Friday, January 21, 2011

Healing from the inside out

Life change is the goal for our resident families which paves the way for them to permanently exit the roles of homelessness and experience self-sufficiency and hope of a future. Pursuing higher education, exploring new careers, and learning job readiness skills and effective money management - including debt resolution and savings - are all significant and measureable goals they need to accomplish. But the real life-change that God desires happens from the inside out. This is often the hardest work to do and for our moms it's the most painful and difficult.

Most of our resident women commit to this challenge in order to find true healing. This work involves exploring their personal faith journeys through a deepening relationship with God as well as identifying and addressing their emotional barriers to health and wholeness.

This week, four of our resident moms took a giant step in this direction by attending a "Walk Through the Bible" class at a local church. They signed up weeks ago because of their desire to know and understand more about God through His word. After dinner and clean-up, they packed up the van with all the children and headed off to church. In addition to their weekly worship attendance, this is a critical part of their journeys to healing from the inside out. I know God will meet them face to face as they desire to know Him and His Son Jesus.

Please continue to pray for our families as they dedicate themselves to this often painful life-change in order to find true healing and recovery and hope of a future. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More work to do

Today I was reading a National Survey from the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness. Some of the data for Maryland I was well aware of and reference it often when I speak to groups, but some of the data was surprising. Here are the facts that I think paint a bleak picture for low-income families in Maryland:

1. Nearly 25% of MD families are one-parent, female headed households.
2. The median family income in MD is $82,404 with an average income of $103,236.
3. The fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,102.
4. To afford this rent the income needed is $44,080.
5. Nearly 11% of children under the age of 5 and nearly 10% of children 5-17 in MD live in poverty.

(Source:, retrieved 1/13/2011.)

I guess the good news is that the national averages for children living below the poverty level are almost doubled that of Maryland’s. (Keep in mind the 2009/2010 federal poverty level for a family of 3 is $18,310.)

As I reflect on the data, I come up with more questions than answers. What happens to very low income families living at 30% of area median income? With a fair market rent of $1,102 and a needed income of $44,080 to afford this rent, how can a single parent/low income family survive? And where do they go to find affordable housing? I’m sure you’ll agree with me that one child living in poverty in MD – or anywhere in this wealthy country – is one too many, yet nearly 11% of children under the age of 5 in MD are living BELOW the poverty level.

One thing I do know is that the work of Hope Alive is critically important to transform the lives of single parent/low income homeless families. Without the ability to earn a “housing wage” and find healing from the inside out, their prospects of achieving and maintaining self-sufficiency and independence are questionable at best. There’s so much more work to do and I sense God is calling Hope Alive to do more in 2011 to meet these needs. I look forward to see where God will lead us in this New Year.

A quick update on our babies … our first baby (born in December) was joined by our second baby when he came home from the hospital this past Monday. Babies, moms, big brothers and sister are all adjusting well.

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reclaiming the life of a child

In preparation for a speaking engagement today, I was reviewing data and information about family homelessness in America and in our own community. When I speak to a group I like to paint a picture of family homelessness highlighting the serious issue that it is not only across this country, but right here in our own backyard.

In 2009, the National Center on Family Homelessness published a study citing that one child in 50 is homeless in America. They go on to report that, “It is virtually impossible to reclaim the life of a child who has spent his childhood without a home.”

In reflecting on our own statistics, Hope Alive has served 34 homeless families including 64 children since opening our doors four years ago. These children have ranged from newborn to 17 years of age. We’ve not only had one newborn at Hope Alive, but three with the second born last month and the third scheduled for delivery tomorrow. I wonder what it feels like for a mother to bring her newborn baby home from the hospital when home is a “homeless shelter”. Our hope – and what we are called to do – is to help facilitate the life-transformation that God wants to bring to each family’s life so every child we serve will not spend their childhood without a home.

We know of many families who have left Hope Alive and returned to permanent affordable housing and are doing well. I just saw a former resident yesterday. This mother happily said her children were healthy and growing. Praise God! But for some, the cycle continues as mothers find that it’s too hard or too painful to embrace change. For their children, the cycle will continue.

Please pray for the youngest residents we serve. They are the innocent victims of this devastating problem that more and more families find themselves facing in this economy. We ended 2010 with a 49% increase in calls for help over the previous year. Our continuing economic challenges will only make the calls for help increase. BUT God is using all of us as His vessels to reach out to families in need to reclaim the life of every child. Thank you for your continued interest and support and may God bless you with a purpose-filled New Year! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director