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From getting to (thanks)getting

"From getting to (thanks)getting" Continued...

Issue: "Trailer park blues," Nov. 26, 2005

"I did the program and all the classes-everything. I applied it to my own life," she emphasizes. "If you don't apply it, that's where you go wrong." With help from mentors and lessons learned from classes on parenting, budgeting, and boundaries, Ms. Shireman began to thrive. She moved into the program's Phase II-sheltered living in affordable housing for up to two years-and repaired her relationship with her teenage son and her family. Last fall she began working as the weekend relief person for her house manager, and early this year became the full-time house manager. "She is one of the best people we've had in the position," Ms. Martin said. "She saves the program money by finding out about goods and services that can be donated, and has done a lot of legwork to find out where the women can obtain free medicine."

And like Shawn, Ms. Shireman has been able to effect change in those around her who share her life experiences. She tells of a 24-year-old single mom just out from her first offense, who recently graduated Phase I: "Her self-esteem was underneath her shoe when she came. She had some teeth missing in the front and some real problems with her self-worth. I've worked on that with her one on one. And a few days ago we went and got her some teeth. And now she just smiles all the time. She has really blossomed."

The anecdotes from City Life and Second Genesis are encouraging, and so are the statistics. In the face of Franklinton's high drop-out rate, 93 percent of youth engaged in City Life stay in school. Though 15 percent enter the program with a juvenile record, only 5 percent of program graduates continue to run afoul of the law. Second Genesis' recidivism rate among program graduates is just 9 percent, versus the 42 percent Arkansas state average.

Other faith-based award winners also boasted impressive outcomes. A 1998 HUD study showed that about half of the participants in typical transitional housing programs move on to permanent housing, but in Michigan 80 percent of the homeless families Good Samaritan Ministries mentors in its Community Housing Program move into stable, affordable housing, and 20 percent become homeowners. And in New Jersey, the Elijah's Promise job training program has put 97 percent of its 150 graduates into jobs, with a 95 percent job retention rate. That's 20 percentage points higher than the New Jersey state average.

-Amy L. Sherman is a Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research. For details on the 2006 Partners in Transformation contest, visit www.FASTENnetwork.org

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