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.
Like many non-profits, volunteers and fundraisers are the lifeblood of Home Street Hope. Volunteers can sign up to help women with their appointments, to shop and stock the shelves, or to help organize and host events throughout the year.
This year, the organization is hosting its inaugural luncheon, Tablescapes 2022: Bring Love to the Table on May 1st at Locust Hill Country Club. This event is a unique opportunity that invites interior designers, event planners, florists, and gift boutique owners to design creative table settings for an exclusive experience. Tablescapes 2022 will also include a variety of other fun activities.
Home Start Hope helps women make an important transition at a critical moment in their lives. They are there to support them with what they need to get back on their feet, renew their self-confidence and give them hope about the future. This is often a pivotal time in these women’s lives that helps empower them to rebuild, regardless of their circumstances. In the future, Mathis hopes to make an even bigger impact on fighting poverty in Rochester to really move the needle for families in need. Safe and reliable housing for women continues to be an issue in the community, and giving families the financial independence and skills to succeed continues to be a focus for Mathis and the entire Home Start Hope organization.
“It’s hard to capture in just a few sentences what these women have had to deal with,” said Mathis. “We can’t even begin to imagine what their lives have been like. If we can provide even just a moment of happiness amidst all the trauma and stress they live with, we will give them everything we can.”
Bethany House, Willow Domestic Violence Center, Catholic Family Center or Catholic Charities
Family and Community Services
Open Door Mission, Providence Housing, Family Promise of Greater Rochester
Volunteer to help women shop or assist with events throughout the year, be a sponsor or table designer for Tablescapes 2022, spread the word about the great work
being done by Home Street Hope.