Girls who have been sexually exploited arrive at Brittany’s Place in the midst of severe trauma. They are in need of clothing, food, sleep, and safety. The healing process is difficult, and math classes might seem very irrelevant in the face of their struggles, but Rhonda McGinley has made her classroom at Brittany’s Place into one of honesty, integrity, and hope.
When you step into her classroom, you see a whole bookshelf of young adult literature, and her wall has photos of her dog and children. Rhonda teaches by providing choices and outcomes to the students in her classroom. This honest approach removes the power struggle between students and teachers, giving students the ability to control things within their world. Rhonda tells her students, "Don't be embarrassed if you don't know it, but be embarrassed if you do nothing about it." This saying empowers youth to have autonomy in the outcome they hope to see.
Rhonda and her students have adapted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but distance learning has been tough. Rhonda’s curriculum is for 6th-12th grade learners who prefer face-to-face learning, but she has been working through a virtual classroom using video meetings to continue her work with her students. She also works individually with students who may not be doing so well in class.
Rhonda feels lucky every time she gets to be in the classroom. By being honest and creating a classroom where students have a lead role in their achievements, students are presented with experiences that help them open their world. They create connections with someone they didn’t know could be a supporting role in their lives; as Rhonda says, “Sometimes you develop that relationship and you don’t realize it.”
Brittany's Place is a 24/7/365 shelter for girls who are victims of commercial sex trafficking or at risk for sexual exploitation. Girls receive services specifically designed to meet their needs, address the harm caused by the trafficking, and move them toward recovery and self-efficacy.
Men who have served their time in prison face many challenges. Some of the biggest challenges are finding affordable housing and a job within 60 days of being released — or risk violating their parole and having to return to prison.
In May, 180 Degrees launched a new Supportive Housing Program for graduates of its Clifton Place Program — the 37-bed, first-stop residence for men exiting prison. The program is designed to address the barriers men with records face when trying to secure housing.
“We have a high success rate placing Clifton Place residents in jobs,” said Program Director Richard Coffey. "Finding housing for our clients is another story, especially when you need to secure that housing in 60 days.”
In March, as Covid-19 took hold, CEO Dan Pfarr took action, partnering with a nearby landlord to sub-lease, refurbish, and furnish studio apartments close to Clifton Place. By May, four fully furnished studio apartments were available exclusively for Clifton Place graduates.
Transition out of Clifton Place into independent living in the new units has gone smoothly for the first few clients, who pay $950/month, an affordable market rate. The units are located on a bus route, making it accessible to work sites, services, and community appointments. The men are held responsible for the condition of their unit. No drug or alcohol use is allowed.
180 Degrees Housing Coordinator, Stedford “Gino” Nelson works closely with the Clifton Place residents, assisting them in their search for employment, support groups, food shelves, and acquiring necessary work clothing. Gino knows that many residents have never rented their own apartment, and so these studio apartments are an important chance for them to gain a new life experience. Gino encourages residents to start a savings plan so they have funds necessary for the security deposit of their next apartment. Staying at Clifton Apartments offers residents an important foundation, giving them the opportunity to gain positive rental history and a landlord reference for future housing.
In June, Carlos, a graduate of Clifton Place, moved into one of the studio apartments. He's positive about his future, saying, "180 Degrees has been very helpful for me with housing and employment. This program is giving me a stepping stone to learn the responsibility of having bills - real bills - and getting the chance to help myself."
180 Degrees looks to expand the supportive housing program in Minneapolis. Leaders are seeking financial support to scale the program in the coming year. If interested, contact Janet.Hallaway@180degrees.org
If you're interested in helping the men in our studio apartments get back on their feet, please consider donating laundry soap, body soap, gift cards for grocery stores, or, if you are an employer who has job opportunities for the men, please contact Stedford “Gino” Nelson at Stedford.Nelson@180degrees.org.
But I would often move in with friends and family, or go to a shelter. But this time I'm really happy with how it worked out. It's a positive move. it gives me something to do every day. It's a great start for me. I take it one day at a time.
What's the best part of your day?
Waking up knowing that I don't have to wake up and hear another man snoring (laughs). No, it's the solitude. I can come in and sit down; Knowing that if I don't want to open my door, I don't have to . It's peaceful, just peaceful. That's the stage that I'm in right now.