Jun 16, 2022
We are thrilled to share with you another installment in our ongoing series highlighting THF grantees. These organizations make a powerful impact within our community in their own distinctive ways. You can directly support their services by giving to THF’s Community Fund. When THF receives a donation to the community fund, 100% of those funds go back to the community to support the area’s greatest needs. Thank you for helping us make a difference right here in Texoma – every single day.
The THF Team
When a child ages out of foster care or the juvenile justice system on their 18th birthday, where do they go? Without additional intervention, for many of these young people, the cycle of homelessness or incarceration in an adult facility continues.
Once these children reach age 18, they are sent out on their own, expected to have the maturity and skills to handle all the responsibilities of adulthood — including holding a job, finding and paying for housing, and supporting themselves. But the harsh reality is that these kids are often years behind their peers who have grown up in a stable environment. They lack the education, emotional and mental maturity that many of their peers have. They don’t know how to find and hold a job, and lack even basic skills like how to do laundry, run a dishwasher, or use a debit card. As a result, they become chronically homeless and many of them fall into a lifestyle that leads them to the adult criminal justice system, simply because they haven’t been provided adequate resources to succeed in the adult world..
House of Eli is a ministry set up to reach young men between the ages of 18 and 21 before they fall back into the vicious cycle of the criminal justice system and/or homelessness.
In 2015, Tawni Hodge, Founder and Co-Director of House of Eli, was working at Grayson County Juvenile Detention Center and she saw firsthand the measure of support the young people received while they were in the program, but how they were returned to the same environments they came from once they turned 18. She made it her mission to interrupt the cycle from the juvenile justice system into the adult system by working closely with kids aging out of foster care or the juvenile justice system.
Designed to model the family environment, House of Eli provides safe housing, mentorship, apprenticeships, vocational training, and plenty of love to young men for 12 to 18 months, explains Laura Ayers, Director of House of Eli. “We are modeled as a family. We work together, we clean together, we play together, we do life together. We really want them to see the elements of a healthy family and develop a support system for when they leave us.”
In addition to being a transitional housing program, while at House of Eli, the young men participate in a vocational training program. They learn landscaping and mowing, how to lay floors, painting, and other basic home rehabilitation skills. House of Eli partners with men in the community who work as mentors for the young men in the program. “They learn so much from this program,” Ayers says. “How to show up on time, how to do excellent work, customer service, how to address concerns from customers, and how to take pride in a job well done. It gives them a sense of pride they’ve never had before.”
House of Eli works closely with CPS, CASA, and homeless shelters to identify young men who might be candidates for the program. Through an application and intake process, the staff then determines which young men would fit in well with the program. They can currently house 11, but with a waiting list that stays full, they are working to expand to accommodate 15 young men at a time.
As a not-for-profit, House of Eli relies on the donations of organizations and members of the community to keep its doors open. “Texoma Health Foundation was one of the first foundations to get behind us and support our ministry,” says Ayers. “Their support helped us get our doors open and it helps us keep our doors open.”
House of Eli is impacting the lives of vulnerable young men in ways no other system can. “I just feel privileged to get a glimpse into their lives. I don’t know how they’ve survived the trauma they’ve survived,” says Ayers. “They want to be better. They want to take responsibility. They want to do something different. But they need someone to show them how.”
For more information about how you can support House of Eli and the young men of Grayson County through mentorship, volunteering, or financial donations, visit www.houseofeli.net. If you would like to donate to the THF Community Fund or learn more about Texoma Giving Partners visit www.texomagivingpartners.org.