Grantee Develops Big Data For Big Change

In March 2016, Amy was at the lowest point of her life. Recently released from Sierra Vista Mental Health center after attempting suicide, she knew she needed something different to break her 15-year cycle of addiction.

“I just couldn’t go to another recovery home,” she remembers. “I thought: this is it for me.” And that’s when an online search brought up Saint John’s Program for Real Change (Sacramento, California). And her new life began.

Founded in 1985, Saint John’s has evolved from an emergency shelter into a comprehensive 18-month residential continuum of care program. Its holistic approach includes improved daily living conditions, education, drug and alcohol counseling, social support networks, and mental and physical health services – all leading to employability and self-sustainability.

In early 2016, Wheat Ridge Ministries awarded Saint John’s a $40,000 grant to implement a cutting-edge tracking and evaluation system to support their work. Historically, they have relied on the County data tracking system and in-house spreadsheets to record their clients’ journeys. Saint John’s CEO Michele Steeb anticipates a system that will track everything they do and streamline data recovery.

“It currently takes us about 180 manual hours to pull our year-end data together because we’re pulling from different sources and systems,” she says, adding that the new system will create a comprehensive reporting tool for donors and tighten internal accountability for important client benchmarks and program efficiencies.

During Amy’s first visit to the Saint John’s website, she saw questions just for her, including Can you take an honest look at your life and your choices and decide that something needs to change once and for all? And Amy said yes.

“The main thing that has struck me over the last few months is that it’s not addiction—it’s everything,” she says. “When I went to other recovery homes, they mostly dealt with addiction. That didn’t work for me, because every time I failed. Addiction is only one piece of the puzzle, and Saint John’s deals with all of the puzzle pieces.”

Although programs range from 12 to 18 months, Steeb says programs are adjusted for each client depending on what she is trying to overcome. “Our guiding principle is that every day these women need to be working harder on themselves than we are working on them,” she says. “That doesn’t mean we don’t help women up if they fall down. But if we see a greater effort on our part, it’s not going to work.” It’s a principle that highlights the necessity of capturing the nuances of every client’s story.

Steeb notes that Wheat Ridge’s grant process was unique in that it allowed for conversation and clarification of the application itself. “It’s always challenging to put into writing something that can be very emotional and complex, and the Wheat Ridge staff was very helpful to us during our discussions,” she says. “I’ve never had that happen before with a grantor.”

In addition to their work with the California legislature to create programs like Saint John’s across California, Michele hope to replicate the tracking system (Big Data for Big Change) for organizations working with the growing numbers of homeless women and children around the country. “Our goal is not to keep Saint John’s for Sacramento, but to help other entities create this model for their communities,” she says. And for women like Amy, who is grateful she found Saint John’s when she did.

“On March 1, I had no hope. Now I know I have hope and a future,” Amy says. “I wouldn’t be feeling this way if it weren’t for Saint John’s. They are giving me another opportunity at my life.”

Your financial and spiritual support allows women like Amy to live the life God intended for them. And because of your generosity, organizations like Saint John’s will create replicable systems and processes to benefit women and children across the country. Thank you.

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