Champions in Action: Rhode Island Family Shelter

Rhode Island Family Shelter receives a check for $35,000 for being named a Champion in Action.

Johanna Koundrakas is getting settled into her new three-bedroom apartment at Rhode Island Family Shelter.

"It's home. I'm happy to have my own stove to cook, see my kids in the morning in their own space. It's a wonderful feeling," Koundrakas said.

For Koundrakas and her family, it's about more than a roof over their heads. She's getting the help she needs toward her eventual goal to find housing.

"They help me with school for the children and setting them up with transportation. When housing becomes open they let me know about it," Koundrakas said.

Koundrakas is in one of seven permanent supportive housing apartments on the second floor at Rhode Island Family Shelter. On the first floor they have nine family bedrooms.

What started as an emergency shelter 27 years ago has grown into so much more. Now it provides people support and services they need to get back on their feet.

"While they're here, they're able to get some employment. They're able coordinate day care so that they can search for jobs," executive director Patti Macreading said.

There's mandatory savings, and other parts of the program that enrich the lives of families while they're here.

"Special guests come in. They'll do parenting class or they'll do an art class," Macreading said.

Frencis Velasquez is now in supportive housing in North Kingstown thanks to Rhode Island Family Shelter.

"They actually care for you. They want to know more about you and about the kids," Velasquez said. "Helped me with housing application, DHS, everything."

Others have gone on to their own apartment, like Sean Hawley and Courtney Vallante.

"He could go to work every day, I could look for housing, fill out applications," Vallante said.

Staying at the family shelter allowed them to save enough money for a two-bedroom apartment, where they now live with their three girls.

"I'm grateful for places like this for people like us. It got our children all together," Hawley said.

Making a difference in so many lives, it's why Rhode Island Family Shelter was named a Champion in Action.

The organization is strengthening communities by supporting families and giving them hope for a better tomorrow.

"I'm happy right now that I've come this far, just very thankful," Koundrakas said.

Rhode Island Family Shelter receives a check for $35,000, along with volunteer and promotional support.

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