After learning about the Bethany House, an emergency shelter that provides transitional housing and support in Rochester, Kristin Mathis pitched an inspirational idea that would launch a decade-long mission to empower women. Upon meeting with a Bethany House volunteer, she discovered that the women who leave there often don’t have the necessary items they need to move into their own homes. Her discovery led her to host a housewarming party to provide essential household supplies which resulted in collecting more items than they could store! She immediately knew she was onto something and in August 2010 she officially started Home Start Hope, an organization that supports women and children in their transition from homelessness to independent living. The organization provides access to new, essential household items in a personal shopping experience that restores hope and self-confidence, building a community in which women can thrive and get back on their feet.
Families end up homeless for several reasons and despite minimal declines in the poverty rate over the last few years, Rochester remains 3rd on the list of the 10 poorest U.S. metropolitan areas which creates a significant issue for many in the community. And unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with homelessness. Once families are able to find suitable and safe housing, they often don’t have the basic supplies they need to start over. This is where Home Start Hope steps in. For the past 12 years, the organization has provided women with a fulfilling shopping experience where they can select essential household items free of charge.
This experience takes place in a beautifully renovated 1930s home just outside of Irondequoit near Empire Boulevard and Culver Road. After storing the items herself for 7 years, Mathis wanted a place where women could go shopping for what they needed. “We used to receive a list of items from the women, and it just felt so impersonal. We didn’t know what they were like or what patterns and colors they would prefer, so we wanted to give them a chance to select things that fit their needs and style.”
The shop is open by appointment only and provides items that are similar to what many women receive at a bridal shower. It is stocked with essentials such as towels, bedding, pots and pans, dishes, baking supplies, laundry baskets, shower curtains and much more. HSH thoughtfully purchases items from stores locally to stock the shelves and provides a private, exclusive shopping experience where women can get what they need.
The impact of Home Start Hope has grown significantly over the past decade, helping more than 500 women and families throughout the community. In addition to the Bethany House, women come to HSH from a variety of places in the community such as the Willow Domestic Violence Center, Catholic Charities Family & Community Services, and the Open Door Mission.