose college degrees, secure housing, and meaningful careers. They choose not to make ends meet, but to thrive.

Tubman offers two communities, each providing a home and support to four families. Upon joining, each resident creates an 18 month action plan to achieve personal health, mental wellness, and self-sufficiency. This tool defines each resident’s work, establishing benchmarks and deadlines to define progress. For most, the plan includes proactive attention to health, high school completion, college attendance, activities to improve mental health, involved parenting, employment, saving at least $3000, and securing permanent housing.

 
 

Since 2003, Tubman House has served over 150 homeless parents or pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 21, and 115 children. Although open to fathers and couples, 90% of our families are headed by single mothers. 35% of our clients are former foster youth. Our clients live in Sacramento County, and reflect its diversity. Our residents and their children suffer the physiological and mental repercussions of chronic stress. Their health has been compromised by poor diet, lack of access to prenatal and preventative health care, inconsistent medical treatment, and unhealthy habits for coping. Nearly all suffer situational depression that has been diagnosed and drugged rather than resolved. Despite these challenges, 77% of Tubman’s clients secure income based housing; 77% attend college; 70% access mental health counseling; 50% work and attend college; and 75% clear all debts. All commit 3 hours a week to leadership through service learning. Since 2003, residents have completed 3,000 hours of service, leading 30 projects including renovating a refugee family’s home, creating a documentary on youth homelessness, planting community gardens, raising funds to place a stone on the unmarked grave of one resident’s father, gathering donations after Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti Earthquake, and leading crafts for elders with dementia.

Waking the Village relies on community donations and grants for support of the Tubman House program. Our first project goal is to provide consistent, holistic support by unifying housing, childcare, educational and career support, and leadership development so that 75% of clients exit into sustainable housing with financial resources in place, and steps made toward a defined career path. Each resident participates in 4 to 10 hours of weekly, one-on-one case management. Three directors provide daily support on-site from 8 am to 4 pm. They lead parenting and leadership workshops and the on-site child development program. These directors are present daily to support each resident toward health and self-sufficiency. This can mean attending a prenatal appointment, tutoring Psychology 300, teaching someone to drive, or modeling a new way of responding to a 2 year old’s tantrums. A house director also lives in each house, providing guidance as residents cook and share dinner, get children ready for bed, and breathe after a busy day.

Our second goal is to empower parents to provide the nurturing and environment their children need to attain optimal cognitive, motor, and emotional development so that all children meet developmental benchmarks or connect to professionals in addressing developmental concerns. At Tubman House, children are not an afterthought. Aware of the impact of stress on the developing mind, we know the children will experience lifelong benefits from early stability. It’s a fine art providing the structure children need and the freedom youth deserve. In community, young parents share struggles and ease the load by sharing the work of responding to children. Our on-site child development program offers activities that promote development. Stability, regular naps, bedtimes, doctor visits, and nutritious meals result in developmental leaps. Furthermore, residents are supported in their desire to be whole, loving, and wise parents. Parenting and educational attainment need not be at odds. Parents learn to balance the pursuit of their goals with the need to devote time to forming a secure attachment to their child. Parents learn to do what their parents did not- slow down, hold babies close, and celebrate each smile. This time bonding builds a foundation for health and learning. To improve outcomes for newborns, a staff doula coaches residents in prenatal care, provides labor support, and guides parents in breastfeeding and caring for their newborn. Weekly parenting workshops empower parents to make informed choices about feeding, disciplining, and promoting development.

Our third goal is to improve mental health through healthy routines, improved stress management, and connection to our supportive community. We also connect residents to quality mental health services so that 75% of residents meet individual benchmarks each month for improving wellness. We connect residents to mental health professionals that listen close and think long before diagnosing as mentally ill a youth coping with a traumatic childhood. Many residents struggle with situational depression and anxiety so we teach new ways to effectively manage stress. Tubman partners with professionals willing to account for the culture of transition age youth before defining treatment. Clients rarely use medications, instead embracing lifestyle changes as the best path to mental wellness. Tubman staff is trained to identify post-partum depression and work with health professionals to support healing. Finally, as residents succeed in college, watch children blossom, eliminate debt, establish savings, lead service projects, and pursue meaningful futures, it is not just mental stability, but hope and peace that take hold.

A fourth goal is to improve the health and emotional wellness of all the youth and children living at Tubman House through healthy diet, regular dental and medical care, daily exercise, and regular sleep. Staff attend doctor visits with residents to guide them in advocating for quality health care. Residents learn to develop a relationship with a doctor to reduce ER visits and focus on preventative health. Residents often arrive with chronic health issues such as asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy. Tubman translates jargon and fast doctor visits into knowledge so each resident can reduce the impact of these conditions. Often Tubman advocates for residents and pushes for referrals when residents are dismissed as young or nervous mothers.

Half of Tubman’s staff are experienced teachers with the talent to guide residents toward diplomas and college degrees. We promote higher education as a key to meaningful work and financial stability. We develop the skills to gain and retain meaningful employment through career counseling, job shadowing, and support in leading service projects.

Tubman House provides authentic community to our parents and children. We encourage our residents to reach for a proper future that includes a meaningful career, committed parenting and active citizenry. A recent graduate arrived at Tubman two years ago, pregnant and exhausted from life in the shelters. Now, she lives in her own townhouse, drives a reliable Toyota, and works full time as a preschool teacher, putting to use the Early Childhood Education degree she earned while at Tubman House. She has $3000 still in savings. Most importantly, she has the hope and security to love and delight in her 18 month old son. Waking the Village is eager to partner with others in giving ALL youth access to a future of good health and hope.