Story by Mary Martin. Photos by Jan Osborn.
Sitting at the front of the 25-acre Juliette Fowler property in East Dallas is The Ebby House, a home for young women who have aged out of the foster care system and need a safe place to land. As the newest program in one of Dallas’ oldest nonprofit organizations, The Ebby House is continuing the century’s-long tradition of intergenerational living and creating a supportive community for vulnerable populations.
Lisa Mumford serves as Program Director at The Ebby House. As she entered the second act of her career, Lisa made the big decision to go back to school and complete her bachelor’s degree in counseling. “Even after raising boys and helping with my granddaughter, I have something to give,” Lisa shares. When she finished her degree, she immediately took a position at the new Ebby House, first as Site Manager, living in the house with the girls, and then moved into the role of Program Director. “These young women began their lives in trauma,” says Lisa. “We are working to meet their primary needs first – food, clothing and a safe home. Then we can work on issues of identity, education, employment, and mentoring.”
The Ebby House now has space for seven long-term residents who are welcome to stay for up to two years. Two extra beds are reserved for emergency shelter needs, specifically for girls who have come out of a human trafficking situation. Each of the young women has their own decorated bedroom, as well as common areas like the library and computer room, a large kitchen, and living areas. “Typically when a young woman first comes home to The Ebby House, she sleeps for about a week,” explains Lisa. “Then after that first week, we begin working toward program goals, like ensuring that each girl has five people in her safety net.” That intentional focus on people connection is a unique benefit to The Ebby House and its location in the Juliette Fowler Community.
Juliette Peak Fowler was Dallas’ first philanthropist—a young woman who was passionate about caring for widows and orphaned children. Though she died before seeing her dream become reality, her will specified that $4,500 and 15 acres of land be used to create a home for the elderly and children who had no family to care for them. Her sister, Sarah Peak Harwood chartered “The Juliette Fowler Home for Children and the Aged” in 1892 and the focus on intergenerational living has continued to this day. “Too many people confuse aging with isolation,” shares Nicole Gann, President and CEO at Juliette Fowler Communities. Nicole’s team serves seniors through affordable housing, assisted living, and memory care as well as providing housing for young disabled people. Altogether with the girls at The Ebby House, the Juliette Fowler community is making positive steps toward removing loneliness from the equation.
“Our goal is to extend life in a more meaningful way,” says Nicole. “We have created a small town, not a facility. There is a sense of being known that allows our residents to be present in the moment and present in connection.” Older residents participate in activities with their younger neighbors, learning from each other and building new friendships. “Our intention is to have purpose in our assistance,” Nicole explains. “It is better for everyone when they are together, whether they have a fear of losing independence, or if they are rebuilding trust in a community system after experiencing trauma. We are fighting ageism along with perceptions about youth.”
Alongside community, the young women at The Ebby House are given the educational support they need to take their next steps toward an independent life and thriving career. The girls are able to work on the Juliette Fowler campus in order to gain experience and meet with a volunteer mentor throughout their stay. Each young woman is also given regular counseling appointments in order to strengthen emotional intelligence, learn to work through interpersonal conflict, and work through difficult situations.
The team at Juliette Fowler is not only serving young people who are aging out of the foster care system, but also supporting current foster families with much needed community and resources. Working closely with Presbyterian Children’s Home and Services, Juliette Fowler is working to create more safe and nurturing homes for children.
“As we age, we tend to forget the richness of childlike wonder,” says Nicole. “So we ask our residents, ‘What is the kind of life you want to have?’” For the young women at Ebby House and the seniors who call The Juliette Fowler Community home, there is a rich life of learning from young and old alike—sharing wisdom that comes with years and the wonder that comes with a fresh outlook on the future.
The Ebby House is always open to new volunteers who can participate in everything from mentoring and education to grocery shopping and special events. You can get involved by joining the One Heart Society as a supporter of this important effort to end youth homelessness and incarceration.
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