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New area nonprofit facility practices unique assistance model for women

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    Lori Houck, executive director of the Boerne area’s newest nonprofit Transformation House, oversees a recent social enterprise pop-up market. Star photo by Elena Tucker

Open for just a few months, Transformation House is one of the region’s newest nonprofits – a social service agency that aims to provide longer-term assistance than emergency shelters are able to offer.

As a “transitional” agency, Transformation House bridges the gap between the urgent needs of an individual who’s fled an abusive situation and her ultimate ability to live freely and autonomously.

Of course, such transitions can take time.

“Our mission is to provide a safe space and time for survivors to make substantial progress in their healing and in rebuilding their lives, helping them to transition from homeless to independence,” Founder and Executive Director Lori Houck said.

Houck – whose background intertwines business, marketing, social services, management, finance and entrepreneurship – believes strongly in the inner strengths gained from self-sufficiency.

However, Houck also said she knows this kind of stability for a mother who is having to build her life from scratch can take months if not years

Thus, among Transformation House’s many unique qualities is its emphasis on social enterprise.

“We’ve learned that for a single mom, even with full-time employment, it can be challenging to make ends meet,” Houck said. “A typical second job working evenings and weekends requires the extra expense of childcare and the burden of missing time with the kids. So, we’re working on options that can allow moms to work from home at times that are convenient to their schedule.”

That’s where social enterprise comes into play. It aims for self-sufficiency – in the case of Transformation House, allowing women to supplement their incomes through the making of high-quality hand-crafted items sold in a here-today-gone-tomorrow shop concept.

“Social enterprise is a relatively new concept, but not a new practice,” Houck said. “Social enterprise is a market-driven solution to a social issue.”

Houck said Goodwill Industries is one of the best-known examples of a social enterprise endeavor, albeit on a huge scale.

“Goodwill offers training and employment while also generating revenue,” Houck said, adding that Transformation House is building its own version of the concept.

“Our version of social enterprise is a pop-up market where we set up for a few hours to sell items that our residents have made,” Houck said of the jewelry, planters, inspirational signs and other items sold by Transformation House clients.

“We provide the materials and when an item sells, we return the profit to the resident who made it.”

Houck said that having researched several social enterprise ventures around the country, she has been particularly taken with one a short drive from Boerne, saying she “loved” Austin’s Community First Village program,

As the school year ended, Transformation House staged a pop-up market in the teacher lounge of BISD school. Houck hopes to see similar pop-ups happen in church foyers, at civic club gatherings and at conferences.

“So far it’s providing a small supplemental income for our families,” Houck said, “and we’re working on lining up more venues so that we can have regular pop-ups.”

“We like the idea that our residents will receive the profits of their work directly, rather than the proceeds going back toward our overhead,” Houck said.

“It’s very gratifying for our residents to be compensated directly for their hard work. This model also offers a way for the public to support our residents while hopefully also acquiring some products they love.”