Life-skills class helps families get lives back on track

Joanell Greubel, right, hugs one of the students in a life-skills class she teaches to mothers at the Salvation Army's Family Lodge, a residential program created to help homeless families get their lives back on track. It's a self-sufficiency program Greubel helped create after a successful career developing similar programs helping at-risk teens and single-mom families in California. "You try to do as much as you can, to teach as much as you can," says Greubel, "if there's a way to help, then you help!" Joanell defines homelessness as a bottom-line, a symptom, "Everybody has their own story and set of circumstances that lead them here. Sometimes a flat tire is enough to set families back just enough where everything starts to snowball." Without a close network of friends or family that can offer help, they can easily lose a home or apartment and wind up on the street, or moving from place to place until there's no where left to go. That's where Greubel and her staff step in. They plant a seed, instilling hope where there is no hope while preaching faith in God and belief in self. It's a simple formula with a complicated reality, and every day at the Family Lodge brings a new set of problems to be overcome, and new lessons to be learned. "You have to know them, you have to be in the trenches. When you're in the trenches you have a whole different viewpoint of everything," says Greubel. For the mission-oriented staff at the Salvation Army, down to the volunteers who donate their time tutoring children or teaching skills to moms at the lodge, it's hard work. But the rewards are priceless, whether they're measured in small or large increments: the quiet smiles of a dozen children at snack-time, or a mom who met with success while out job hunting -- itself no small task, considering the potential for employers to view an address at a family shelter as a liability. "It's definitely my season to be here, " says Joanell.