Women’s Center of Wake County
Sees Escalation in Needs, Numbers of Clients
The Women’s Center of Wake County, Inc. (WCWC) started more than 30 years ago as a grass roots movement to meet the needs of women re-entering the community from prison. Over the course of the years, the Center has responded to the changing needs of women, expanding and providing services as indicated by the women in our community. Over the last fourteen years, the Center has shifted course, addressing the growing issue of poverty and homelessness with single women and women with children. The Board, staff and direct service volunteers have become strong advocates and service providers for those who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.
The mission of the Women’s Center of Wake County is the empowerment of women to lead self-directed lives, realize economic viability, enjoy satisfying relationships, and strengthen their participation in the community. Over the past thirty years, the Center has served tens of thousands of women. Last year we served more than 2,000 women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Our current programs are Basic Needs, Supportive Services and Housing Services.
Meet a Few That we Serve
- Keesha and her two children (ages 3 & 6) came to the Women’s Center after her husband struggled to find a job for over a year; he could no longer deal with the challenge and he left. Keesha came to us, eviction imminent. We paid her back rent and helped her develop a plan so that she and her children could remain housed.
- Susie, struggling with mental illness, lost her housing again. Even on her medication, her behaviors still upset her neighbors and she bounces from housed to sleeping outside our offices on the cold cement. We provide support and advocate to help her to get re-housed and keep her out of jail.
- Marion and her two-month-old son lost her housing as she has no day care and could not continue her job after her son was born. She is on the waiting list of over 1,000 for a day care voucher and is staying with a friend. She sleeps on a sofa with the baby in a basket on the floor next to her. We provide her with food, Pampers, and bus tickets for transportation while she looks for employment.
These are but a few of the women and children we see daily who are struggling even more in the current economy. The government is reducing resources and services and we are challenged to mend the holes in the safety net.
Description of Current Services
Basic Needs Services
Through these services, the Center addresses the survival needs of women and children who are homeless or who have very low incomes. These services include: day shelter to insure safety for homeless women and children; emergency food pantry; lockers; transportation assistance (primarily bus tickets); clothing and personal hygiene products; laundry vouchers; food referrals; access to telephone and community voice mail; mail and message service; and meals (breakfast every morning; lunch twice a week).
These services aid and support single women and women with children who are homeless or have very low incomes to attain or maintain their self-sufficiency. The services included are: Mentor Advocacy case management; financial assistance counseling (including direct assistance to prevent eviction, utility disconnect, or to help with purchasing medications as funds allow); crisis counseling, by phone or in person; legal information; health services (HIV/AIDS and STD testing and counseling; and education workshops on a variety of life and social skills development.
Housing Services includes assistance in finding affordable housing and providing affordable rental housing with supportive services for single women and single mothers with children who earn less than 40% of median income (less than $22,000/year). Epiphany House is currently serving 3 single women who earn less than $18,000/year while aiding them in reducing their debt and clearing their poor credit histories. We own two houses where single mothers with children live and are provided with supportive services to maintain their housing stability. The Women’s Center owns a small duplex that will provide two more units of affordable housing for single women (on disability or earning less than 40% of area median income). None of our residents pay more than 30% of their income for rent and utilities (the federal definition of affordable housing).
Population and Geographical Region Served
The Center provides the only Day Shelter for women and children in Wake County and is a key resource along the continuum in addressing basic survival needs for this population. The majority of women and children are in Raleigh, but our scope of service delivery includes women and children from the other municipalities in Wake County and a small number from surrounding counties.
The clients served during the fiscal year 2010-2011 were 68% African American, 23% white, and 9% multiracial. Seventeen percent are chronically homeless, 25% have a substance abuse problem, 20% have a chronic mental illness, and 20% have both a chronic mental illness and substance abuse problem (dual diagnosis). Ninety one percent of our clients are at or below the federal poverty guidelines. Last year the Center served more than 2,000 single women and women with children. The clients served follow the trends in the data above, particularly those related to mental illness, substance abuse, and disabilities.
Vision for the Future
The Center has been located in the basement of the Montague Building in downtown Raleigh for 20 years. The numbers and needs of the women served have escalated during that time and we have used every square inch of our basement space. With the numbers and needs continuing to increase, we must relocate to expand the services needed. The expansion is not simply more space, but adding some partners and critical services to our site.
Mental health reform in North Carolina has been an abysmal failure for the women we serve and the headlines in the weekly news reflect the short comings of the system. In addition, the availability of substance abuse treatment for the women we serve is lacking in the amount of inpatient treatment and a safe and drug free environment where the women can stay when they exit treatment. Thus, we are seeking to partner with NC Recovery Support Services, Inc., which would move into the new location with us to provide both mental health and substance abuse care and services.
The Women’s Center has a strong history of successful engagement of clients as we meet their survival needs. Having a partner in the building with us would provide a strong bridge for that trust and engagement to be used to support the women in accessing the mental health care and substance abuse treatment that they need.
We invite you to partner with us in serving the women and children in our community! The endowment in our name at the North Carolina Community Foundation is open to your donations and will provide a source of funding for generations to come. Please visit the “Give NOW!” page and type in Women’s Center of Wake County in the open box, or send a check made out to The Women’s Center to: The NC Community Foundation, 4601 Six Forks Road, Suite 524, Raleigh, NC 27609. Thank you for supporting our work.