Housing crisis

The Esther Project Inc. expands its mission during the housing crisis

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Esther Project Inc. is a grassroots organization that helps families and women access resources to support a transition from homelessness to sustainable, permanent housing.

It all started more than 16 years ago when the organization’s founder and executive director, Cheryl Snead, opened her family’s home to women and single mothers. The women had gone through tough times with no one to turn to, and Cheryl wanted to provide for them as best she could. As they found more people in need of help, the Esther Inc. project was created. Their main mission is to provide safe, quality housing to women leaving shelters.

With more women to serve, came a broader vision to move the work forward.

“Our biggest vision was to have a home for these women,” Snead said. “So we went to buy a house.”

The house would provide a space where the women could stay and be supported as they got back on their feet. As the renovations became, in Snead’s words, “a very slow and laborious project,” the organization found other ways to support people in the process of transitioning into their homes.

This includes helping employed clients find a stable income, providing furniture, helping with first month’s rent, and other necessities for independent living. The Esther Project Inc. also helps pay security deposits, as it describes it as “one of the hardest things for people to do when coming out of a shelter.”

Rochester, like many communities across the country, has entered a housing crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Monroe County’s homeless population is estimated to have increased by more than 143%, with approximately 1,000 people without homes. From evictions to rising rent prices, The Esther’s Project Inc. found itself in need of serving a larger community.

“When the pandemic hit, we first discovered that we could no longer just serve women in transitional housing, now we serve men, we serve families, whatever a family looks like .” In order to extend their reach, they began to provide services to organizations in the community that were doing similar work.

Recently, this has included collaborating with shelters and organizations such as Open Door Mission and the Center for Youth Services through numerous events. Over the past year, The Esther’s Project Inc. has hosted three drive-in baby showers. Community members were able to drive around and drop off supplies, resources and gifts for pregnant women who might otherwise have gone without. On top of that, they also held their annual event, The Purse Project.

The event is held in partnership with local churches and organizations, volunteers donate undamaged handbags and fill them with toiletries, necessities and words of encouragement for women in the shelters. Snead recalls a year when more than 200 handbags were collected.

“I was amazed by the things that women [volunteers] put in purses, like wallets with money in them, bibles, phones, some of the things that I never thought of, that homeless women would need.

The project has proven to be a positive and uplifting experience for the women who receive them, and the organization hopes to expand the event by filling backpacks for men and youth. This year’s Purse Project is scheduled for September 24 in collaboration with Bethel Express and Go Ministries.

Snead believes that what sets The Esther Project Inc. apart is its continuous and direct approach to local public services. “They do great work in our city, but there’s not much that social workers and people confined to an office can do.”

With the ability to stand up and serve her community on a daily basis, whether it’s taking clients out to do laundry, providing them with emotional support, or educating them about financial literacy and budgeting, Snead considers this brings her the most. of joy.

For those interested in learning more about The Esther Project Inc. and its events, resources and volunteer opportunities, click here.