Laura's Home to Offer Long-Term Hope to Homeless Women

The City Mission in Cleveland has built a multi-million dollar recovery center for homeless women and their children, for the purpose of helping to lead them to a path of healing and restoration.
by Cynthia Berry

Women at the City Mission Angeline Christian Home learn to leave their past behind and discover a bright new future with Jesus.

Broken, afraid, ill and hopeless - with a child on each arm, but nowhere to lay their heads. This is a picture of the typical woman entering Angeline Christian Home, a branch of The City Mission on Cleveland's west side, for the past 20 years.

The healing process begins immediately: A hot meal and a shower; clean clothes and a warm bed; a new toy for the child; life skills training for the mom. Spiritual healing follows, with chapel services each night and prayer partners available around the clock. Up to 23 women and their children are given assistance every day of the year; last year 464 women and children were helped.

But, 30 days after their arrival, when their maximum stay has ended and their immediate crisis is over, some of these women still have nowhere to go. That is what breaks the heart of Director Pat Hissom. And that is the impetus behind Laura's Home, a $7.5 million, long-term residential recovery haven where homeless women and their children will experience the love of Christ and be given the time and tools they need to break destructive patterns and transition into a productive life.

"This has been the cry of my heart and, I believe, of God's own heart," Hissom exerts. "If we can make a change in these women in the presence of their children, we will make an impact upon generations!"

She adds, "Although more shelter space is desperately needed - and we currently receive ten times more calls for assistance than we can handle - these problems cannot be solved simply by opening more short-term shelters. Short-term shelters are needed to save lives; but short-term programs cannot help people make a life. Research shows that at least 12 months are needed for recovery, cycle-breaking and stabilization."

Doors to Open Soon

The former Glenbeigh Hospital building at Rocky River Drive and Puritas Avenue on Cleveland's West Side will open its doors in February 2003 as Laura's Home, dedicated to "reaching hearts and changing lives" in what has become the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. With its $1.7 million purchase price and $5.7 million refurbishing costs already paid by private contributions, Laura's Home now needs to raise an additional $2.3 million for two years of operating costs. Up to 51 homeless women with children will then begin a 12 to 18-month journey of transformation.

Above: Women and Children have a place at the City Mission, when there's no place else to go.

"We are committed to living within our means, so if we don't have all the operating funds we just won't be able to operate at capacity," explains Hissom, who expects every bed to be filled every night.

Each woman in Laura's Home will sign a contract and be assigned a counselor to help keep them on task. When asked whether a woman could walk away from the recovery program without surrendering her life to Christ as Savior, Hissom answers," Without the Spirit of God in them, chances are slim that they will have what it takes to stick with a structured program for one year. They may learn to say the right words or act the right way, but they will end up dropping out because it is the Lord who makes it work. It is Christ who gives them the strength to break addictions, face their fears, overcome feelings of low self-esteem, and begin to build healthy relationships."

The phased recovery program will slowly wean each woman from dependence to healthy independence, with her own permanent residence, employment and church involvement. The program will help them reach the potential they have in Christ through educational assistance, life and job skill development, parenting classes, one-on-one counseling and spiritual guidance. An aftercare program will provide at least one year of mentoring after they leave Laura's Home.

Changed Lives

Many of the women who have come into Angeline Christian Home over the past 20 years left with hope and a prayer, but the fruit of their lives is never fully known. Some, however - like Elaine and Linda - express their gratitude by keeping in touch and even returning to Angeline to volunteer.

Elaine found herself homeless in the middle of winter with three children, as a result of some serious business mistakes. At first she stayed in hotels and worked in a factory at night, while her15-year-old daughter watched her two younger boys. But, $7.00 per hour only gave Elaine enough money to pay for her next night and food. She begged welfare to help, but she was not considered a hardship case. Finally, Elaine's teenage daughter could no longer deal with the stress and ran away. Elaine was forced to quit her job so her sons, ages 4 and 10, would not be left alone.

Elaine arrived at Angeline, beaten by the world and by her self for the wrong choices she had made. "I felt like I didn't deserve my children, I had failed them, and they would be better off without me," Elaine reflects.

"I stepped into Angeline, and Jesus gave me what I needed so much at that very moment, which was LOVE. For the first time in a long time I felt safe," Elaine smiles. "They fed and clothed the outside of me and fed and clothed what I now know to be more important? the inside of me. Because of the City Mission I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior."

Above: The City Mission facilitates Bible study for the women they house.

By the time Elaine left Angeline, everything about her was changed. She went on to find a job, a home, and a husband. Today, she volunteers by preparing meals and sharing devotion time with the residents. Linda was a heroin addict and an alcoholic by the age of 17. She was in and out of jail for numerous drug, theft and prostitution offenses, and was homeless most of those years. Her own son was taken from her custody. Linda describes the cycle of despair, "I had never had hope. I always hated myself and continued to do the things I was doing to escape from the pain."

Linda was at the end of herself when she finally reached Angeline. "The staff at Angeline let me know that through Jesus there was forgiveness and hope. They never looked down on me for my past, but always had hope for my future," she recalls.

Today, Linda is a certified chemical dependency counselor. She is now raising her son in a stable, loving, Christian home. "I have gone from chronic homelessness to being a home owner. Without God, I would never have come this far," she testifies.

Laura's Story

When Laura Hein Moll suddenly became widowed and homeless with six children in Germany in 1907, she could not have imagined how her struggles would be redemptive for women living in the 21st century. Yet, Laura's legacy of strong faith in God, hard work, and determination to keep her family together laid the foundation for later generations to succeed and, in turn, reach back to help others.

That torch was passed on to Laura's son, Theo, who was just two years old when his father died. He went on to emigrate to America and become one of the founders of MTD Products, Inc., a major producer of lawn care equipment and automotive parts, based in Cleveland. He never forgot the hardship faced by his family and donated tremendous amounts of time and money to helping others. He credited his mother's example of sacrifice and Christian faith for leading him to invest 40 years of his life into The City Mission.

God continues to honor the Moll family's faithfulness. Theo's son, Curt, now serves on the board of The City Mission, and his wife, Dr. Sara Moll, is the new director for what is appropriately named, "Laura's Home."

How You Can Help

Helping women recover from the circumstances and choices that led them to homelessness, and returning them to society as healthy and productive citizens is only possible through the help of others. If you can consider supporting Laura's Home through financial contributions, gifts of non-cash items, volunteer hours or prayer, please contact Denny Nugent at The City Mission, 216/431-3510. You could make an impact upon generations.

Editors Note: The City Mission is 'good soil' to plant your financial seed of faith and endorsed by Connection Magazine as a true ministry of Jesus Christ.

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