Aftercare Coordinator Tonya Abney is leading the mission of our Aftercare program by lending extra support and guidance to guests upon successful transition into the community. This program has greatly reduced the overall recidivism in the shelter since its inception in 2007. It is often the only support to those who are struggling with mental health and/or chemical dependency issues. Through this program our former guests will receive updates on community workshops that may assist with their needs once they have transitioned. It also provides them with basic household items during their transition into housing, along with hygiene and personal items throughout the year as needed.
Tonya brings more than a decade of experience and education to the position. She works with guests, who are often at the lowest point in their lives, as they prepare to leave the leave the shelter, conducts apartment inspections and helps them secure any available entitlements.
Through monthly support meetings with educational and entertaining topics, regular service referrals, frequent communication, and care packages, the program has reduced recidivism and has helped former guests become shelter employees, volunteers, board members and supporters, not only at Project Hope for the Homeless, but in the communities where they now live. Once guests have left Project Hope for the Homeless, Tonya offers a multi-pronged approach to help them maintain their successful transition. Through the Aftercare program, hundreds of individuals and families who have found themselves homeless have found their own house or apartment, a more comprehensive treatment facility, and a new lease of life. Eighty-eight (88) percent of all guests who stayed at the shelter in 2019 transitioned into a better life and our rate of recidivism is less than 10 percent. Former guests have returned to Project Hope for the Homeless to serve as volunteers, employees, members of the Board of Trustees or financial donors. We enjoy relationship with many different organizations that help us to achieve our goals to restore hope and renew lives and to provide ongoing care for guests of Project Hope for the Homeless.
From time to time, we may be the only family our guests have during the holidays. We are blessed to offer them Thanksgiving baskets complete with a turkey and all the fixings which are donated by Truline Industries to each year during the Thanksgiving holiday seasons. Christmas gifts are made available to our current guests and those in our Aftercare program. This is made possible by our wonderful donors through our Christmas adoption program. We also host several events throughout the year specifically for our Aftercare guests, designed to keep in touch with them and help remind them they are still cared for.
Each year, Sydney Winner, a 16-year-old volunteer, organizes the annual Hope Shoppe through her church (Cornerstone Friends) and other partners to provide gifts for current or formerly homeless children to obtain gifts free-of-charge for their siblings or parents. Sydney birthed this event at age 9. At the Hope Shoppe, about 30 children shop, have their gifts wrapped, get family photos and enjoy crafts or decorating cookies.
Through our Aftercare program we are able to continue with the process of restoring hope and renewing lives, even after our guests transition out from our facility.