Helping Single Mothers on the Brink

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As you drive through your town, do you see people you assume are homeless — a man, whose hair and clothes beg for a wash, walking with a backpack? A disheveled looking woman pushing a cart? What about the young woman working at your child or grandchild’s daycare facility? Or the fast-food-chain employee? They may also be homeless or teetering on the edge of homelessness. In communities throughout the United States and the world, there are thousands of people who because of low income, limited job opportunities, mental health issues or a series of ill-timed minor events find themselves homeless.

One of the fastest growing homeless populations is families with children. And most homeless families are led by single mothers, who, because of their gender, are likely to receive less pay than their male counterparts. That’s why Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services (PCHAS) created its Single Parent Family Program. The program helps single mothers who are facing homelessness due to poverty, spousal abuse, abandonment or other crises.

PCHAS gives these women a chance to become strong and self-sufficient. The program offers safe, affordable transitional housing, emotional and spiritual support from caring social workers, educational and vocational guidance, money management training and other life skills training including parenting, wellness and nutrition classes.

Support with Dignity and Love

A “graduate” of the Single Parent Family Program said, “I worked at a daycare facility, but the wages were too low for me to be able to provide for myself and my two children. I didn’t have savings to fall back on. That’s when I heard about PCHAS. If not for the Single Parent Family Pro- gram, I would probably be living in my car. If I hadn’t been rescued, I would have lost my job and perhaps my beautiful daughter, too. I am grateful to PCHAS for giving me a safe place to live and for treating me with dignity.”

Women participating in the Single Parent Family Program typically stay from 9 to 15 months as they work toward achieving personal goals and sustainable independence. Case managers help clients identify their own goals rather than setting goals for them. “At PCHAS, we believe that children and families deserve to have their voices heard. Our job is to help them identify their goals, the challenges they face and their strengths. We then walk beside them, listening carefully and patiently, and supporting them throughout this process,” Ed Knight, PCHAS president and CEO, says.

PCHAS offers its Single Parent Family Program in Houston, San Antonio, Weatherford and Waxahachie, Texas. In Houston, the pro- gram is housed on a large campus, complete with individual homes for each of the seven single moms and their children. More than a dozen Presbyterian churches joined together to build the campus, adjacent to St. John’s Presbyterian Church. St. John’s Presbyterian Church jumped at the chance to help and offered PCHAS a 50 year lease for $50. A member of the St. John’s congregation, Mary Plail, serves as the program’s assistant coordinator of volunteers.

More than 200 Presbyterians and guests gathered in November 2014 to celebrate the dedication of the Houston campus and program. “It is amazing what God can do when Christians come together,” said Beth Flowers, a PCHAS volunteer and supporter. “PCHAS is deeply grateful to the churches, foundations and individuals who chose to support this project and continue to keep it in their daily prayers.”

 

by Margaret Barry