News & Event
“It’s all very surreal” Michael said at his GED Certificate celebration party.
Michael came to Crossroads in the midst of acquiring his GED. Enrolled in a previous GED program that ran out of funding, Michael was only two tests away from completing his course. He was looking for an opportunity to finish what he started. That’s when he and his program manager contacted Crossroads. He was referred to the Learning Center at Crossroads in January and after working with our staff setting goals, putting together a plan, and studying hard, Michael achieved something he originally thought wasn’t possible.
Michael talked about his journey through Crossroads with other students in our education and employment services programs. Hoping to be an inspiration for them, he gave them tips that helped him get through the tougher moments of test preparation.
Michael achieved one of his goals and plans on continuing his education and going to school to work on small engine and motorcycle repair.
The Learning Center at Crossroads has a dedicated staff that works with students creating a personalized plan. Meeting one-on-one or in small group sessions, they commit at least 4 hours a week in working towards their identified learning goals.
Crossroads would not be able to continue offering these kinds of programs to the homeless and disconnected without the generosity of our donors and supporters in the Rhode Island community.
If you’d like to help make a difference in someone’s life, please donate now.
Since late 2011, the Crossroads Family Center has sheltered a record number of families with small children. The Family Center has space for 15 families, but the demand for shelter has been so great in recent months that the staff has had to put cots and mattresses in the Center’s common area and computer study room to accommodate additional families.
At our downtown location, families have had to share our Family Room or sleep in conference rooms because no shelter could be found for them. Crossroads is working frantically to find additional shelter options for families, and the staff at the Family Center is doing everything possible to help parents and children cope with their situations. Homelessness is traumatic, especially for children, and the severe overcrowding at the Family Center presents additional challenges for everyone.
Chontell Washington, Crossroads’ Family Literacy Coordinator, tries to come up with creative approaches to brighten the lives of the families and help the children enjoy learning activities while they are with us.
“Last year, we had a grant from the Ronald MacDonald House Charities, and I was impressed by their mission to enhance children’s lives. That idea stuck, and I decided we could enhance the lives of the children in our shelter despite the difficulties we are having now,” says Chontell.
She looked through a catalog of arts and crafts supplies, and when she saw some materials that she could use to convert the common area into an impromptu theater, she ordered some paper “guitars” and a backdrop that depicted a curtain and stage lights. The guitars were a little too flimsy, though.
“I knew that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island employees were coming to Crossroads for a volunteer day in April, so I brought my paper guitars and some materials I got from the recycling center to our downtown location and took advantage of some of the Blue Cross volunteers,” Chontell explained. “They cut out colored cardboard backing and glued them to the paper guitars to make them stronger.”
On one of the regularly scheduled Family Literacy days, Chontell took over the Family Center dining room and brought out all the materials so that parents could work with the children to decorate each guitar.
“It was a great learning experience for the kids,” Chontell says. “They learned about guitars, counted the number of strings and learned how each one makes a different sound. It was a good activity for hand and eye coordination, dexterity, and learning new words.”
When the guitars were all decorated, Chontell put up the stage backdrop, lowered the lights and started the music, which turned out to be a universal language for the multi-lingual group of children. One by one, kids volunteered to be rock stars.
One little boy called his song ‘4’ and happily sang the words, “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro,” rocking to the music, with all the other children joining in.
“The parents were so proud of their little rock stars,” Chontell says. “So many of the children in the shelter are suffering from the trauma of having lost their homes, and they don’t talk to anyone. But when we started rocking, they all began to join in the dancing and singing. It was a wonderful time for them, and parents were so happy to see their children doing something fun.”
After the concert, the children enjoyed healthy snacks and continued to sing and show off their very own guitar creations.
This effort, which brought so much joy to children enduring very hard times, shows how a small effort by community volunteers can make a huge difference in the lives of our clients.
“I am so happy that the Blue Cross volunteers will be able to see how their work making paper guitars turned into so many smiles and so much happiness,” Chontell says.
Crossroads is very proud of Chontell and her woquatrrk to bring a successful Family Literacy program to our Family Center. These kinds of programs are a rarity in a shelter setting, but they are a powerful way to help children create positive memories while they are with us.
If you would like to help dedicated staff members like Chontell continue to enrich the lives of homeless children and give their parents the essential support and services they need to move their families out of homelessness, please consider donating now.
Providence, RI, July 1, 2016
The Board of Directors of Crossroads Rhode Island, the state’s largest provider of services to the homeless, today announced a merger with the Women’s Center of Rhode Island, an organization serving victims of domestic violence. After a formal three-year affiliation, the two organizations have merged into one 501(c)3 organization governed by the Crossroads Board of Directors, and all Women’s Center programs and services have moved into Crossroads’ continuum of care as the Domestic Violence Program of Crossroads Rhode Island.
