A Church-Based Approach to Ending Family Homelessness

A Bridge of Stories


Shaina’s Story

After I had my son, life became very difficult with him being sick and the relationship with his father failing. I was lost, stuck in a very dark place I didn’t know what to do. I had planned my life as a family but now I found myself being 23 and single with a 9-month-old. I was sad, lonely and very depressed. My family had gotten evicted from our house and we were left homeless with not many options. I felt hopeless as my life was getting darker by the day. I was sleeping on my grandmother’s floor and I was a mother. I felt weak, this isn’t what I had planned.

As most people do when they are down, I looked for support and my cousin helped me out of my dark place. We started looking for programs, that’s when he told me about Bridge of Hope. I called them and that’s the day I took my life back.
A year later and I’ve had such a crazy journey in the Bridge of Hope program. It has changed my life in so many ways, one of them being having my independence and living in my own home. There’s no better feeling then having a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in and calling it your own.

Now as my time ends with Bridge of Hope, I feel confident with leading my own life and making my own decisions. Bridge of Hope gave me my life back. I will for-ever be grateful to Bridge of Hope because they taught me how to believe in myself, they gave me FAITH. Any mother knows how hard life is with having children and when you’re doing it alone the struggle never seems to end. Bridge of Hope took so much stress off my family.

Bridge of Hope became my family and my support system and my backbone and that only happen because I allowed it to too. I opened up, I took advantage of the resources and the opportunities they offered. My life isn’t perfect but I’m very content with where I am. Thank you forever and always!

My Story by Maureen*

After finding out the details of my daughter’s illness, my life took a complete turn for the worst.  I had to give up my full time job which I had just started three months prior.  As a single parent I was living from paycheck to paycheck and now with no income and no savings, I was unable to keep my apartment.  I was devastated.  I had maybe two cousins here in PA who did not even offer my daughter and I shelter.  People who I thought were my friends turned their backs.  It was suggested I go to a shelter but there was no way I was going to stay in a shelter with a child recovering from major surgery.  The only offer I had was from my ex-husband, who said he was doing this for the sake of our daughter and it was just a temporary agreement.

Throughout my time living with my ex I quickly remembered why I left in the first place, only this time it seemed worst.  I endured verbal abuse almost every day and was desperate to leave, it made me extremely sick and depressed to be in that situation.

I had several sources of information which I had received when I was in the hospital with my daughter, one of them which was Bridge of Hope.  I did not know the full details of the program, just felt it was worth a try.  After many prayers and phone calls to Bridge of Hope over a few months, I was finally chosen for the program.

I was able to get a home and fortunately I had some furniture in storage and gradually my health got better.  I was working and had my own space once again.  The rental assistance allowed me to maintain a roof over our heads while I searched a job that was sufficient to meet our needs.  Throughout this journey I was encouraged by trusting in God and the support of my mentor group.

Today I have a wonderful job as an Office Manager, increased faith in God and a positive outlook for the future.  My daughter’s health is stable and she is happier, especially to have her own room for the first time.  I would encourage anyone going through tough times to never give up hope, no matter how bad the situation.  God will make a way.

*Name changed

Florence’s Graduation

On January 12, 2008 one of our participating families, along with her mentors from Christ United Methodist Church in Lansdale, celebrated the end of a 16 month journey to self-sufficiency. Both Florence and her mentors shared food, laughter, tears, reflections on their shared journey and offered wisdom for the future. Florence’s two daughters proudly presented their mother with her graduation certificate. It was certainly a day to commemorate both Florence’s achievements, as well as, her mentors’.

When prompted to share a word to summarize her journey at Bridge of Hope BuxMont, Florence chose the word “rebirth.” Most certainly the external circumstances in Florence’s life had shifted. She began Bridge of Hope BuxMont’s program without a car, without a permanent job and in an apartment too small for her family of three. She is exiting Bridge of Hope’s program driving a car of her own, in a permanent job with benefits and paying her own rent for a two bedroom apartment. But, in choosing to acknowledge her achievements, Florence came to describe her internal transformation as the most valuable gift of her 16 month journey. Florence recognized that her journey of challenges is not complete. She will remain head of a single income household. She will live on a tight budget. She will continue to bear single parent responsibilities. However, she is able to trust her judgment, believe in her strength and see wonderful possibilities in her life. She has become transparent to her goodness and this knowledge will undoubtedly sustain her as she continues her journey.

