Solid Ground Helps Families in Need

Local organization helps families find homes and builds strong foundations for the future.
Top row: Mary Chung, Jazi Forman, Sandy Deutsch and Pa Her. Bottom row: Trisha Kauffman, Kerry Paavala and baby Bailey, and Rachel Newman.

The holiday season is a time for kindness, and is often the inspiration for a selfless outpouring of generosity and charitable donations. At Solid Ground, formerly the East Metro Women’s Council, that generosity helps prevent homelessness year-round for families with children through housing, resources and opportunity; when families have a safe, affordable place to call home and parents and children are engaged in school, work and their community, they can realize their goals and share in the joyful experiences of the holiday season. “Solid Ground is a great example of what happens when people get together,” says executive director Trisha Cummins Kauffman.

The organization was founded in 1989 by a group of women in suburban Ramsey and Washington counties, who were on a mission to help low-income mothers. Their efforts, and the efforts of many others since, have brought about East Metro Place and East Metro Place II, a 34-unit complex in White Bear Lake that provides housing and supportive programs to families experiencing homelessness.

In 2013, East Metro Women’s Council changed its name to Solid Ground to better reflect its efforts helping all family structures build a strong foundation for their future. Continually responsive to community needs, Solid Ground has grown from serving 50 to 60 families per year to five times that number today; referrals come from homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, social services and schools. East Metro Place provides 20 units of transitional housing, and East Metro Place II offers 14 units of permanent housing for adults with disabilities and people suffering long-term homelessness or significant, complex barriers to employment and housing. With Home Again, those employed or with a recent employment history, are offered scattered housing throughout Washington County, and HomeSafe, provides assistance so families can move quickly from shelters to stable housing.

Carri Paavala was pregnant and homeless when she connected with Solid Ground through Mothers First, a recovery program for expectant and parenting mothers. “Solid Ground helped me get back on my feet,” says Paavala. “They found housing for me and provided a good support system that changed my outlook on life and gave me hope.”

In addition to housing, Solid Ground assists clients with education and employment. “Some people only need coaching about how to present themselves well during a job interview,” Kauffman says. “Or they need money to take a class or complete a certification. Others have little or no work history and must learn the value of work and gain self-confidence.”

A full-time employment and education coordinator helps clients discover their talents and interests and move toward a longer-term career path. “One family recently left our program after the mom received her GED,” says Kauffman. “This mom was the first ever in her family to graduate and gave a touching speech at the graduation ceremony. These are the sorts of accomplishments we encourage and celebrate.”

Solid Ground’s accomplishments are made possible by the efforts of 14 full-time staff members and more than 800 volunteers. Mary Jo Deters has volunteered with Solid Ground for eight years. “I’m really impressed with Solid Ground’s success in helping families become self-sufficient,” says Deters. “It’s an honor to work alongside exceptional people who are committed to what they’re doing.”

Still, Solid Ground turns away thousands of people each year due to insufficient resources. Those interested in helping can volunteer, sponsor a family, or donate to Solid Ground through their Home for the Holidays Program, where participating businesses display paper houses in their shop windows for every $1 donated in store to Solid Ground.

“A big part of our annual giving happens during the holidays,” says Kauffman. “We hope people will recognize our name change and make Solid Ground a part of their year-end generosity.”