Stepping Stones Shelter, Rockville, MD
Tonight, my family enjoyed Taco Night and so did the families living at Stepping Stones Shelter. Not such a big project, but something that lets families in transition get that little boost of support they need.
Stepping Stones is family shelter located in a residential neighborhood in Rockville. This white stately home is very fitting for this part of town. You'd never know it to be a shelter but for the donations that tend to pile on the front porch. Though the outside may look just like another beautiful home, it's what happens inside that makes this home so beautiful!
For over 30 years, Stepping Stones has provided homeless families with children shelter, food, and a continuum of social services that takes them from crisis to self-sufficiency and stable housing. A single mother develops a disability and can no longer pay her rent. A daughter is thrown out of her parent's home when she becomes pregnant. A father cannot secure a home for his growing family because of poor credit and a history of prior evictions. There are a million reasons why a family can become homeless and in Montgomery County, where the cost of living is so extremely high, its even more possible. It's hard enough to navigate homelessness, but when children are involved, its another story altogether.
Stepping Stones can accommodate up to six families at once and each family tends to stay for an average of 90 days. Each family has a private room but shares a bathroom and other common areas. Families are provided with a range of support. Adults receive career counseling, job search training, resume building, and GED tutoring through our partnership with Career Catchers. They attend financial literacy workshops that teach about budgeting, credit, and debt repayment. They are referred to other agencies that provide housing or subsidy support as well as mental health services and child development assessments. Children are provided with tutoring and babysitting while their parents attend workshops, look for jobs, and attend house meetings.
While cooking is typically a resident chore, volunteers are asked to provide dinners so that parents have more time to work towards their goals of securing jobs and housing. This was an easy thing to say yes to and another good excuse for seeing this amazing shelter in action. (This wasn't my first time here. Sarah and I did a craft project with some kids one evening for Bat Mitzvah project and Sarah later became a regular evening babysitter.) Meals are thoughtfully planned on a shared calendar and they can be cooked on site or delivered by 5:30pm.
If cooking is your thing, meals are always needed. If not, there are a number of other ways you can assist shelter families: donate household items as rooms turn over frequently and residents leave in need of supplies, lead a family activity, babysit, sort donations, or work in the clothing closet. Tool around the yard and garden if that is your thing!
My Takeaways: (1) Again, not all community projects have to be grand. Cooking for 15-20 people didn't take that long and wasn't expensive. When I delivered the meal, I met a mother and her son in the kitchen. They were so appreciative - and loved taco night! (2) Remember, our communities extend beyond our small residential streets, so extend what you might do for neighbors you know to neighbors you don't know (yet). We'd often bring a meal for a neighbor in need or babysit kids while parents face a crisis, so why not at a local shelter? Most of us are already doing these things everyday - just expand the scope of recipients!