2017-10-05 / Front Page

Lucy’s Hearth Opens Its Doors to Men

By Brooke Constance White

Homelessness doesn’t discriminate based on gender. And now Aquidneck Island’s only shelter has recognized this fact.

Lucy’s Hearth, a 24-hour emergency and transitional shelter that previously only served women and their children, is now opening its doors to men in order to better serve the community.

Along with welcoming all Rhode Islanders, Jennifer Barrera, program director for the nonprofit organization, said including men will keep the shelter in compliance with new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that went into effect mid-summer and are designed to ensure equal access to housing.

Last fall, Lucy’s Hearth moved into a 9,300-square-foot building on Valley Road in Middletown, which is the former headquarters of Child & Family. The new home offers private living quarters, security cameras and access controls on both interior and exterior doors. The space provides 16 efficiency and one-bedroom units for families, as well as updated common areas, staff offices and a donation center.

The common areas include a commercial kitchen, dining room, indoor play area, learning center, teen lounge and two playgrounds. When they moved into the facility, Barrera said they adopted new policies to make sure the space would be safe and secure for residents and their children. For example, before moving into the facility, each prospective tenant is required to complete a background check.

Knowing that this new guideline would be in place shortly, the facility was designed to ensure privacy for each family. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, Barrera said, both from the community and from the mothers and children living at the shelter.

“There are single dads out in our community and until now there hasn’t been a place for them to go,” she said. “Until now, if there was a father in a family, they would have to separate from their children and go into some other type of shelter.”

Every year, the staff at Lucy’s Hearth serves more than 45 mothers and 80 children for a total of around 14,000 shelter nights and 28,000 meals. The nonprofit incorporated in 1984 and became affiliated with Family Service of Rhode Island in 2007. Since its inception, Barrera said the organization has evolved to better serve the community, and that allowing men into the shelter is another example.

“We’ve always adjusted to fit the needs of the community by developing new and innovative programming for the success of our families,” she said. “We want everyone to view this change as just one of the ways Lucy’s Hearth is working to serve our neighbors.”

Although it primarily serves Newport County residents, Lucy’s Hearth welcomes residents from throughout the state when beds are available. Once in the facility, mothers and fathers can work toward high school equivalency degrees, improve English language skills, learn job search and financial management skills and obtain employment. Their children attend school, receive assistance with homework and take field trips. And now, dads are welcome, too.

“The change in policy allows us to more fully embrace the role that fathers play in the lives of their children,” Barrera said, “and will allow more families to remain intact as they work to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency.”

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