Rochester Business Journal July 7, 2020
YWCA to Take Over Sojourner Programs
The YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County is in the final stages of absorbing many of the services of Sojourner Home, a nonprofit that has provided homeless women and children with housing, self-sufficiency skills, and education programs for more than four decades.
“This is a terrific opportunity to enhance and expand the services that we can offer to our community’s most vulnerable women and children,” said YWCA CEO Angela Panzarella. “We believe that our mission aligns very well with that of Sojourner and we’re honored that Sojourner is working to partner with us to carry on its legacy.”
Under the proposal, YWCA will assume certain of Sojourners’ permanent housing programs and enhance YWCA’s current programs to carry on Sojourner’s legacy of providing intensive training and support as an essential element in helping women and families recover from trauma and rebuild their lives. YWCA plans to dedicate its emergency housing program for women and families as the “Sojourner House of Strength at the YWCA.”
The partnership with the YWCA is a key element of a comprehensive plan by Sojourner Home to realign its resources and services to better serve the Rochester community.
Since 2009, Sojourner Home has been affiliated with PathStone Corp., a Rochester-based not-for-profit community development and human service organization. Four years ago, PathStone brought Sojourner’s programs and services together with those of Wilson Commencement Park, which shared Sojourner’s mission of serving women and families in the Rochester community, under a new organization, Sojourner Home. Now that Sojourner Home is again an independent organization, Wilson Commencement Park will continue to operate as an affiliate of PathStone.
“From Sojourner’s perspective this is something that we started looking at last summer in our affiliation with PathStone and our future,” said Sojourner board Chair Shelby Stenson. “The mission of both organizations are so well aligned it makes sense, and we’re just fortunate that the YWCA can help us continue on with the Sojourner legacy.”
Under the plan, Sojourner Home will close its Millbank Street location and is working with the city to determine the best use for that property. Proceeds from the sale of the property will be added to Sojourner’s endowment fund to enhance the programming offered at the YWCA. Sojourner Home had 10 to 15 staffers that either moved to other positions within PathStone or at other organizations, Stenson said.
“We and the board of Sojourner Home looked at many options to make sure the services offered by Sojourner could be maintained and expanded,” said PathStone CEO Alex Castro. “The YWCA was an obvious partner who could support these critical needs of women and children, and who could evolve the services offered as well.”
With Sojourner under its umbrella, the YWCA will be able to help an additional 100 families, Panzarella said.
“What we’re exploring with them when we can finalize all the pieces will be an opportunity for us to expand our portfolio of services, and with some of the resources that Sojourner can provide from their endowments and the like, we also have the opportunity to enhance some of the skills training, some of the children’s programs, some other services we hope to be able to expand and enhance for our clients,” she said. “Throughout the community, we serve at any one time probably a few hundred families in the Rochester community, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to expand our portfolio and to bring some additional services to our clients.”
During Sojourner’s 40 years in Rochester, more than 2,700 families have been served, making it one of the most impactful and longest-running poverty interruption and women/children support programs in Rochester. Its mission and purpose are to give women and families the tools they need to recover from trauma and build stable, self-sufficient lives.
The YWCA helps women and girls who are faced with personal crises, including experiencing homelessness and young adult pregnancy. It also works to dispel stereotypes and promote racial equity. The organization has served the needs of the Rochester community for nearly 140 years.
“This is a strong example of local nonprofits playing to their strengths and ensuring the mission is at the center of decision-making,” says Jaime Saunders, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester Inc., an organization that supports a broad network of human service organizations. “This partnership builds on the foundation of Sojourner and the services at the YWCA to serve women and children. United Way’s Synergy Fund is a key resource to support such thoughtful and strategic partnerships to improve efficiency and better serve their clients and our community.”