When Talia Matthias pulls up to work each morning at The Maslow Project, she knows she will see the same need written on many different faces. The Maslow Project provides services for homeless children and youth. Their motto: "Looking for a hand up, not just a handout?"
The tiny office Talia shares with her colleagues seems cool and quiet at first. A sign adorning the wall lists "Colin Powell's Rules."
"You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours."
"Remain calm. Be kind. Have a vision. Be demanding. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers."
At 11 a.m., a teenager arrives hoisting a basket of laundry and signs in before starting her first wash load. Then she and Talia sit in the family lobby, where two black leather couches and a coffee table provide a cozy place to catch up. The pregnant young visitor eyes blue plastic tubs filled with granola bars and CapriSuns as Talia checks on her needs and resources.
A young father bursts in and asks whether there are any diapers. Ally Kimberling, a co-worker, surveys the dwindling supply but manages to furnish him enough for one day. They schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the plans and goals he has set in motion.
Talia and Ally make a list of what they're running low on: diapers, water bottles, microwaveable meals and snacks. Later in the day Ally will go to Costco to buy the food. She puts in a request to The Soroptimist Club for diapers.
Drew Fitzpatrick, another co-worker, then goes out into the community as part of the outreach team. He will stop at the community garden on the corner of North Ivy and West Fifth streets. Mary Ferrell, the program director, meets with a man who wants to make a generous donation of new books.
The lobby fills up with more young men and women, some with small children. Talia and Ally help them find solutions to their day-to-day struggles. A teenager needs a birth certificate in order to get work. A family of three needs help squeezing more out of their budget. Talia and Ally determine a way these clients can discontinue paying $200 a month in rental costs for a bed and a washer/dryer. They issue them a voucher to use at The Salvation Army for both.
Next they'll dispense bags containing shampoo, lotion, soap and deodorant, along with solid guidance about keeping appointments with The Job Council or Rogue Community College.
One young man comes in to say hello and thank everyone. After completing his high-school equivalency, he is starting a landscaping business. Talia asks him to fill out a survey evaluating the services The Maslow Project offers. Later in the day, Talia reads aloud from some of the surveys to Ally, Drew and Mary.
"You saved me from being homeless."
"You make me feel like I have hope when I'm there."
The Maslow Project, a program of the Medford School District, combines the efforts of several community agencies in the Jackson County area, including Kids Unlimited, Community Works and the United Way of Jackson County.
The project's name comes from Abraham Maslow's famous "hierarchy of needs," which says that for people to reach their full potential and be successful in life, they must have their basic needs met first: food, water, shelter and clothing. Once emergency needs are addressed, The Maslow Project can begin to connect youth with additional help, such as education, counseling, mentoring, tutoring and job skills.
A young mother, an embodiment of the philosophy's wisdom, walks into the lobby to announce she has found a job. Two years ago, she was homeless and in an abusive relationship. Thanks to The Maslow Project, she found an apartment, enrolled her children in Kids Unlimited's summer academy and starts work Monday.
The teenage girl who came in to do laundry summed it up.
"I don't know what I would've done without this place. When you come here for help, they don't make you feel bad; they just help you."