Written by Phil Cerroni
Thanks to the support of the city, the school district and the community, The Main Place was founded in 2009 as a distribution center of new clothing for homeless teens. Due to the economic downturn and the increase in need, we have expanded to provide gently worn clothing to individuals and families on the brink of homelessness. Throughout 2012, we received over 300 referrals from IISD, Winfree Charter School, the YMCA, Family Promise, Irving Cares, Housing & Human Services, IPD – Victim Services, and many other agencies.
We supply input and instruction in modesty and style. Volunteers act as “image consultants” and provide trendy, age appropriate, well fitting clothing. Our goal is to raise their self esteem by pointing out their best features and outfitting them from head to toe – including proper foundation garments and jewelry for the girls. We provide clothing for school, work, job interviews, church, graduation and prom, as well as hygiene products, pillows, and blankets. The Main Place is a “retail store without a cash register” - allowing the students to shop at no cost.
Not knowing what to expect, the kids often come to The Main Place with their heads down; but they leave with bags full of clothing and big smiles on their faces. We make it fun for them. One girl recently wrote in her thank you note, “I couldn’t think of anything that you could possibly have that I could want, but when I walked into the room I couldn’t believe what you had! I’m thankful for what you did for me and excited to wear my new clothes!”
Senior boys receive a new suit (regular or European cut depending on build), two dress shirts and as many as four complementary ties. This assortment provides them with the light colored shirt required for graduation and a myriad of combinations suitable for prom, church, job interviews and social functions. Underwear, belt, socks and shoes are provided if needed. We are thrilled by the guys admiring themselves in the full length mirror saying “I didn’t know I was this good looking.”
Senior girls receive a prom dress, evening shoes, bag, matching jewelry and, if needed, a strapless bra. Makeup is available as well. Because there are so many senior activities, we also provide career clothing and semi-formal attire. We ask what size they think they are and what color they prefer. We ask them to think outside the box, try on the recommended item and model it for us. We always tell them that if they can zip it or button it up we want to see it. This enables the image consultants to point out and emphasize the teens’ best features.
This year we were responsible for the Christmas wish lists of 90 students. We also gave toys and presents to dozens more of their babies, families and siblings. The third annual gift distribution party at The Main Place was replete with homemade cookies, cakes, hot cocoa, Starbucks and Santa Claus.
Trendy new clothing alleviates some of the homeless teen’s financial stress and helps them fit in at school. It gives them one less thing to worry about - enabling them to concentrate on their studies. The Main Place’s individualized personal approach helps raise their self esteem. We let them know that there are caring adults who are proud of their determination to stay in school and thereby break the cycle of despair and dispassion.
As of December, 2012 over 800 children in Irving schools have been identified as homeless. The definition of homeless includes: living in a shelter (not in Irving – because we don’t have a shelter for humans), living in a motel, couch surfing in friends’ homes, paying a lady for a room, doubling up –multiple families in a single family residence, etc. Only one in four homeless teenagers graduates from high school.
We all are commanded to serve – if they are homeless, shelter them; if they are hungry, feed them; if they are naked, clothe them.
For more information, contact Sharon E Johnston, Founder & Director of The Main Place at 214-202-0225 or TheMainPlaceIrving.org (a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization.
Source: The Main Place