With Hillcrest Transitional Housing, Tierra Beachem has been able to go through a personal transition.
When Beachem arrived at the Hillcrest's Lee's Summit campus in August, she and her four children been bouncing around without a fixed home, living paycheck to paycheck.
Now, she's part of Hillcrest's graduate program, on her way to becoming the non-profit's next success story as it combats homelessness, along with her two sons and two daughters, ages 10, 8, 6 and 1, respectively.
The biggest thing she's learned the past several months?
“To be selfless and focus on my family as a whole,” she said, “I had to learn to say 'no,' my family became stronger.”
“Being able to relax and repair the damage, (the children) benefit by seeing my be whole,” Beachem said, sporting a bubbly smile as she stopped into the office to pick up gifts and supplies before Christmas. “They benefit from the balance. Stability was the big thing.”
Stability is one thing Hillcrest tries to provide its qualifying clients as they work toward self-sufficiency.
Hillcrest residents have to make it through an interview process to be accepted into the 90-day flagship program. If accepted, they receive rent- and utility-free housing and in exchange must program guidelines, find and maintain full-time employment, attend life skills classes, participate in community living and follow a budget plan.
The graduate program is for clients who complete the 90-day program but require some extra time to find appropriate and affordable housing.
Beachem's family is one of 16 at the Lee's Summit campus, with 28 children total. There are 21 available units in Lee's Summit and 84 total among Hillcrest's 21 buildings, which include thrift stores in Lee's Summit and Lenexa, Kansas. Among Hillcrest's other locations are apartments in Independence and Sugar Creek. Seventy-one residential units are for transitional housing and the rest are for graduate housing or resident managers.
“Folks will come to us with myriad issues keeping them from permanent housing,” said Hillcrest CEO Tom Lally. “It could be medical or housing bills, loss of work, domestic abuse among those issues.
“They must have a job – we believe a job is the best way out of poverty, and this is a hand up, not a handout – and through tight budgeting folks are able to pay down those bills and also save some money. We're asking the residents to make a change – how to work to self-sufficiency.”
How tight? Well, Lally remembers one woman tearing up at a manager because she'd bought a coffee and realized it messed up her numbers.
“Each family budgets to the penny,” says Lee's Summit resident manager Leslie Stivers.
At the Lee's Summit campus, the weekly life skills classes could range from economics, being a good neighbor, landlord issues, nutrition, safety, educational opportunities, job seeking and personal growth
“There's probably no wrong topic for our residents to learn about,” Lally said.
For Beachem, simply learning how to cook whole meals or even stretch a whole chicken into multiple meals, instead of reaching for the fast food, has meant wonders.
“It's equipping them with other skills,” Stivers said. “It's not a thorough fix; that's on the individual.”
In 2017, Hillcrest helped more than 600 adults and children receive transitional or rapid rehousing and coaching, providing more than 7,000 hours of one-on-one case management and budgeting.
Each apartment unit is fully furnished with appliances, pots and pans and sheets. The office at the Lee's Summit campus includes a laundry room for residents to time-share and a donation-infused pantry with refrigerator for weekly “shopping.”
Lally said Hillcrest tries to have a sponsor for each unit. It might also be able to help with food, work or school clothing and cars or car repairs. In addition, 170 families and individuals across Hillcrest's sites received gifts through its Christmas Blessings program thanks to generous donors.
Lally notes there are many ways to support Hillcrest besides money.
“We need budget counselors, apartment sponsors, people to make repairs at apartments, volunteers to simply be with the residents and provide positive role models,” he said.
“We are grateful for the support we receive from the community, our donors and volunteers,” Lally said. “We couldn’t accomplish what we do without their trust and belief in our organization and its mission.”
To learn more about Hillcrest Transitional Housing or support the organization’s work, visit www.hillcrestkc.org or call (816) 994-6934.