A vital nonprofit helps the homeless have happier holidays
Children roaming the aisles of a Christmas store, families gathered around a Thanksgiving dinner table, and parents tucking gifts under the tree. These are precious moments during the holidays, and The Lord’s Place ensures that the homeless can create these memories, too.
“We are very busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” says Diana Stanley, the CEO of the charity, which serves the homeless and those recently released from prison. “We are so grateful for what people allow us to do during the holidays … and I think once people really get to see the way that we transform lives, they want to keep that spirit in their hearts all year round.”
But it’s those weeks between the holidays that The Lord’s Place gets almost all of its funding—which has to last the entire year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, corporations make generous donations, and the community rallies to volunteer. On the men’s campus, up to 250 clients, volunteers and supporters gather for a Thanksgiving feast fit with games and a full spread of food. There’s a makeshift Christmas shop where children can find items to gift to their parents. In another space, parents are able to choose toys for their children.
“We really work very hard on letting parents give the gifts to the children,” Stanley says. “It makes them become the mom, they become the parent. … We need to empower the parents to be parents.”
Stanley joined the charity 12 years ago, at the peak of the subprime mortgage crisis, when the homeless population was on the rise. At the time, the nonprofit had a few dozen employees and a budget of a little over $3 million. Today, it employs a workforce of 130, and its budget has quadrupled. There are more than 1,300 homeless people in Palm Beach County.
“When I got here, [during] the housing crisis, we saw an influx of families. … Most recently it’s been an uptick in chronic homelessness, [which] hurts all of our hearts.”
The Lord’s Place has five pillars of service: housing, job training and employment, street engagement and outreach, social enterprises, and re-entry. It’s able to help men, women, families, people with disabilities and those recently released from prison. (According to Public Policy, those who have been incarcerated are 10 times more likely to become homeless—they’re then arrested for being homeless, and the cycle continues.)
An exciting addition to The Lord’s Place this year has been the opening of two thrift stores, a part of its social enterprises program, which employs clients and teaches them valuable job training skills.
“Our work is just starting; we’d love to have that Christmas spirit last throughout the year,” Stanley says. “Homelessness, poverty, the formerly incarcerated— and all the human suffering that’s attached to these—does not go away on Jan. 2.”