The Board of Directors of both organizations unanimously agreed to the merger. “This merger represents the coming together of two organizations united in the common goal of empowering vulnerable individuals and families to overcome homelessness and live safe, self-sufficient lives free of violence,” noted Virginia Branch, Women’s Center of Rhode Island Board Chair and Crossroads Rhode Island board member.
By combining the resources of both organizations, this new entity is better positioned to meet the needs of the community.
“By merging, we will improve the quality and accessibility of services to survivors of domestic violence and expand the range of services that support clients as they transition to safety, housing and stability,” noted Jack McConnell, Crossroads Rhode Island Board Chair. “The merger not only enhances and expands the scope of services of both nonprofits, but also provides a larger operating platform,” he added.
From a sample of women who had experienced domestic violence, 38% became homeless after they separated from their abusive partner. An additional 25% indicated that they had to leave their homes during the year following the separation for both safety and financial reasons.
“By bringing an innovative Housing First approach to our Domestic Violence Program, we hope to break the cycle of violence by providing opportunities for supportive, safe housing options for women and children as they transition from shelter,” noted Karen Santilli, President of Crossroads Rhode Island. “We will continue to offer comprehensive, evidence-based programs and services to individuals and families in crisis, such as 24/7 hotline, domestic violence safe shelter, case management, employment support and supportive transitional and permanent housing that survivors want and need to become independent.”
A Domestic Violence Committee of the Board will ensure that evidence-based domestic violence programs and services will continue and expand to meet the needs of clients who have experienced the trauma of domestic violence.
Additionally, Crossroads has applied for affiliate membership with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV), an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence.
“The Women’s Center was one of the founding member agencies of the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1979, and they have been an integral component of the domestic violence movement in our state. We are looking forward to working with Crossroads Rhode Island, and to helping them maintain critical services for victims of domestic violence in the Providence area,” noted Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the RICADV.
Citizens Bank Rhode Island President Ned Handy was present at the dedication to receive a certificate of appreciation from Crossroads President Anne Nolan for Citizens' continuous support throughout the years.
“Sometimes I hear stories from the people I am trying to help. They tell me about folks they are worried about and help me make connections,” Carlos tells me. “Sometimes, I find out about homeless people at the mental health clinic where I work during the day. Recently, I heard about a grandmother who was living in a car with her daughter and the daughter’s baby in the parking lot of a supermarket, and I went out to locate them.” Carlos found them, and after hearing their story, he was determined to get them to safe shelter. “They were living with a family member who moved to a new apartment, and there was no way that they could go along. They were sleeping in their car and going to other relatives and friends to shower and rest during the day.” The grandmother ended up having a breakdown and was receiving mental health treatment, but she had no stable place for her family to stay, and that made everything worse. Carlos was able to take the family to Crossroads, and now the situation is improving quickly. Mom, daughter and the grandbaby are living in an emergency apartment for now, and working with their case advocate and the rapid re-housing staff to rebuild their finances, apply for assistance and find stable housing.
“I met another woman who was living in an abandoned camper in the parking lot of a former factory. She was surviving in the unheated camper with no electricity or water. The property manager had allowed her to stay there for more than a year, but when the property was being sold, he told her that she would have to leave. The woman was a survivor of a brutal rape and suffered from extreme trauma. “It took quite a while to gain her trust,” Carlos says, “I would bring her food and other things to help her out. Finally, she agreed to come to Crossroads, just to take showers and wash her clothes. Gradually, she began to feel comfortable with me, and when the day arrived that she had to vacate the camper, she agreed to come to Crossroads for shelter and to work with a case advocate. “She is in a safe place now, and working with her case advocates to find housing and services she needs.”
“I was talking with some people, and they told me about a woman who was sleeping in a park at night, and I went out to find her,” Carlos says. He discovered Molly, a woman in her 30’s with a history of mental illness, who had spent a life filled with abuse and had been trafficked by family members for sex since she was a small child. She had moved to Woonsocket with one of her sisters after narrowly escaping a drive-by shooting in the city where she grew up. Molly’s sister left her in Woonsocket, and Molly wanted to stay their mother, who was living in a high rise. The mother could not have anyone else living in the apartment, so Molly was hiding in her mother’s house during the day and sleeping in the park at night. Finally, Molly suffered a mental health crisis and was sent to a mental health center for treatment, and it was there that Carlos learned about her predicament. “ I knew she had no permanent residence, so I tried hard to reach out to her and gain her trust, and finally I was able to bring her to Crossroads,” Carlos says. “She is getting the help she needs now, including mental health services, health care, some cash assistance, and she is well on her way to getting supportive housing. If I hadn’t been able to find her and bring her to Crossroads, I don’t know what would have happened to her.”
There are more stories, and lots of people still struggling to survive in hidden places in the city. Carlos doesn’t give up on a single person, and every night that he can, he gets in the Crossroads van and goes where most people wouldn’t dare tread. His dedication and caring continue to save the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. We are very grateful to Carlos for his work.
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