Friday, June 13, 2014

Haven for Hope; Members Side

Families entering the Members Side dining hall for Lunch.

Compared to Prospects Courtyard, the Transformational Campus, or "Members Side" is a whole different experience. I cannot stress how night and day the difference is. Members side has a variety of living programs housed within it, but it is typically dormitory style housing. You are indoors in a very nice air conditioned building, the food is a much higher, fresher quality (although the portions are somehow even smaller than PCY) There are flower beds and grassy areas for the children to play on (about 175 children in total live there with their parents), a very nice non-denominational chapel for worship, computer labs, classrooms, even a small workout facility. The atmosphere is very like that of a college campus, just one where everyone there happens to be homeless.

There are a multitude of services available to people on Members Side. On members side you are also assigned a case manager, but one whom you meet with once a week. Your case manager has alot of resources, and can connect you with various people/programs to get your needs met. Need help filling out your FAFSA? They have people for that. Need a laptop to go to online school? They have a program to get you one free. Need a suit for a job interview? Got you covered. Bus tickets to go to the foodstamp office? Done. Want to go to school to become a Dental assistant? They have a free on site training program. All told there are I believe 87 separate charities involved with Haven for Hope, most of them on the members side. There are a number of government programs that interface there as well, although I really couldn't guess at the number.

There are also a huge number of additional resources and perks available to people on members side. Every Monday Night Starbucks donates a shitload of free coffee and pastry. There are multiple yoga classes, meditation groups, bible studies, free transportation to local art museums, and therapy groups. The whole place is also remarkably open minded and not-at-all-like-the-rest-of-Texas when it comes to religion. The Chapel is purposefully devoid of symbolism related to any specific religion. There are a number of different religious communities on campus, even a group of Muslims who host a monthly "come learn about Islam" group in the chapel.

Member Side is generally open to residents of PCY, with a few requirements. You must have a valid ID and have been a resident of San Antonio for at least one year. Your record cannot include any sexual crimes or domestic violence convictions. You must also be clean of drugs and alcohol unless you are entering the "Recovery" program, which is really its own separate unit that happens to use the same chow hall. You get drug tested before admittance to Members Side, and get breathalyzed for THC/alcohol every time you enter. You are also subject to random drug tests at your case workers discretion. You must also be working steadily on a plan that you and your case worker create to get you an income and independence. It is typically expected to take two years for this process to occur.

Most people get into Members Side through the waiting list. The waiting list is typically around 2-3 weeks for men and about a week for women, though this can vary depending on the time of year. (The list is often longer around Christmas for example.) Some people get right on in to Members Side though, for instance families with children automatically get admitted on the spot(or put up in a hotel until a spot is available), as well as a few others who get referred from other agencies, but I'm not real familiar with the details of how that works.

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