Empowered Women Empower Women

It makes a world of difference for mothers at St. Barnabas Mission to know they are not alone on their journeys.

Moving into shelter for the first time is emotionally taxing for many mothers experiencing homelessness. To help make stays a little less daunting and a lot more empowering, two groups were formed this year.

In the Women Empowerment Group and Resident Advisory Council, mothers are provided a space to problem-solve, influence life in the shelter, and build community with others in similar situations. Haneefah was quick to join both.

“I thought I could benefit and help other people at the same time,” Haneefah said.

She never imagined she would wind up in shelter, but after 10 years of living comfortably in Saudi Arabia, she fell ill. Health issues kept her from working her job as an English teacher; time away from work cost her the hours; medical bills drained her savings. This domino effect forced her and her daughter back to the United States—a place that now feels foreign. Staying with family and friends was not an option, but there was a place for Haneefah and her daughter at Episcopal Community Services.

Vital services like one-on-one coaching and health screenings and referrals help participants address the issues that led them to shelter in the first place. Through the groups, Haneefah and her peers have been able to create positive change in the shelter, but more importantly, they have become more confident with the decision-making they will do once living independently.

Together, the women have shaped chore assignment policies, awarded Residential Assistants of the Month, and created a plan for resident ambassadors to help newcomers navigate their ways around.

“I found [the groups] extremely helpful because, more often than not, we tend to focus on the problem versus the solution,” Haneefah said. “It’s better to focus on the solution and … establish steps to fulfill whatever goal [you have].”

Haneefah’s goal is to live self-sufficiently again, and to get there, she has identified the steps she needs to take. Health issues continue to get in her way, so receiving quality care is a top priority. Instead of homeschooling, Haneefah found a charter school for her daughter to attend so that she can spend more time focusing on healing. Afterward, she will be able to put her attention on returning to work.

“One day at a time,” Haneefah said.

As she continues onward and upward, staff and peers will be with her, encouraging Haneefah as she turns her goals into her accomplishments.