The Alex House Project
Stories of Impact
When Samora Coles’ boss at the Red Hook Initiative (RHI) first asked her to create a program for the community’s youth, she had no idea where to start. In 2006, RHI was still new to the neighborhood, and the organization was looking for innovative ways to make a lasting impact. “At the time, I wasn’t sure what the community needed because I was in my own bubble,” Coles said.
But as it turns out, Coles didn’t need to look far from her own experiences for inspiration. As a teen mom herself, Coles knew the unique challenges that come with childcare when resources are scarce. “I just started reaching out to young moms across the borough, in Red Hook, and they just started storming in,” Coles recalled. It was evident that Coles’ work through RHI was addressing a significant need across Brooklyn – so much so that it had the potential to stand on its own. In 2013, The Alex House Project was born, with Coles as its Executive Director.
At the heart of The Alex House Project’s work is a simple yet daunting mission: helping young families transition into parenthood. From providing basic childcare supplies, to helping new parents foster relationships with their children, to hosting education classes on parenting “how to’s,” The Alex House Project supports young families through some of the most important and challenging transitional periods of their lives.
But Coles knows that ensuring family security is a long game. In addition to its more concentrated family services that reach about 125-140 individuals a year, The Alex House Project also has a two-year in-house job training program that parents can opt into after completing their parenting courses. There, they learn everything from Microsoft Suite, to Spanish language skills, to case management. “That means that for two years, you could say as a young person, ‘I have a committed job that supplies income to my family and to my household,’” Coles explained. “For some of these parents, for most of them, this is their first real job.”
Brooklyn Org is really about building community. You're really about building people.Samora Coles, Executive Director
Like many organizations across Brooklyn, the COVID-19 lockdown was a time of extreme challenge for The Alex House Project – but it was also a time of extreme potential. Because bigger organizations had paused their services, many turned to The Alex House Project to provide resources for their clients. “We became like The Little Tugboat That Could,” Coles recalled tenderly.
Support from Brooklyn Org was crucial to The Alex House Project staying afloat during the pandemic. “It was front and center, [asking], ‘Okay, what do you guys need?’ Whatever it was that we needed, they were able to supply,” she explained.
Coles added that BKO’s commitment to its grantee-partners has long been instrumental to The Alex House Project’s success. Whether it’s regular meetings with BKO Program Officers or giving Coles a physical space to “set up shop,” Coles has been touched by BKO’s dedication and generosity. “You’re really about building community. You’re really about building people,” she said.
After a full decade of serving Brooklyn’s young families, Coles has big dreams for The Alex House Project’s next ten years. In addition to ensuring the stability through strategic capacity building, Coles is turning her attention to housing. “With the [name] Alex House, it would be crazy to not actually have a house!” Coles noted.
This goal of growing an even more holistic space for Brooklyn’s young families to thrive in is already on the horizon: “We are two steps away from getting our own space that is going to allow our clients to actually come to us again, to come back home and get that feeling of family, of feeling okay.”