At First Stop, our core mission is to empower the homeless. But what does that mean? To empower someone is to help someone find the confidence or strength to find control over their own life or situation. Many of our clients have endured enormous amounts of pain, sexual, emotion and physical abuse, rape, human trafficking, mental health issues and substance abuse. Our clients are as diverse as the trauma that plagues them which is why we do not believe in a one-size fits all approach. We believe in individualized case management which reaches the client where they are and they are walked through a plan to ultimately achieve empowerment and stable and independent living.
And yet empowerment is riddled with land mines. Criminal backgrounds prohibit our clients from becoming gainfully employed, accessing social services or finding housing. Mistakes made by troubled youth are paid for by a lifetime of homelessness because there isn't redemption in our criminal justice or social service systems. And when there isn't redemption, hopelessness sets in and chronically homelessness is their future.
The Federal Government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development has determined that if we provide housing, we solve homelessness. First Stop disagrees which is why they have chosen to no longer administer the SHP Program. First Stop believes that homelessness is a more complex issue than just housing. The solution we believe is in intensive and individualized case management as a priority. We believe that homelessness is solved by reaching the person where they are and slowly achieving empowerment with an equal mix of love, resources and client self-discipline.
But even empowerment isn't enough when there isn't a solution for self-sustainability. So in 2015, First Stop announced its intention to launch a supportive employment plan made possible through micro-enterprises. The reception to these plans from the community were overwhelming.
Publix helped us build our Greenhouse in April of 2015 so that our clients could learn to grow produce and sell it at local farmers markets.
In June of 2015, First Stop launched its "Palletable Alternatives" furniture building project by receiving monetary donations in exchange for furniture upgraded from cable spools and pallet wood. Not only are First Stop clients learning valuable trade skills but they are taking pride in their work and craftsmanship. In the near future, we plan to turn this into real, paying jobs for our clients who have substantial barriers to securing employment in the mainstream workforce.
And at the end of 2015, we announced our third microenterprise "Teach'em to Fish" where our clients farm earthworms otherwise known as vermiculture. This enterprise may sound odd but is a highly profitable business. In addition, castings from the worms creates a compost tea that will feed our garden and other gardens in our community.
First Stop puts the "we" in "empower" and "we" need you. Those enterprises need community and monetary support. Help us be a part of that solution.