Among all homeless families nationwide, over three quarters are headed by single women with children, and according to the National Center on Family Homelessness, about 30 percent of children in the foster care system would be discharged if their parents were properly housed. CityHouse in Delray Beach is making a difference in the lives of single mothers and their children by providing transitional housing and support for those who would otherwise be homeless and at risk of having their children placed in foster care.
Offering hope for real change, CityHouse comes alongside single mothers and their children through a long-term program, offering daily mentoring, accountability, education opportunities, and encouragement while giving their children a safe and secure Christ-centered environment in which to live and thrive.
How it began
The concept for CityHouse came about just three years ago after families at The Avenue Church in Delray Beach had been providing shelter for children who were at risk of entering foster care because their families were having difficulty providing secure housing for them.
“We would take that child till the mom or dad got better. But what we discovered was that it was really the mom that needed care as well,” explained Casey Cleveland, lead pastor at The Avenue Church. “If the mother is not given consistent and intentional mentoring, the child will be returned to a very similar situation. That means the cycle doesn’t end and the child remains at risk. Change takes time, resources, and effort, but if real change is made, it is a better return on investment to help the mother, than just helping the child.”
In 2013 a small apartment building was secured with enough units to house five single mothers and their children, eight-years old or younger, and CityHouse was established.
Women are referred to CityHouse by a homeless program or pastors and must demonstrate a willingness to make positive change in their lives. They are expected to pay a small amount of rent, equivalent to 30 percent of a full-time minimum wage job per month, and attend weekly Bible studies on the property.
“These are mothers who love their children and want to take care of them,” said Lisa Wanamaker, executive director of CityHouse. They may have been in a relationship where they were victimized or had other barriers to success. They are not careless or impulsive, but smart mothers who are trying to make good decisions and are open to guidance. They may have difficulty working due to a lack of transportation or child care, education or career training and we are able to remove those barriers, explained Wanamaker.
To facilitate this, a house mom lives on the property full time, and a holistic program — focused on emotional, physical, spiritual, economic and educational needs — is developed for each resident with a family advocate who helps them define a clear direction and manageable plan to achieve independence. CityHouse offers…
– safe housing and living assistance
– emotional support and counseling
– social and life skills classes
– parenting enrichment
– spiritual enrichment
– financial education
– care development
Often CityHouse collaborates with other organizations that are already providing services in the community, making sure residents get the resources they need for success. This may include assistance with transportation, bus passes, daycare subsidies, mental health services, dress for success, budgeting, etc.
“There are no band-aids for long term sustainable success,” said Wanamaker. Yet success is coming. Their first mother graduated from the program into permanent housing in October after rising out of a family history of abuse and unhealthy relationships, and the next mother is on track to graduate in April
With support from CityHouse she was able to go back and complete the missing credits to obtain her high school diploma and secure an office position with a company that provides her with benefits and the potential for growth. In time she may be eligible to complete certification courses paid for by the employer and increase her earning potential. Her case manager is also helping her secure the long term affordable housing necessary.
When these income and housing issues are rectified, these mothers are better able to provide the loving care and stability their children need.
However, Wanamaker said, “The need is enormous.” In the big scheme of things, CityHouse has hopes to double the number of families they serve by 2018. They also hope to open a thrift store that would serve as a revenue stream for the ministry.
There are many ways to help single mothers and their children at CityHouse. Volunteers are welcome to assist with property improvement projects, fundraising event involvement, organization and cleaning, faith-based mentoring, babysitting, transportation, prayer, and teaching a class on a topic such as gardening, cooking, budgeting, etc. For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact [email protected].
A beautiful backyard garden is also planned for CityHouse as an uplifting area where families can gather and children can play. You can help leave your mark in the garden and help pave the way to hope and renewal for homeless single mothers and their children by purchasing a commemorative walkway brick for loved ones or honoring a special occasion.
You can also support CityHouse by participating in the upcoming fundraisers. Save the date for their annual Seaside Soiree on March 18th from 7 – 10 p.m. or participate in the Golf Tournament on May 20.
For more articles by Shelly Pond, please visit goodnewsfl.org/author/shelly/