GIVING HOPE TO BOISE'S HOMELESS FAMILIES
“It’s the biggest thrill to have a kitchen!” Dawn Aufmuth’s smile is quick and her softly southern accented voice is joyous. She is truly delighted to have a place where she and her children can create meals and dine together. The open kitchen is warm and the center of their modest apartment. Stacks of cooking magazines fill the coffee table in front of a comfortable sofa and book shelves line the walls. All the makings of an inviting home, simple comforts that not so long ago the Aufmuths lived without.
“It was July, 2009. We had been living with my in-laws in Meridian, but they were moving and we couldn’t stay with them anymore. I had never really worked before…” At thirty-six, Dawn’s statements are direct and genuine like her demeanor. Her husband of 11 years had served in the Army in Iraq. After his medical discharge he had become despondent and vanished. Dawn was left to care for her children, Alex and Brandon, alone with no source of income. “I guess you have to hit rock bottom before you can get your life in order.”
Homeless, jobless and with no car, Dawn asked her in-laws drop her and the children off at the City Light Home for Women and Children in Boise, where they would stay for the next few months. The idea of being in a shelter might incite fear in many of us, however the experience is not one that Dawn regrets–rather it is one that she is grateful for.
“They [City Light] have really high standards. It’s very clean and they give you the resources to help yourself. There’s a lot of hope there, too. Miss Rosie (Rosie Dice) was a great help,” Dawn’s smile is back.
Alex, her 18-year old daughter, nods in agreement. “You’re given chores and have to pull your own weight—it’s not a free ride.”
Daily life presents many challenges when you are staying at a shelter. Some people already have jobs, but the pay is not enough to cover first and last month’s rent, let alone paying for groceries and other expenses—literally trapped, they seek ways to move forward.
Each day when the Aufmuths had to leave the shelter Dawn would look for work and the kids would go to the library or the parks. Having no car, the family would either walk or use public transportation to get around Boise. The long and difficult days in July’s smoldering sun were exhausting and wearing on the small family. Dawn sought help. Fortunately, First Presbyterian Church, a sponsoring member of CATCH, invited Brandon to stay at their child care facility during the day. “They were great [First Presbyterian]. Keeping Brandon out of the summer heat was a huge help and easier on him.”
Alex had also been suffering and had run into to some trouble. To help ease the pressure, Dawn had sent Alex to stay with Dawn’s mother in Georgia for a few months. “Being homeless has some different implications for teenagers–it was hard,” Dawn said. It was obvious the separation had been hard.
As trying as being homeless and searching for a job was, Dawn worked to stay positive. Using the computers at City Light and the library, she was able to continue her online course for Criminal Justice. “You have to cut out the negative and keep looking for the good.”
Through City Light Dawn was able to apply for the CATCH program. In fact, the day she was to move her family to the Booth Home, CATCH called City of Lights to say that they had been accepted into the program. “Had Miss Rosie not forwarded that call to Booth Home we would have missed the opportunity.”
The CATCH program focuses on ‘housing first’, getting families out of the shelter and into homes or apartments. Since 2006, they have assisted more than 121 families. Yet even this highly successful program has its limits. CATCH can currently only sponsor about 22 families at a time, so when one family graduates there are others ready to fill it. Currently, there are more than 25 families on CATCH’s waiting list.
In November of 2009, the Aufumuths moved into an apartment sponsored by First Presbyterian through CATCH.
“CATCH gives you all the household basics and a week to get settled in. Then they [CATCH] want you at their office 5 days a week using the resources to search for work–or you better have a note if you are sick,” Dawn laughs, “they want for you find a job as badly as you do. Ms. Beck (Beck Fenton) would come in and tell us there where there was an immediate opening…where to go apply. There were days that it was depressing…but you just can’t give up hope. I see people downtown that are in the shelter that want to give up,” Dawn said, “you have to keep moving forward, never give up. CATCH gives you the resources to help yourself.”
Time and effort paid off. No longer worried about where their next meal would be served or where they would sleep, Dawn was able to continue her online studies while searching for job and she was able bring Alex back home.
The Aufmuths graduated from CATCH over a year ago and Dawn now works full time at WDS Global. “I’m so grateful to have it. I hear people complaining about their work all time, but I’m happy to have it. I have full-time pay and full benefits.”
Alex is finishing up her schooling and applying for jobs. She helps with errands, buying groceries and helping with chores. Brandon attends a nearby elementary school and is now enrolled with Big Brothers Big Sister. There is an obvious love and friendship in the small family. And they enjoy going downtown to Farmer’s Markets and exploring Boise, though Dawn says she’s “had enough of parks for a while”.
“I love Boise. It’s the cleanest city I’ve ever lived in, the people are so nice…the whole city of Boise helped us get through this.”