Facing a Curveball
December 9, 2020
When a mother and her children experience homelessness, more often than not they have also experienced domestic abuse. It is an intimate and unfortunate connection. Together, the trauma of abuse and homelessness compound confidence issues and often present the family with debilitating setbacks.
It is in the harshness of this reality that Agape Resource & Assistance Center offers hope to women and children who long for stable housing and their own sustainability. In a short seven years, they not only launched their nonprofit and honed their services, but they have helped 166 women and children. Nearly 90% of those they serve have experienced some type of abuse.
Through housing, childcare, transportation, and workforce preparation, Agape is transforming these women’s lives. Most families stay in the program for a year, and when the mother graduates, she has everything she needs to succeed. She has found safe housing, bought an affordable car, gained valuable training to improve her career options, and found reliable childcare.
It was an operation that was humming right along, helping women successfully access sustainable living every year…until COVID-19.
“The pandemic threw us a curveball,” Founder Janet Collingsworth shared. “Many of the women in our program lost their jobs or they were considered essential workers, so they were being exposed more to COVID-19 than the average person. Then when schools and daycares closed, it made it incredibly difficult for these moms.”
It turned out that the women who had graduated from Agape’s program were also struggling. The crisis was upending their lives in multiple ways simultaneously. Agape’s leaders decided to create a graduate re-entry program to help ensure these women, who had worked so diligently to build stable lives for their families, would not fail. They provided rent assistance, job training, and job search assistance. Additionally, they gave out laptops to children for online schooling and worked with local food pantries to make sure these families had the food they needed.
During the pandemic peaks, they offered PPE and they also increased access to mental health counselors. Their work has kept families housed, fed, and employed. Tweaks they had to make to programming, such as only putting one family in each housing unit, graduate re-entry, and offering laptops for virtual school helped families thrive, but came with additional costs. Even as donations declined, the staff pushed forward and utilized grant funding from TMF to expand their services because they knew how critical their work was at this time.
“TMF believed in us when we were just getting started. It is difficult to get grants as a startup, but when I met Jacki Lammert she believed in our work and capacity. Her support and commitment to our mission has been incredibly valuable,” Janet said. “Of course, when TMF provided the COVID-19 grants at the beginning of this crisis, they empowered us to keep our graduates housed and expand services, which reduced anxiety for those we serve. Through this partnership, TMF has helped us make a multigenerational impact.”