Certainly, Florence possessed what American journalist Dorothy Thompson, once named as the most important dimension of courage, ‘the ability to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.’ She had a consistent ability to find a blessing or acknowledge goodness in some of her more painful and challenging circumstances. Her capacity to do so was acknowledged and celebrated by the eight women, who had supported her over the course of her journey.

Together Florence and her mentors learned that life unfailingly challenges our expectations. However, it is in moments of great pain, frustration and confusion that we are invited to discover our best attributes. As Florence gained an appreciation of who she could be in the midst of adversity, her mentors gained an appreciation of what they could give in spite of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

florenceOn January 12, 2008, Florence and her mentors acknowledged a mutual process of growth, persistence, patience and respect. Each gave witness to the invaluable worth of each person’s gifts in Florence’s journey to self-sufficiency. Both Florence and her mentors discovered their best possibilities in the course of their 16 month journey. Despite the overwhelming suffering in the world, we create a refuge for ourselves and others when we acknowledge our presence as an invaluable gift to the world. In reaching out to another, we affirm that invaluable gift of life for ourselves and for the other. Indeed when we become transparent to our goodness, we bring hope and healing to our world. On Saturday, January 12, 2008, we celebrated great possibilities born with great love practiced. Thanks to you, Florence and the wonderful women of Christ United Methodist!

I Wanted Hope

There was a time that I had no hope. I was living in a house but had no home. The air was thick with anger, resentment and fear. My fear. The brown velvet couch was my bed. Night after night, I listened intently for the hum of the garage door opening. It was then I would quickly turn off the light and pretend to be asleep. It was better that he think I was asleep. He was angry all the time. His bone chilling smirk and sharp words cut into our daily lives for no reason. For any reason. His presence could fill any room in the house and leave us without any air to breathe. My oldest boy cracked under the pressure. His bed was empty and I saw him now once a week at a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed teenagers. He was only thirteen. The youngest still smiled, but the smile set in a face that seemed older, more stressed than it should have been. His eyes were not as bright. He was only eleven. They knew what was happening. They could see how mean their dad was to me. I tried to cover it up. Make it seem like it didn’t bother me, but I know they heard me crying at night. I wondered how this happened. It took twelve years but it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. One day I realized with all certainty that I should not be here. I realized that we were in danger. I realized that what we lacked was hope. I wanted hope, so I left.

The leaving wasn’t as sure and swift as I had thought it would be. My first attempt at leaving had me checking into the local Days Inn with my son, a duffel bag, and a bag of snacks. My son thought it was cool the first night. After that, he wanted to go home to his own bed. We went back.

My next attempt was more desperate after getting pushed around the kitchen because I asked for money to buy groceries. I called the hotline for abused women. The woman who answered the phone was kind and understanding. She told me where I could go. I drove to the place she said we could be safe. It was in a seedy part of Allentown where all the sights and sound were indistinguishable from what I was used to. I went in and talked to the worker. She explained the rules, and showed me where my boys and I would be staying. The room stank like bleach. There was a set of bunk beds and something the size of a cot in the room. Outside the only window was a brick wall sprayed with graffiti. She said I would be safe there. The only problem was that I wouldn’t be able to work my third shift job because I could not leave the boys unattended. I decided to stay anyway. I left my duffel bag in the room that would be ours. I drove back to get my son. When I got home, he was playing basketball in the driveway with his friend. He asked me if he could have a sleepover. “Please Mom, Please,” he cried as he swished the basketball into the hoop. The lump in my throat grew to a suffocating size. I went back for the duffel bag. I prayed for an answer that would not jeopardize the integrity of my son’s teenage life. I did not want to rip him away from his friends to an environment that was so foreign to him. I prayed and I prayed.

A couple days later at work, my supervisor came to me with an envelope. It was filled with money. He explained that my co-workers took up a collection to help me get out of the situation I was in. It was enough for me to put as a security for an apartment. I was shocked. I didn’t really know that they knew how bad it was. My supervisor said, “We know, and we care.”

