Every year, one in 30 U.S. children faces homelessness. Eighty percent of those families are headed by a single mother.
With one maternity home each in Indiana and the Canadian province of Alberta, Bridge of Hope is looking ahead to partnering with life-affirming pregnancy help organizations across North America to empower these moms to provide for their children.
A Three-Way Partnership to End Homelessness
As Bridge of Hope has sought to address the need within its community, it has developed a model of ministry that teams up church-based mentoring groups and social workers to help single mothers facing homelessness provide for their families.
While church communities and social workers are major components to the success of the women, it’s the mothers themselves who take the initiative through Bridge of Hope.
"The homeless single mother is the driver of the program," Mindy Fetherman, Bridge of Hope’s marketing director said.
Mothers in the program work with social workers to dream, set goals, and make changes in their lives. This can include education to prepare the women to land higher-paying jobs even while they are still in the program.
The moms and their kids first meet eight to 12 mentoring friends at a "Match Night." After that, they connect with each other at monthly Bridge of Hope Nights.
"Churches and volunteers provide a meal, and there is often a program on a topic like budgeting, nutrition, or parenting," Fetherman said. "The Bridge of Hope mentoring friends also keep in touch with the mom via phone, text, and email. They invite the family to do things the mentor is already doing—like a movie, picnic, or game night."
Besides emotional and spiritual support, the church group also provides practical help with things like moving, babysitting, and transportation.
“Women graduate from the program with permanent rental housing, financial stability through employment and budgeting, and a support network of friends from a church in their community," Anne Dunnenberger, Bridge of Hope's director of outreach said.
Support on the Journey to Independence
Leslie Kaminsky was homeless on drugs when she discovered she was pregnant. After abandoning her addiction and finding temporary housing in a maternity home, she gave birth to a girl and moved to a shelter.
That’s when she discovered Bridge of Hope.
"I applied to Bridge of Hope because it was a bridge to independence—not another shelter,” Kaminsky said. “I don't know how things would have played out without these people in my life. One thing I've learned since going through all this is that having people in your life keeps you going on the path you want to be on."
Kathy, another single mother, was living in a dangerous neighborhood when she discovered Bridge of Hope, which helped her find an affordable housing in a safer area.
“My children can play outside now,” Kathy said. “I can open the curtains and let sunlight in. We sleep in peace. They play, run and laugh harder than they have in a long time.”
A Natural Extension of Pregnancy Help Organizations
While a wide variety of pregnancy centers and maternity homes focus their services on clients before, during and after birth—often extending to an ongoing relationship with the woman and her family—Bridge of Hope aims to close a gap of care for single mothers.
Sara Curdie, a board member for Emma House in Alberta, Canada, said single mothers can stay there up to six months after the birth of their baby. But, many struggle to find affordable housing moving forward.
“Bridge of Hope gives us the ability to help more women after they exit Emma House, by placing them directly in rental housing," Curdie said.
A single mom named Ja'Nae was a resident of Mary's Shelter in Bethlehem, Penn., and then a transitional home in Reading, Penn. She said Bridge of Hope, "truly wanted to help me and my daughter not just momentarily, but for the future and success of the rest of our lives.”
Learn how your church or pregnancy help organization can partner with Bridge of Hope at www.BridgeOfHopeInc.org.