Detroit Shelter Uses New Digital Learning Lab

Kids and adults learn new skills and take control of their futures

The Salvation Army Harbor Light/Booth Family Shelter in Detroit, MI recently had the opportunity to provide the Digital Learning Program, which The Salvation Army launched in March in association with Everfi, Inc., and Target. The Booth Family Shelter is a 90-day emergency program for women and children that assists families in obtaining permanent housing; it is the first shelter in Michigan to launch the Digital Learning Program.

The Salvation Army launched its Digital Learning Program in March to empower youth and communities with critical life skills in areas such as financial literacy, digital preparedness, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) readiness, health and wellness and diversity and inclusion. Developed in partnership with the retail firm Target, which has a strong commitment to supporting communities, and with the education technology company EverFi, the online program offers engaging, dynamic and interactive content. Through a grant provided by Target, The Salvation Army added more than 1,700 new computers and accessibility upgrades to allow as many children as possible to access the program.

The program includes eight different courses for kids in grades K-12. All learning courses contain guided activities, interactive gaming simulations and content with real-world applications.

According to The National Coalition for the Homeless, “Homeless families move frequently due to limits on length of shelter stays … The high mobility associated with homelessness has severe educational consequences.” Children that experience multiple episodes of homelessness tend to demonstrate poor academic achievement because they are in a constant state of uncertainty and fear about where they will be forced to move to next. Despite this ever-present stress, the children and families served by the Shelter are very resilient in the face of adversity—the children are still able to smile. 

Any time homeless youth can get some respite from the hard reality of their daily lives, it is very beneficial to their emotional well-being. The Booth Family Shelter tries to provide this time of rest with programming that helps create a since of normalcy for homeless families. When the opportunity arose for the shelter to incorporate the Digital Learning Program, it was clear that the program fit well into the shelter's work. The shelter also offers Women’s Ministry with character building activities for young people, an on-site playground, a Strengthening Families Group and a Serve Safe classes for parents looking for work at restaurants. Soon a Head Start program will be added in partnership with Southwest Solutions.

The shelter's programs offer lasting benefits by educating children to take responsibility for their futures. Brothers David, age nine, and Davian, age ten, recently entered the shelter with their pregnant mother and three younger siblings. Both, David and Davian have had behavioral issues in school and their lives had not prepared them to make good choices with money. Through the shelter, they were introduced to Vault, a program specifically designed to instill financial responsibility at a young age. David and Davian not only completed the Vault course, but as partners successfully completed the highest number of modules in the class. “I learned that I should save my money and how to save money," David says. I get my needs first then my wants, a budget is important. I can teach my family so they can know."

Vault has also helped David and Davian work on behavioral issues by offering material that engaged them in ways school had not. "The children were so well behaved in every class," said the Vault course leader, Ms. Fisher. “Are you this well behaved in school?” She asks the boys, playfully. “No,” they answered, honestly. Ms. Fisher told the boys that she was sure they would be more able to control their behavior in school because their success in her class proved they could do it. The boys agreed.

The Digital Learning Lab also provided new computers to the Booth Family Shelter, which are used for an adult computer class where shelter residents can perform job and housing searches weekly while taking part in an adult financial literacy module provided by Everfi.

Women and Children's Integrative Services Administrator

The Salvation Army Harbor Light/Booth Family Shelter


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