Chanelle was stuck in an abusive marriage. And knowing that she didn’t have the income or time to provide for her children on her own, she stayed stuck.
Hoping to escape and build a new life, she would call Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center day after day, only to hear that there was no space available at the shelter, a ministry of The City Mission. The demand for help at Laura’s Home, the only long-term program with wraparound services in Cleveland, is so great that there has been a full waiting list since 2012 — despite having space for 165 women and children seeking refuge from homelessness, intimate partner violence, addiction, and other crises.
This summer, the unable to shelter numbers reached drastic heights, with their staff regularly being forced to say to over 100 women and children, “sorry, we have no room — please call back tomorrow”.
Finally, a spot opened up for Chanelle and her family, and for the last year she’s learned life, parenting, and job skills. She discovered how to speak up for herself and establish healthy relationships. She graduated, gained sustainable employment, and shared her testimony with many. But adequate housing, an overwhelming obstacle, remained out of reach.
While dozens of women seek to join the Laura’s Home program, many others are currently working hard to graduate and create a healthy life for themselves and their children. And yet, their crisis cannot be resolved without a stable place to call home
In Ohio, a single mother working a minimum wage job – the work most of women who come to Laura’s Home are eligible for – must work 100 hours each week to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment. This leaves her with just 68 hours to commute, sleep, and care for her children – not to mention care for herself.
Like Chanelle, many single parents face the reality of being present or working enough hours to pay the rent.
The Realities of Affordable Housing
While the government’s provision for low-income housing through Rapid Rehousing is a solution for some experiencing homelessness or poverty, it does not often offer a clear path out of crisis for families and communities.
Those fortunate enough to get housing vouchers are often restricted to housing in areas that are “low opportunity,” due to of poor educational opportunities and high concentrations of poverty, crime, and environmental health hazards. Because of this, most families are unable to regain self-sufficiency.
For single parents who are able to work and gain a steady income, the number of affordable housing units is still limited. In fact, in Ohio there are only 35 affordable and available rental units per 100 extremely low-income households. Even if a single parent earning a minimum to average wage is fortunate enough to obtain housing, it’s doubtful they will be able to save enough to eventually purchase their own home — a key factor in breaking the cycle of poverty.
This is where New Horizons Housing Collaborative comes in for eligible Laura’s Home graduates.
How New Horizons Works
1. A Laura’s Home graduate with children, a sustainable job, and a proven demonstration of responsibility is selected to begin a path to homeownership.
2. The City Mission purchases a blighted home from Cuyahoga Land Bank.
3. A local individual, church, business, or group finances renovations and volunteers their time for a total remodel of the house.
4. The mother prepares for homeownership with specialized casework, continued support and education from Laura’s Home, and financial planning classes. During the renovation process, she also works alongside the community partner — building relationships and making decisions about her future living space.
5. The family moves into their new home at the completion of homeownership training and renovations.
6. The City Mission transfers the home’s deed to the mother after 18-24 months of her proven home management, commitment to her work, and care for her family.
7. The cycle of poverty is broken for a family; a woman who was once homeless is now a homeowner.
“New Horizons is so unique in that we are equipping families for overall life stability and freedom. The cherry on top is after setting up a whole new future for her family, a mom will then receive the deed to a completely renovated home free and clear,” explains Ashley Field, Community Development Coordinator for The City Mission.
The program doesn’t just impact the New Horizons family — it impacts entire neighborhoods and organizations.
“It meant a lot to our church to be able to invest time, talent, and money into something that would directly change the lives of real people in need. Need exists all around Cleveland, but this is something we knew we could do, and it was a blessing to our church to see the impact our New Horizons home had,” remarks Andy Sikora, Lead Pastor at Renew Communities, a Cleveland church.
Cuyahoga Land Bank, whose mission is to stabilize the housing market and reduce blight in a post-2008 market crash world found a mutually beneficial partner in New Horizons as well.
“Everybody knows we have a need in this community for affordable housing — especially for single moms that are transitioning out of homelessness. This is a real opportunity to make a difference,” says Gus Frangos, Cuyahoga Land Bank’s President and General Counsel.
With assistance from the Land Bank, New Horizons can play a major part in increasing home values and building community in under-served neighborhoods.
Field predicts the impact of the program will only continue to accelerate.
“In five years I see New Horizons actively revitalizing entire communities. Our goal is to renovate streets and impact not only the families moving into the homes, but the entire community. Our hope is to bring the love of Christ back into our community one home at a time,” she shares.
Growing the Opportunity
Just a few days before Christmas, Chanelle and her children will move into her New Horizons home that was renovated through a partnership with AXA Advisors of Cleveland. She’s one of five women to begin working toward the goal of homeownership through this revolutionary program.
When asked what it would take to see more families in New Horizons homes and breaking the cycle of poverty, Field says it takes exactly what you think it would — resources.
“We need overall support — financial, renovation related materials, skilled volunteers, appliance donations, and more to grow this program. We have the families and a solid foundation for our program. We just need more interested partners to sponsor a home.”
And what better time to think about asking your workplace or church to become a partner than now, as we enter a season of fresh starts?
If you’re interested in learning more about New Horizons Housing Collaborative email our Community Development Coordinator, Ashley Field.