‘Two-generation’ applications purpose to interrupt the cycle of poverty. The pandemic was a giant take a look at.

The goal is to help the family get on a solid footing so that they are less likely to fall behind after they leave. “We teach mothers to be independent,” said Maureen Kornowa, executive director of Home of Hope. “We’ll teach you how to navigate life.” (The Home of Hope and Jeremiah programs are for mothers and children only. Some other second generation programs also work with fathers.)

With the help of her case manager, Pritchett is working to save her money and budget so she can get a down payment on a home or security deposit and rent an apartment when she moves out by October. Families can stay for up to a year. Her daughter participates in frequent activities and programs on campus, which Kornowa says are intended to provide children with a safe and nurturing environment where they can focus on being children.

“The whole idea is that it is a cross-generational approach to end the cycle of homelessness,” Kornova said. “You keep this family unit together and teach mother how to fish.”

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Without the shelter’s help, Pritchett could have applied for decades-old government-funded programs that incrementally support families, such as Temporary Assistance for Families in Need (TANF), unemployment insurance, and grocery stamps. While many of these programs have been shown to help families and improve academic performance for children, they are state-administered and often do not reach all families in need. Many have long waiting lists or cumbersome application processes.

And forcing families with young children to wait for help can be disastrous. Research shows that poverty in the first few years of life, when the brain is developing at its fastest, can cause trauma to the brain. This can affect emotional processing, judgment, and academic performance as children grow older.

At the Austin Jeremiah program, this research is focused on helping mothers and children before “poverty takes a toll on development,” said Korpela.

Mothers receive coaching as they work on their educational and career goals. You will receive life skills and empowerment training that covers topics such as financial literacy and parenting, as well as explanations of racism in systems, including those that contribute to poverty. All of these can help people develop skills and mindsets that can disrupt poverty.

A program piloted by the United Way for Greater Austin offers parents free tuition and a scholarship to training in a trade such as plumbing or a healthcare job such as an EKG technician. Parents receive free laptop computers, transportation assistance, and career coaching, and their children are enrolled in quality childcare.

“Money is not enough,” said Chastity Lord, President and CEO of the Jeremiah Program. “People don’t live a single issue life because they don’t have a single issue battle.”

Intertwined challenges

The leaders of many of these programs say they see the success of their approach in how well families do after they leave. In a recent Jeremiah Program alumni survey, mothers said they had seen an average increase in their earnings of 68 percent since the program began. Almost 90 percent of the children in the program’s child development centers exceed the development benchmarks. The median annual income of graduates for the past five years is more than $ 47,000, slightly higher than the median annual income of single-parent families.

82 percent of mothers and children move to stable homes at the Hope Home. Kornova said the number of mothers who become homeless after leaving the program is low because the program has strict expectations of mothers, including complying with a curfew, finding employment, participating in parenting programs and saving money . On the United Way for Greater Austin, nearly 30 percent of parents or caregivers have earned a high school diploma or equivalent while participating in one of the organization’s two-generation programs.

However, these initiatives can be costly to implement and expand. Home of Hope, funded through private donations and fundraisers, spends more than $ 4,800 per month per family on its program. The Jeremiah program had operating costs of more than $ 11 million in 2019, and the nonprofit will need an estimated $ 50.5 million to fund a planned expansion that will accommodate four times as many mothers over the next five years and would help children.

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Offering quality childcare on its own is expensive. Programs often bring together funds from private foundations, fundraisers, and the government. And the programs must have flexible and highly qualified staff who can attend to the families’ support needs. That means hiring professionals who can offer everything from mental health support to parenting courses. Many programs also rely on external partnerships, for example with local community colleges.

Proponents say the challenges are worth it. Having families with such extensive support systems can help them weather storms that could otherwise be disastrous.

“Just tackling one barrier when there are so many who are so intertwined just isn’t a holistic approach and it’s just not a realistic approach,” said Korpela. “They take some of this burden off the families to try to put them together themselves.”

The building where Pritchett lives in the Home of Hope.Matt Odom / for NBC News

With the help of Home of Hope, Pritchett has begun planning for a more secure future.

Since moving in, she has saved 40 percent of each paycheck for future rent payments and found a new job in a warehouse that pays more than router testing. She has had more visits with her son. Your daughter has blossomed too. She was recently inducted into her school district’s gifted program and, when asked, speaks excitedly about the many activities on offer for children at Home of Hope.

But one of the biggest differences was emotional, said Pritchett. She is less anxious and more patient, especially with her children. “I don’t have a lot of external stressors anymore because I’m stable somewhere,” said Pritchett. “I’m just very happy that we found this place. It’s a lot less stressful for me. “

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