NORTH KINGSTOWN—Jan Hall-Stinson sits at her desk in the Crossroads Family Housing Complex with a small coffee from Dunkin Donuts, a big, white calendar and a stack of paperwork piled high.
On the wall nearest the door are newspaper clippings reporting the athletic achievements of some of Crossroads’ student athletes enrolled at North Kingstown High School. Displayed on a small table directly below is a scale model of what the buildings at Crossroads will one day look like.
It is, in a way, a perfect blend of the past, present and future. And that’s fitting because, in this one little office, families often at their lowest point come to erase the past, embrace the present and prepare for the future.
“Obviously, we would love it if we didn’t have to exist,” Hall-Stinson says of Crossroads. “The reality is there’s always going to be some sort of crisis or something that’s going to break up families and make it so that folks will need these kinds of services. Certainly, in terms of what we hope for the folks who are here now and [those in] the future, is that they will continue to move forward, use the services here to the best extent possible and then not need us anymore.”
Recent statistics from the Kids Count Factbook show that both homelessness and poverty are on the rise in North Kingstown.
At the heart of this discussion is the Crossroads complex, an affordable housing unit on Navy Drive that provides stable living conditions for 57 families from throughout the state.
But to say that’s Crossroads’ only mission is misleading.
It’s what the programdoes behind the scenes that has the biggest — and longest lasting — impact.
Built in the early ‘90s as a transitional housing program for struggling families, Crossroads has undergone a bevy of changes since its inception. At first, families were limited to a two-year stay on the property composed of three and four bedroom units suited for families.
Now, families can stay as long as they need to, but they must meet certain requirements.
“We have pretty high expectations of the families here,” Hall-Stinson says. “We absolutely expect them to be employed or in job training or in an educational program. You just can’t come and hunker down, you have to be involved in something that’s moving your family forward.”
Moving families forward is the reason Crossroads exists.
“The object,” Hall-Stinson explains, “is to help people take a step up from here. This will be a safe, stable housing situation in the shorter term and then we hope that folks will blossom from here and go forth into the regular fair market.”
Crossroads offers a variety of programs and services aimed at taking families who have fallen onto hard times and helping them build themselves back up.
Besides providing stable housing, something many of the families who come to the complex have not had in a long time, Crossroads sets families up with case managers whom Hall-Stinson says help them move “from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’’,.
“Our key service is case management, where the family meets with a professional to establish a family plan of action,” she says.
Stephanie Badeau is one of two case managers at Crossroads and she sees the ways in which families benefit from the one-on-one attention.
“We help with local referrals,” she says. “If you were to move in here and didn’t have any furniture, we would contact resources in the area that would assist you in getting furniture for your home.” She feels the program is “pretty fortunate” to have a local network willing to help.
The Crossroads case managers also work with the NK Food Pantry. Case managers can also arrange transportation to medical and legal appointments.
Crossroads provides therapeutic counseling for adults and kids, access to educational opportunities and GED preparation and offers classes in parenting skills, money management, decision-making, time management and nutrition.
Crossroads helps in job searching, including document preparation and career advice as well as child care.
While it may be mistaken as merely an afforable housing complex, Crossroads does many things that aren’t well known by the public.
“I’m not so sure that we’re as well advertised in the general community,” Hall-Stinson says.
“Nobody wants to be homeless; nobody wants to live in a facility where you’re supposed to need all this support,” Hall-Stinson says. “Everybody would like to live independently and do well but sometimes you just need that extra support to get to that spot.”
When Hall-Stinson thinks of all the families the center has helped, she smiles. She is looking forward to helping families in the future.
Construction under way on Navy Drive features one- bedroom apartments. The goal is to one day be able to serve families of all sizes.
“One of the things I love about North Kingstown is how the community and the services have really embraced what we do here,” she says. “We get a lot of support from the community, through the school districts, through the recreation department and the town; a lot of charitable organizations, communities of faith come and help. It’s been a true partnership.
This is the third installment of a four-part series exploring the issue of homelessness in North Kingstown.
The first two parts, which can be viewed on our website at www.ricentral.com , focused on the rise of homelessness in North Kingstown and the ways in which the Suzanne M. Henseler Quidnessett Elementary School attempts to combat the problem.
The final installment, which will appear in next week’s Standard Times, will focus on some of the ways in which local residents and organizations are becoming involved in combatting this problem.