The Road Home
Kristin Rucinski (l-r) and Taquisha Jordan give shelter to the
homeless through The Road Home.
worked through having a roommate, which led to my situation. We had a big apartment and then the roommate left. I was left with the
rent and the bills. It was way out of my league at the time because I didn’t expect to be paying all of that by myself. I was stuck in the
lease unable to break it. It was just a mess.”
Jordan could have been condemned to a life of chronic homelessness, but then The Road Home offered Jordan a hand and Jordan was
able to stabilize her situation. She is no longer homeless and is now working for The Road Home, formerly known as the Interfaith
“I’m on my feet now,” Jordan proudly declared. “My daughter is going to the same school. She is in her second year of high school. It
took a lot of stress off of her as well. She was able to focus on school. Overall, it changed our lives and we were able to have some
closure and peace without worrying where we were going to sleep the next day or what was going to happen.”
The Road Home, located at 128 E. Olin Avenue, has a three-pronged strategy in combating homelessness. The first is to give shelter to
families through a network of 53 faith communities located in the Madison area. During the day, members of the families go to school or
work or can stay at The Road Home. At night, they stay at one of the participating faith communities.
“We have about 1,800 volunteers who literally operate our shelters,” said Kristin Rucinski, The Road Home’s executive director. “It’s
amazing. They provide three meals a day. They provide evening activities for children. They have two people spend the night just to
have a presence there. They are absolutely incredible. Families stay at one congregation for a week at a time. They all go together. We
have 14 different host sites where they are actually sleeping. They are in churches and synagogues. And each host gets 2-3 buddy
congregations to help provide the support. So there are more volunteers to help with the meals and the activities. If the congregation is
not on a bus line, but someone is working, then we need a volunteer to go pick up that family from their job and bring them back to the
congregation for the night. So there are many, many opportunities for volunteers. So the host has a couple of buddies and they are
responsible for that week. It is really a well-oiled machine. It’s amazing how everyone comes together for the same purpose.”
A second feature of their strategy is to assist homeless families rehabilitate their credit rating so that someday, they may be able to get
an apartment on their own.
“For our transitional housing, our biggest program is called Second Chance Apartment Project,” Rucinski said. “It’s sometimes
sponsored by the faith communities and sometimes businesses and sometimes individuals and families. This is probably my favorite
program that we have. It’s a two-year program. Transitional housing always has to be 24 months or less. The rent is paid for by a
sponsor. But it isn’t a free ride. The family has to pay 30 percent of their income for rent. That is what is considered to be affordable. They
get in the habit of paying each month. But instead of that rent going to a landlord, all of the money they pay goes toward repairing their
credit, to pay past landlords or past utility bills so that by the end of the two years, they have actually improved their situation. They’ve
cleaned up their credit and they’ve had two years of stable housing. They are much more attractive to landlords. They are much more
willing to take them after all of that progress. The challenge of that program is the number of families in it directly correlates to how many
sponsors we have. So if we only have six sponsors that are doing this, we only have six families in that program. We are always
looking for people who would be a sponsor. It’s a huge commitment. It’s about $10,000 per year, so for two years, it is $20,000. We’ve
been seeing people teaming together more where two congregations come together. I think that will keep happening. These sites are
scattered throughout Dane County.”
A third facet is the 30 units that The Road Home owns, 15 at Vera Court and 15 at Balsam Road. Families can stay in these units until
their children are 18-years-old and they uphold the terms of their lease.
“One reason that we wanted to own our own buildings is so that we can take those perceived risks on families that other landlords
wouldn’t take because they have an eviction or bad credit and not a lot of income,” Rucinski said. “The cool thing is we own the
buildings and we have an on-site case manager there. But we aren’t landlords and don’t want to be landlords. I couldn’t do that because
I am too easy. I wouldn’t ever evict anyone. So we partner with Meridian Group. Our staff can work on that relationship with the family
and not be hounding them for money. Meridian does the property maintenance, collect the rent and give notices, if needed. They do what
they are good at and we do what we are good at. It’s a good partnership.”
The Road Home is always in need of assistance, from volunteering at the shelters, to helping out behind the scenes with doing laundry
and cooking meals to helping move the families’ possessions from one shelter to the next. And of course financial donations are always
welcome to help fund their Second Chance Apartments.
You can become that helping hand that reaches down to help a homeless family get back on its feet.
For further information, contact Kristin Rucinski at 294-7998.
By Jonathan Gramling
While the homeless are often viewed as single adults with most
having mental health or substance abuse issues, increasingly the
face of homelessness is the face of families. Due to life
circumstances, perhaps the loss of a job or a health crisis, the bread
winner — and their dependents — can no longer afford the rent and
are forced to live with relatives, friends or even complete strangers
while they try to catch up. Some even end up living in cars or on the
streets with their children.
“I had a family member pass away and I was travelling back and forth
trying to be there,” said Taquisha Jordan. “And then I was trying to
uphold previous agreements to pay my bills as well as a newer
agreement that I had. Everything just kind of fell through and it put me
behind and in the situation where I was losing my place. A lot of stuff
was happening. I was trying to go to school and maintain a job. I