A 21st Century Journalism Project

Single mom, second chance

In Organizations on April 8, 2012 at 5:33 pm

By: Maura Sirianni

The growing shortage of affordable rental housing, along with a simultaneous increase in poverty has left many working Americans homeless; hit hardest is the pink collar working mother.  The typical homeless family today is comprised of a mother in her late twenties with two children.  Too often are single mothers found in situations they cannot control; this is where Bridge of Hope comes in.

Bridge of Hope mentors single mothers and their children from homelessness to wholeness

Bridge of Hope is a National organization that provides homeless and at-risk mothers with permanent housing and financial stability, through employment. Throughout the mother’s journey with Bridge of Hope, local affiliates are able to bring together a professional staff, as well as trained church mentoring groups.  The goal is to empower the mom, introduce her to mentors and life-long friends who will serve as a support system, and ultimately help her achieve the level of self-esteem she needs to get back on her feet.

Bridge of Hope is based in Exton, Pennsylvania, where the organization was founded.  Gale Terek, Mentor Coordinator, says, “Bridge of Hope is not like a shelter.  Mothers who come to us must have a job or be pursuing further education; most of the women are actually doing both.  We work with moms who, in most cases, just happen to have stumbled upon a tough time in their lives.  The goal is to get them over that bump and back onto their feet again.”

“Some moms who come to Bridge of Hope are the victims of domestic violence, sometimes a mom can be in the midst of losing her job and she can’t afford a place to live, and therefore loses her house.  Some of these moms are living with relatives or friends and never know, one night to another, where they are going to be staying.  Other cases include women who got pregnant at a young age and cannot seem to get themselves going, because they never were on their feet to begin with,” says Family Resource Coordinator, Barb Daigle.

“We are interested in stabilizing the moms, not only financially and with housing, but in other areas of their lives such as with child care, transportation, and food.  We are able to connect the moms with agencies who help them achieve their specific goals regarding these things,” Daigle, says.

Each mother who comes to Bridge of Hope is matched up with a group of 8 to 12 mentors.  The mentors attend a training session where they go to a church and learn about Bridge of Hope and the responsibilities of being a mentor.  After the initial session, more formal meetings are held.

“Just like you would have your parents to support you, these young ladies usually do not; that is where the mentors come in,” Terek says.  “We have some mentors who are close to the mom in age, and we also have mentors who are more of a parent’s age, to the mom.  In the past, we had a mentor who was an occupational therapist.  It just so happened that one of the moms was going to school for that.  As the mom was having questions with her classes, it was nice for her to be able to work with a mentor who had the exact job she was going to school for,” Terek says.

Providing child care is not an expectation of the mentors at Bridge of Hope, however, Barb Daigle shares, “In the past, there has been short periods of time where the mom did not have a child care service, due to a lack of hours at school or work being met.  In that case, luckily, the mentors were able to step up and take care of the child for a short gap of time.  Most of our moms who need child care are able to qualify for day care assistance or funding through welfare, but it is nice to know mentors are a back up if there is ever a crisis situation.”

The main responsibility of a mentor is to be a friend and support system for the mother and her children.  Bridge of Hope encourages mentors to work as couples.  “Having that father-figure to look up to is important,” Terek says.  “They need a male figure in their lives because otherwise, they do not have it.”

Jody Widing, Community Relations Coordinator, shares her experiences as a mentor, “My husband and I were both mentors.  We tried to do one-on-one activities either just with our mom, just with her child, or with both of them together.  One year, we invited our mom and her 7-year-old son over for Easter.  My husband likes to cook, so the ladies were not allowed in the kitchen.  Instead, we sat in the living room and talked while the men cooked us a beautiful brunch.  I think it was nice for the boy to be able to do something like that with just the guys.”

“My husband and I also took the mom we were mentoring, and her son to the Wyomissing Creek.  My husband skipped rocks with the boy while the mom and I went for a walk. It does not have to be anything elaborate or spectacular, you just need to spend time with them,” Widing says.

On the Bridge of Hope website, they offer a list of 10 free things to do with friends.  Exercising, painting, cooking, or teaching the mom a new skill she wants to learn, are all great ways a mentor can connect and begin to build that initial friendship with their mom.

“People develop relationships in stages.  The first stage is shared activity.  You have to start at level one and as the trust develops, it is so nice to see the moms open up and get to the level of comfort where they feel like they can have a heart-to-heart with their mentors,” Daigle says.

Bridge of Hope is one of the longest running programs that is available for single mothers. Barb Daigle offers, “When we’re talking to people about the difference between Bridge of Hope and other agencies, I think a lot of times, the help that is given to single moms acts as a band aid.  We at Bridge of Hope, however, are trying to help these moms for the long haul and get them established, which is why our program is longer, (12-24 months).  We want to get these mothers, who come to us single and homeless, situated so they can move forward with their lives and not end up in that scary homeless place again.”

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  1. Reblogged this on National Diaper Bank Network and commented:
    glad to have found this blog – hope you all find it interesting as well.

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