Homeless and Working Toward A Better Life

10:55 AM, Oct 24, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Christina Norris was kicked out of her house when she was just 15 years old.

"So ever since then I was bouncing from family to family to friends to whoever would take me."

But her latest stop is different than all the others, and the 24 year old wants her life to be different when she leaves. Back in May, she came to Gerard Place three months pregnant, with a 3 year old son, and nothing to her name.

"She was on the streets. That is who we get. We get people right from the streets," said David Zapfel, Executive Director of Gerard Place, which provides housing and support to single-parent families.

Norris wrote us an email nominating the organization as a Good Neighbor. An excerpt from her email reads: "Anything we need they help us with. And I never had help with anything before, and really want them to be recognized for every thing they do for the homeless. They deserve it."

Praise Zapfel says makes it all feel worth it.

"It's just great," said Zapfel. "It really goes to show what a great staff we have here, that they've already made an impression on her."

Residents are given their own two-bedroom apartments here on Bailey Avenue. Staff members help them learn to manage a household. After their two-year stay is up-- they can keep any furnishings to help them get their start. But in order to remain in the program, Norris and the other single-parents living at the shelter are required to go to school, work, or work towards getting hired.

"We're tough," said Zapfel. "We have curfews, we have rules, we expect a lot of them. Every week a mom has to say, ok, this is what I'm going to do in a 40-hour structured week to be able to stay here. They have to be moving forward, or Gerard Place is not the right place for them."

"They motivate you to do something, because, I didn't have motivation before I came here. If you don't go to classes, you don't stay here. So. That kind of makes me get up and do stuff that I never did before."

Babysitting services have given Norris the time and flexibility to earn her GED. Now, she's working towards becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. and eventually she wants to be a Registered Nurse.

No matter what she does, she says her goals include working, and never being back on the street.

"Get a job, get my own place, and not have to worry about where I'm going to live next," said Norris.

Gerard Place also offers GED classes and other assistance for members of the community. For more information, visit the website by clicking here.


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