By Diana Weber, Saranam Board Member
In their first year at Saranam, adults are required to attend four half-day life skills classes each week. One of our Board members (and a frequent volunteer) talked to us about how these crucial skills help families thrive and maintain their success when they exit the program.
Families arrive at Saranam from diverse backgrounds with something in common- homelessness has forced them to focus on survival. During their time at Saranam, families spend two years learning how to thrive, not just survive. Through classroom education, programming and mentoring, families learn skills they missed growing up because their lives were so often unstable.
When I was decorating an apartment for a Saranam family, I volunteered to go grocery shopping with my team to purchase the essentials for our family. Lists in hand, we headed to Walmart and carefully chose the most economical brand of each item, until we got to the cereal. In that section our lead shopper decided we could splurge on the name brand. She explained, “When they have taken their grocery shopping class and come back next week with their instructor, they will learn how to choose items to stay on budget.” I was stunned by the idea of shopping classes and shopping instructors.
You see, I am privileged to have been raised in a financially secure home where I went to the grocery store with my mom and the hardware store with my dad. I learned to cook, keep my room clean, and fix things around the house. None of this was formally taught- it was just part of the air I breathed. It did not occur to me that others did not grow up with this kind of learning by osmosis. My Saranam shopping experience taught me that grocery shopping is an essential life skill that would be difficult to pick up if you grew up in chaos.
At Saranam families experience stability and community and learn the skills to thrive.
What’s more, Saranam’s two-generational approach guarantees that not only are the parents learning to grocery shop, budget, keep house, manage conflict, and live in community, but the children are absorbing these skills as well. Just as I learned skills from my mother and father, children at Saranam are learning alongside and with their parents. This crucial piece is the secret to the success of the program. As parents learn skills, they teach their children. And if their children are like me, they will never forget the lessons of their parents.
Ending homelessness requires more than just giving people a home to live in, it requires teaching people skills for living. This is how Saranam has found the answer to ending homelessness in our community.