The Resilience of Mothers
By S. Kelley Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, Action Ministries
Next weekend is Mother’s Day, representing the one time each year where we celebrate Moms together. Most of us will go to church services, say a prayer in memory of a Mom, share a meal, or even send flowers. For many, Mother’s Day can also be a reminder of the challenges still facing them on Monday morning.
Over the past few weeks, I shared statistics about the severity of food insecurity in Georgia. In addition to food insecurity, housing affordability remains a real challenge. Housing insecurity compounds all the other problems facing families struggling to escape poverty. In a study published in the AJC in late 2017, Georgia ranks 3rd in evictions, with 1 in 12 low-income families experiencing this trauma. The problem was worse in some metro counties, where the eviction rate was over 20%. Imagine counting the kids stepping off your neighborhood school bus, and every 5th child left at the bus stop with nowhere to go as the bus drives away.
According to the latest annual Point in Time Count report from the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), Georgia had reported 812 families living in homelessness on a single night in 2018. The Point in Time Count records homelessness on a single night each year to offer a reference point for the scope of the problem and measure our progress each year. Another point of reference, and likely more accurate, is the number of kids in Georgia’s school system who are registered as homeless. In the same report, Georgia listed 38,474 children as homeless in public school, with 17% living in hotel/motel arrangements, 10% in shelters, and the remainder doubled up with a friend or relative. (USICH, Oct 2018)
Let me pause there…these are startling statistics, but good work is being done to move the needle. Dozens of organizations throughout Georgia are working together each year to address these challenges. We are seeing improvement in Georgia and significant improvement in the Atlanta area where homeless counts are down over 50% in the past decade. We have some true champions that have made this possible, but we still have much work to do. It is time to double down and build on the momentum that has turned this flywheel to date!
So, what does this have to do with our celebration of Moms?
Mothers are the glue that hold most of these families together. They are the ones braving cold mornings without a car, yet they find a way to survive so that their children will have an opportunity for a better tomorrow. These families are not statistics on an annual report card…they are people, just like you and me. As we celebrate Moms “together,” let’s celebrate the resilience of these women to find a way forward against all odds.
One such Mom is the focus of my Mother’s Day celebration this week.
Action Ministries operates a 24-bed facility in Atlanta for women and families. Last year about 150 women exited the program, with 9 out of 10 successfully securing permanent housing on average within 45 days. Katrina came to us as a referral from the Gateway Center, along with a 4-year-old and twin toddlers age 2. She grew up in the foster care system, aging out at 18 with her first child on the way. She found a place to stay with a man who offered to care for her and the baby. After giving birth to her twins, the relationship changed and she found herself on the street again. Her foster grandmother gave her a place to stay, only to pass a few months later.
On the street again, Katrina and her kids found a home in our Trinity Assessment Center. When I first met her, I saw real grit and determination, and her kids were a joy. Her daily effort to find a job, while caring for her family was impressive. We extended her stay through the holidays, allowing her an opportunity to secure seasonal employment with a local parcel company. The seasonal job became permanent, she found an apartment, later bought a car. Today, over 12 months later, Katrina will be graduating from an extended training program with that same company. Imagine 22 years without a permanent home, yet still having Hope that things will ultimately work out.
That is a true celebration of the resilience of motherhood, and an inspiration for us all!