It was a normal day for Julie, a mother of two, until her purse was stolen at a football game. The purse contained her identification, social security card and credit cards — of vital importance to the single parent who was then unemployed.
Things started to snowball from there.
Unable to pay rent, the family ended up at a local shelter just before Christmas. Shortly thereafter, Julie and her son developed pneumonia and ended up in the emergency room with nowhere to recover. The shelter where they were staying did not allow people to enter before 5 p.m. on weekends, even when ill.
“I didn’t know about The Children’s Center or I would have been there earlier, but the hospital knew about Miss Shirley (Harrison),” Julie said.
Harrison is program director for the Family Crisis Center, a branch of The Children’s Center that provides parents and their children with shelter, food and resources to help them get back on their feet.
“It’s my goal to do whatever I can to help my families. I just enjoy helping,” Harrison said.
Harrison took Julie to the Social Security office to get her papers and to the Department of Motor Vehicles to replace her identification card.
“She’s a new woman. Now she can go out there and get a job,” Harrison said.
The Children’s Center has deep roots in Galveston and is part of a legacy of support for island children that began more than a century ago.
“We have a million stories like that,” said Clemmie White, development director for The Children’s Center.
Though the name and face of the organization have changed, the mission has not.
“Families staying at the Family Crisis Center are just like you and me, but for whatever reason they’ve fallen short of what they need to do to be independent. We’re here to help them figure it out,” White said.
At any one time, there are from 30 to 40 individuals living at the Family Crisis Center. At the start of what is typically a 30 to 90-day stay, the center works with each resident to develop a plan of action, which emphasizes educational opportunities to make the job-hunt easier.
“We have partnered with organizations in the community that offer courses like professionalism, basic computer skills, interviewing techniques and resume building,” White said.
The results are clear for parents like Julie who have since moved out of the shelter and gone on to build stable and happy lives for their children.
“They’re doing amazing things. They’re getting out there, they’re working, they’re giving back. Some are even joining the board,” White said.
But, the center doesn’t consider repeated stays a mark of failure.
“We want to see families become self-sufficient, but it’s not like there is a cutoff. If you need us again, we’re here. If you have the energy to stand up and try again, we’ll be here to hold your hand,” White said.
Touch One, Teach One
The Children’s Center offers hourlong Touch One, Teach One outreach sessions for individuals and community organizations interested in learning more about the center’s programs and how to get involved. Sessions are held at the Family Crisis Center and lunch is provided. The next scheduled session will be held from Noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 20, but events can also be organized at your convenience. To register for the Aug. 20 session or to schedule a session, call Clemmie White at 409-765-5212, x3002.
Give the gift of shelter
Whether it’s a monetary donation, donating goods or volunteering your time, your support has a direct impact on children, teens and families. If you wish to make a monetary contribution, visit The Children Center’s website at www.thechildrenscenterinc.com and click the donate tab. If contributing by check, please make payable to The Children’s Center, Inc., P.O. Box 2600, Galveston, TX 77553.