If you ask most residents, they will tell you homelessness isn’t a major issue in the area. Indeed, you are unlikely to find someone sleeping in an alley, or perched on a street corner holding a sign looking for work; however, the lack of visibility doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the plight of the homeless who live among us.
The Transitional Living Center, in Burlington, Wisconsin, supports hundreds of people each year. Having opened its doors in 1993, the facility, commonly known as TLC, is the only resource in western Racine County to solely address the needs of the homeless. As most homeless shelters do, TLC provides shelter and food. However, the center goes far above and beyond any typical homeless shelter. The Transitional Living Center also provides extensive programs for residents to not only get back on their feet, but to also become educated and equipped with life skills that will enable them to succeed on their own. “Programming consists of employment search, life skills development, AODA counseling, mental health treatment, medication management, parenting education, and financial management,” says Christen Chaffee, Executive Director at TLC. “Staff meets with female residents to discuss goals and evaluate their progress,” she adds.
They are dedicated to providing the children with a safe and stable environment while they are staying at the shelter
Executive Director at TLC
Like many nonprofits, the Transitional Living Center operates with minimal staff and relies heavily on volunteers. Fundraising, shelter coverage, center activities, and transportation are all volunteer-supported positions. In 2016, the transportation team at TLC drove over forty-five thousands miles collectively, to work, appointments, visitations, or rehab. These drivers have logs to rival any Uber or Lyft driver; however, they offer much more than a means of transportation. They provide hope and encouragement to their passengers. The ability to show those in their car that someone sees them, and someone cares.
Local teenagers have also joined in the cause. HART, a group of local high school students, volunteer each week to watch children at the shelter, allowing mothers the ability to work as well as attend trainings and appointments.
In addition to their high school babysitting friends, these children each have their own case manager, who work with schools, coaches, and medical staff to ensure the child’s individual needs are being met. “They are dedicated to providing the children with a safe and stable environment while they are staying at the shelter,” says Chafee.
As a family nears the end of their stay, case managers work with local agencies to ensure the residents have support after leaving the facility. The facility’s final goal is to help its residents become productive members of the community. This is easier done when the individuals have connections and support upon leaving the shelter. “These families are placed in permanent housing in the community, secure employment at local businesses, and utilize the community’s resources,” says Chaffee.
With the help of its community, TLC is able to assist hundreds of people each year, whether it’s by providing a temporary roof or connecting people to programs and resources. The homeless may not be as noticeable in our small towns, but they are certainly present and in need of a helping hand