I rented a small apartment near the kid’s school and close to their friends. The agent was sympathetic to my problem and pushed my application through even though I didn’t make enough money to support the apartment ongoing. I took the apartment and prayed again.

I left with the brown velvet couch and our clothes. I was afraid to take much more than that. I just wanted to get us out of there so we could breathe. So I could breathe. Shortly after moving in I was given the name of an organization called the Bridge of Hope. I had no idea what to expect but made the call. I met with two women and told them my story. I told them how I needed hope. They let me cry.
Since that time I have gotten my own car, I have been able to stay in our new home. My oldest came home and is happy now. My youngest makes the honor roll every marking period and scored 12 points to win his last basketball game. I am in school and pursuing a degree in communications. I am working my way toward self-reliance and more importantly self-acceptance. The Bridge of Hope gave me what I was missing. They showed me that people care, that I am worth it and that I can be a valuable, productive person. They gave me much support along the road to independence, a road that I walk today because they showed me that I could do it. They showed me Hope.

My Hopes and Dreams
by “Theresa”

Before I was accepted into Bridge of Hope BuxMont, I was in a desperate situation.  Like most of us in situations like these, we find ourselves feeling hopeless and scared.  Being at the end of the line and having had exhausted all avenues, I truly feared the worst.  I had four children and was then 7 months pregnant, and I was afraid I would lose them.  As the days grew closer to my due date, I found myself praying harder and harder.  After several weeks of praying and crying for help, I asked for a miracle.   After making my last phone call for help, I thought it was over, and I would have to give up my children that I so desperately love.  My children are the reason I left an abusive relationship and was now without a home or an income to support them.

After giving up all control of my situation and giving it to God, I received a phone call from my sister who told me about this wonderful organization that helps women in my situation.   My niece’s school had done a service project for this agency and that is how my sister heard about it.  My sister, with the utmost faith in God, gave me the telephone number for Bridge of Hope BuxMont.  In my helplessness and never-ending faith, I decided to call.  I spoke with two very nice women on the phone whom are now my very good friends.

To make a long story short, Bridge of Hope BuxMont helped me save my family and now I have an apartment where my family is safe and I am working in a job I love.  Bridge of Hope is also helping me achieve my long term goals by giving me tools I need to become financially secure, to have a profession, and someday buy a home.  I want to thank every one in Bridge of Hope and all the volunteer-mentors who are helping me reach the goals I thought were only once a dream, but will soon be a reality.

The name “Theresa” is used for confidentiality.

Excerpt from participant speech from Raising Hope Gala

Hi, my name is Gloria.  I came to learn about Bridge of Hope BuxMont from a newspaper article I read about a year and a half ago.  I thought this might be a good thing for me.  My husband has a problem with alcohol and drugs and it was taking an emotional toll on all of us.  I wanted to leave at other times but could never find anyone with the resources to help me and my children.  One day I went to my pastor.  I told him I couldn’t stay much longer in this relationship and asked him for advice.  That’s when he said he had been in contact with Bridge of Hope and that was a ministry our church was going to offer.  A feeling of hope instantly rushed over me.  I told him I would like to be the first candidate for this ministry.  So he put me in touch with Nancy.   It was Bridge of Hope BuxMont who finally put their faith in me and I was accepted into the program in October of 2004.  Nancy has worked with me week after week to ensure I get my budget intact.  She has also helped me gain more self-confidence and has made me realize that I matter to God!  She has also taught me that this program works only if I allow it to work, meaning that I need to allow my mentors to help me out.  That is a really tough thing for me to do since I’m used to doing everything by myself.  I do have to admit though that my mentors have made this transition a lot easier.

Through Bridge of Hope BuxMont, I am attending the ASSETS classes held at Norristown New Life Mennonite Church.  I have a house cleaning service now and my hope is to have two to four people working for me within the next year.  These classes are really showing me what it takes to run a business so I’m glad I have the opportunity to attend.

It was with God’s help that an apartment big enough for my family and reasonably priced became available in late December.  On January 7th, my children and I moved with the help of my mentors and a couple good friends.

I have experienced such a feeling of peace since I am out of that relationship I was in.  I can’t say thank you enough to Bridge of Hope BuxMont for giving me and my children the opportunity for a better life.  I also want to say thank you to all my mentors and friends who have supported me through this.