The Journey Home Gives Aberdonians a Hand Up
Devin and Teresa Hebeisen and Suzy Giovannettone Cope sit together behind a large desk in the main office, waiting for their first appointment of the day. I sit in a corner to observe, unsure what to expect. The staff begins with prayer, asking God to help them understand the needs of the people they are about to see, and to give them the wisdom to meet those needs as effectively as possible.
Then the door opens and a young man enters the room. He’s in his early 20s, energetic and talkative. As he sits down, Devin briefly explains the mission of The Journey Home and the purpose of the interview. He stresses the importance of being honest. The young man begins to talk and his story rapidly tumbles out. The details seem fuzzy and sometimes contradictory. He’s on medication for bipolar disorder, he says. He got in trouble with the law, spent some time in treatment and moved to Aberdeen recently to live with a friend, but that didn’t work out. He has very little money and no place to stay.
The staff asks some gentle, but pointed follow-up questions and the interview ends. “Can we pray for you?” Teresa asks, and the young man nods. After a short prayer he leaves the office and the three staff members begin discussing his case. Does he need temporary or longer-term housing? Help managing his medication? Finding a job? They make a few notes and then get ready for the next of several clients to come. Devin turns to me and smiles. “You picked an interesting day.”
The Journey Home grew out of a desire to love all people unconditionally based on the example of Jesus Christ. It was started in 2012 by members of The Journey Church to provide supportive housing and assistance to people in our community who are struggling. In the years since, it has truly become a community outreach, as churches, businesses and organizations from around Aberdeen regularly provide volunteers, labor, materials, food and finances to support its operations. Recently, The Journey Home also took over administration of the community Food Box program from Safe Harbor.
In 2014 The Journey Home served 257 people, including 92 children, and in 2015 they expect to serve at least that many more. Journey Home guests and clients come from many different backgrounds, including people who are chronically homeless, mentally ill, have substance abuse issues, are physically or mentally disabled, or are victims of domestic violence. People who come to The Journey Home are typically struggling with the negative effects of choices made either by themselves or someone else. Often they are from low income households or other difficult circumstances and lack the skills and support that most people take for granted.
The Journey Home helps people get back on their feet by providing a “hand up,” not a handout. It is different from a homeless shelter or halfway house in that everyone served through The Journey Home receives individual attention tailored to their current needs. The Journey Home staff works with each guest to create an individualized plan of support, including specific goals and objectives. The Journey Home then collaborates with other local agencies and organizations to ensure the client gets the resources and assistance they need to achieve their personal goals. Depending on the client’s needs, this may include a food box, short-term or long-term housing assistance, financial planning, drug and alcohol counseling, help with physical or mental health issues, emotional and spiritual support and help building positive relationships.
The results of providing for the whole person, rather than short-term needs, have been remarkable. Many former residents credit the support they received through The Journey Home for helping them maintain employment, overcome substance abuse and become self-sufficient. When a resident is able to support themselves and make positive choices, the entire community benefits as well. Resources are freed up to help others in need, crime is reduced and our city becomes stronger as a result of more people contributing to our economy. For an organization with such humble beginnings, The Journey Home is having an out sized impact in Aberdeen. // –Josh Latterell
How you can support The Journey Home
Your time is one of the most valuable things you can give. Volunteers are needed to staff the office throughout the week. Even a few hours per week can help greatly.
Financial gifts and ongoing support enable The Journey Home to provide additional food, shelter, financial counseling, and employment assistance.
Goods such as toiletries, furniture, household items, personal hygiene products, or office supplies are welcome. Please contact them via phone or email to set up pickup or drop off times for donations.
418 S. Washington St.
Aberdeen, SD 57401