Written by Cheryl Behrent
This month we share a final chapter about Goodness as she arrived in the U.S., hungry and afraid. With no people to help or place to stay, people took advantage of her. Physically and psychologically confined, Goodness spent many months thinking she escaped death in Africa only to die here.
A local agency found Goodness a way out, beginning her case to stay in the U.S., and referring her to live at Sarah’s. Goodness says, “I was saved” which at Sarah’s means sleeping without worry of attack, eating healthily, without worry of shortage, and a trustworthy staff who treats residents with dignity. Soon finishing proving her own case and hoping to have saved enough to bring her young adult children to the U.S., Goodness continues working and pursuing her health. Such a hardworking, caring woman, despite her illness Goodness works full-time in a cleaning job. Even during COVID-19, she continues her essential nursing home job, contributes $300 per month to the CSJs to support Sarah’s, and pitches in at home. The agency that referred her to Sarah’s will help her find family housing she can afford since the lowest private rate housing costs more than her monthly income. Bi- monthly Sarah’s residents reevaluate their goals, working always towards moving on. “You come to Sarah’s in order to leave.” At move-in, each signs an agreement including to move on within one-and-a-half years. This agreement may be extended if a resident’s goal work continues with good effort and she remains a supportive community member. A typical length of stay is three years. Staff support through life transitions continues after moving on. “Sarah’s will always be your home.” With economic and political conditions as they are, even with a few new housing providers helping asylees, the need is big enough that we work together. Sarah’s still serves individual women while other nonprofits serve women with children and men. Many of these programs were developed with Sarah’s as a model.
Sarah’s is not currently accepting new resident referrals. Instead, we are focusing on our 27 current residents’ needs and doing our best to keep them safe, healthy, and continuing their journeys to move on from Sarah’s because “you (still) come to Sarah’s in order to leave.” With a reduced budget starting our fiscal year July 1, no in-person fundraiser this summer, and COVID-19 continuing to be risky, our staffing roles have grown and evolved as we aim to do more with less budget. Additional and different staffing and supportive resources have been needed for newly unemployed residents or those employed, but for reduced hours, who are eating at home, avoiding unnecessary trips to the store, and needing to learn to safely navigate jobs, permanent housing, and other goals. All residents are learning what for most are new and for all are now essential life skills including remote learning, telehealth, and teleconferencing via Zoom, Google Meet, and other platforms. Sarah’s Director, Cheryl Behrent, reminisces: “When I started 13 years ago at Sarah’s, residents had limited access and knowledge about mobile phone and email devices and technology. Today, email and cell phone communication (especially for international calls with family) have become necessities for every resident. We helped many get established, teaching them to use the ‘new’ technologies. In 2020, we are beginning to view video conferencing as equally necessary and are mentoring residents to help them into this new age.”