The D’Youville Center for Social Justice, launched in 2008, serves as the Emmaus hub for community engagement, including service-learning, volunteerism, public awareness-building, social research, public policy development, and advocacy. Ongoing activities include recruiting, screening, and training individuals to volunteer in Emmaus programs; organizing volunteer service days for groups of adult and youth volunteers from businesses, faith communities, and civic organizations; outreach activities; and food bank distributions.
Since 2009, the Center has been awarded 9 AmeriCorps VISTA members (Volunteers in Service to America). In 2013, The D’Youville Center expanded to include the Emmaus Food Bank and Donation Center located at 101 Winter Street in Haverhill. Donated and rescued food is disseminated to Emmaus programs that prepare and serve over 80,000 meals to residents annually. The food bank is open weekly for residents of Emmaus housing programs.
Emmaus is dedicated to reducing the traumatic impact of homelessness on families by providing comprehensive services to help them rebuild their lives. During the summer of 2016 Emmaus expanded its services by launching the Emmaus Empowerment Project for parents living at the Emmaus Family Shelter, and for families that have moved into their own apartments and are in the Emmaus Stabilization program.
The primary goal of the program is to empower these parents to build self-esteem, define their aspirations, embrace their inner strengths, and access tools that will foster self-sufficiency. During the summer and fall of 2016 the Empowerment Project ran three days a week. On Tuesdays, parents attending the program received help with career services such as resume writing, job applications, and housing search. Wednesday afternoons sessions focused on exploring the themes of self-care, self-esteem, and healthy relationships through interactive art activities and workshops presented by community partners. During select weeks the women also participated in yoga and Zumba classes lead by fitness instructors invited to assist with programming. On Thursdays, participants and staff enjoyed a relaxing movie club in the summer and had a knitting group in the fall.
Indeed, evidence shows that mothers experiencing homelessness face considerable amounts of stress, and many experience anger, self-blame, sadness, fear, and hopelessness. In addition to their lack of fixed, adequate housing, the majority of homeless mothers have histories of traumatic experiences. 92% have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse, and 44% lived outside their homes at some point during their childhood. Homeless mothers have three times the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared with housed mothers and roughly 50% report experiences with depression. The goal is that the Empowerment Project will help these mothers, and other parents, learn to cope with trauma related stress and feel more positive about their lives.
The Emmaus Explorers program is designed for the children residing at the Emmaus Family Shelter. The program focus is on sessions filled with hands on experiments, educational activities, exciting field trips, and lots of smiles for the school-aged kids. All Emmaus Explorers activities, which are planned collaboratively by volunteers and staff, are designed to make learning fun for these youth by presenting educational topics through interactive games, crafts, and activities. In addition, the young explorers and their families have the opportunity to participate in family enrichment events like carnival night and international night plus free family trips to destinations such as, the Discovery Museums, the Stone Zoo and the Boston Children’s Museum.
Emmaus staff established Emmaus Explorers in 2015 through a small seed grant from Massachusetts Service Alliance as an educational enrichment program for school-age homeless youth. The primary goal of Emmaus Explorers is to create a positive, safe environment for the educational and personal development of these kids. After the success of the initial summer program, Emmaus Explorers was expanded to include after-school programming during the fall and the spring of the 2015-2016 school year. As a result, children in the family shelter now have a place to go after school where they can get one-on-one assistance with their homework and participate in fun, educational activities with their peers.
Career and Housing Services
The D’Youville Center offers a variety of career and housing services to all Emmaus clients from the family and individual shelter, the group home, Safe Haven and the supportive housing programs. Services include, resume and cover letter writing, job search, interview preparation and housing search. The center is open every Tuesday from 12:30 to 3:30 for the career services and the computer lab. Also clients are welcome to call the center to make an appointment for career services on a date and time that works for them.
The D’Youville center is now offering community workshops regarding housing services such as tenant rights and responsibilities and a housing 101 workshop on basic housing information. Emmaus’s experts on housing from the Housing Assistance Program will facilitate these workshops.
The center also serves as a resource center and assists people in the community in need by giving them information on appropriate agencies and helping them navigate through that system.
The D’Youville Center hosts many community meetings which further enhances the centers awareness of services for clients in the community. These meetings include the Interfaith Network of Compassion monthly meeting which includes representatives from Mass Health, Haverhill public schools, Community Action, WIC, YWCA, local food pantries and thrift stores. These meetings take place very third Thursday of the month from 11:15 to 12:15 at 101 Winter Street.