Six years ago, Eileen McDonald was hired as a case manager at Carriage House in North Falmouth, after serving as a volunteer.
Coming from a 30-year career in hospitality management, she said, it was an eye-opening experience. “Just the barriers our clients face, from not finishing high school to coming from broken families,” she said. It showed her that, “there are many factors that lead up to homelessness.”
At Carriage House, staff work diligently to help mothers overcome those barriers so they can eventually become successful once out of shelter. “We are able to introduce them to the tools they need,” McDonald said.
Often the rewards of the job aren’t immediate, but McDonald and her colleagues witness it on a regular basis. “We’ve had people who call back to say what they’re doing: ‘I’m back in school’ or ‘I’m working for Blue Cross Blue Shield’ or ‘I’m getting my nursing degree’ or ‘My son is doing well in first grade,’” McDonald said.
Even when clients are still in shelter, staff celebrate the victories; it can be as simple as a client opening a savings account.
Success at Carriage House is measured in small, incremental steps. During the past 30 years, it has occurred for a variety of reasons. McDonald attributes it to everything from the intimate atmosphere at the shelter to the dedication of volunteers, some of whom bring dinner monthly and others who drive clients to medical appointments, shopping, and the Falmouth Service Center.
“This shelter has certainly benefitted young mothers and their children who have been homeless in getting their lives on track to develop a more successful future where they have the potential to live independently,” Facility Director Mindy Caron said.
When asked what she loves about working at Carriage House, Caron said, “when you have the sense that people are making progress with their lives and you do see people leave here with housing and with more in their toolkit than when they arrived. That is deeply satisfying.”