Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 3, 2002
'House of Dreams' Represents Hope And Housing For Residents
By Erika Anderson, Staff Writer
SMYRNAHer new apartment makes 20-year-old Carmella feel independent, she says.
After living in a motel, Carmellas new home, provided by the Temporary Housing Program of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, is serving as a catalyst in helping her learn to support herself.
Her roommate, Benedicta, a native of Liberia, who holds a masters degree in economics from Syracuse University, was living with a friend after losing her job. Benedicta said that though she is appreciative of the help provided by the Society, she sees an even brighter future ahead.
I hope to get back on my feet as fast as I can, she said.
The apartment, located in a complex on South Cobb Drive is known as the House of Dreams and is sponsored by the SVDP Conferences of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna and the Church of St. Ann, Marietta. On Dec. 15, those involved with the project were present as Father Gene Barrette, MS, parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle, blessed the home and the two women who live there, as well as those who serve them.
Carmella marveled at her crowded apartment.
Ive never seen so many people in here, she told her mentor, Linda McCann.
I told you to be prepared, McCann said with a laugh.
The House of Dreams, which can serve four women at one time in a three-bedroom apartment, is one of five temporary housing programs sponsored by the Society. There are three programs for women, one for males and one for families.
Since June 1, 1999, the Temporary Housing Program has served its residents with a holistic approach, giving residents an opportunity to regain their dignity by offering them the support they need to meet societys challenges before their situations worsen. Residents are expected to get and keep a job, pay rent, and put money into a savings account. Volunteers provide follow-up contact to ensure that the residents are meeting their goals. Each resident is assigned a mentor who helps her with all her individual needs.
The program not only offers residents a warm place to sleep, warm meals and all the comforts of a home, but provides educational opportunities with lifestyle classes such as goal-setting and decision-making, literacy, basic computer training, and nutrition and food shopping. Employment assistance and emotional support are also offered to residents, who must be at least 18 years old, and willing to work hard to change their own life. Alcohol, drugs and weapons are forbidden.
Vicky Ruberté, director of the Temporary Housing Program, said that it is the volunteers who make the individual programs work.
I am so proud of our Vincentian volunteers, she said. The love in the hearts of our volunteers is evident in the quality of our facilities, the attention they give the clients and their willingness to give the coat off their back or walk that extra mile.
Julie Pantoja, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle, who works full time for Coca-Cola, volunteers as coordinator of House of Dreams. She said that her role is an answer to her prayers.
I feel very blessed in my own personal life, she said. I always pray and ask God to use me and I really think he has. I guess he has more confidence in me than I have in myself.
Pantoja said that the project has been a collaborative effort.
All the doors started opening, and all the different ministries really came together, she said, adding all the ministries were here on move-in day, Nov. 10.
Alan Urech, who is the volunteer council president for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, said that it is important to note that parishioners of both St. Thomas and St. Anns have worked together on this project.
That partnership is the true Vincentian spirit, he said. Were all one community. Were trying to do more partnerships because there is a lot of synergy between groups. Alone, we have limited resources, but together we can do so much more for the people in our community.
Ruberté said that the advantage of the SVDP temporary housing programs is that the clients are not restricted by a time limit.
Most programs have a limittwo weeks, a month, 60 days, she said. We give them the tools to help them get their lives back on track, however long that may take.
As the only paid staff member of the program, Ruberté said that it has been the generosity and commitment of the many volunteers who have made it successful.
Through our volunteers here at the St. Vincent de Paul Society we are able to cater to all our clients, she said. How do you put a price tag on what our volunteers do? If we had to pay all these people, our agency would go bankrupt. But these are people who do this out of the kindness of their hearts.