The Satellite Center
Last January, with much help from its community partners, The Metanoia hospitality center added an additional space in a satellite location (The Catholic Worker Storefront) that would provide overnight hospitality to 15 guests with special needs that were identified by outreach workers.
The Metanoia Project collaborated with Downtown Cleveland Alliance to transport the 15 guests from Saint Malachi to the satellite center on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 8pm-8am. While at the satellite, guests had free access to showers and hygiene supplies, simple food accommodations and a washing machine.
This small group atmosphere afforded guests to build meaningful, authentic relationships with each other as well as with the staff. It allowed for a trusting environment where everyone was not only held accountable for their actions, but they were able to hold each other accountable too. If someone was being disruptive to the whole group, the group was able to make a democratic decision to ask them to leave. They were empowered with choice in their own environment— a cherished rarity for those in the homeless community.
At first the guests were hesitant to come inside, as many of them lived in outdoor camps and had braved many harsh winters before. Despite this, after a few short weeks these men who had been identified as some of the most vulnerable in Cleveland, began bringing and preparing food together, sharing inside jokes and events in their day like a family over dinner. In the evening some of the men began to draw and paint while others wrote and recited poetry. The staff began to notice that this was unlike any “shelter” they had worked at before - this was something magical. What started as an experiment to mitigate risks turned into a lesson in simplicity. The satellite center created a unique environment where trust and community could be formed and where healing could begin.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that smaller groups and higher staff to guest ratios produce better outcomes (they do, but we’ll get to that later). What we didn’t predict was the impact that a small consistent environment would have on everyone involved.
These men were a group that (self-admittedly) would never have thought to talk to each other in any other circumstance. However, in this environment they shared everything: news articles, strength and hope, survival supplies, tribulations, and life aspirations close to their heart. They kept each other updated and accountable in their individual journeys, encouraging each other to maintain support, keep appointments, attend housing interviews, and apply for work. When guests made progress or accomplished a goal, they were transformed not only into role models for the group, but also became real, concrete symbols of hope and perseverance.
By the end of the winter 4 of the 12 original guests had moved into housing and 11 of the 12 were on the waiting list for housing. 1 of the 12 went to detox at a nearby facility. There were zero incident reports throughout the entire winter (incidents are situations that warrant an incident report, usually a violent act, theft or disrespect of the property). There was zero staff turnover. Every guest at the satellite had a transformative experience. Needless to say, at the end of April, every guest made drastic progress and ended the winter in a much better position than when they started it. We call this Metanoia (noun) - a deep and lasting (often spiritual) reversal in thinking.