A Church-Based Approach to Ending Family Homelessness

In Tough Times, Being a Bridge of Hope

Sleeping in a car. Moving from family member to family member. Staying at a shelter. In their Bridge of Hope mentor training, Mitch and Michelle Long learned that single women facing homelessness with their children are often the unseen homeless.

“You have this stereotype in your head of someone living in a box on the street,” says Mitch, whose mentoring group from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church was trained by Bridge of Hope Lancaster & Chester Counties (PA). “That’s not what homelessness necessarily is. The person you might be mentoring is in an unusual situation – maybe nothing of their own doing has caused this. But whatever the situation is, just to know you are there can make quite a difference in someone’s life.”

“You’re really there to provide friendship,” agrees Michelle Long. “Sometimes I just let Cathy* talk – which can be difficult because she is very young and I just want to mother her sometimes and take charge! I’ve had to lay low sometimes and I’ve seen she’s sorted through issues just by talking about them. I learned not to judge, but to accept people where they’re at in life and let them develop and grow. My job is not to criticize, but to be there to affirm her when she is getting it right!”

Made up of eight people at different life stages and circumstances, St. Anthony’s mentoring group is a bridge of hope in tough times for Cathy and her one-year-old son. Some are families with grown children; some have young children. There’s a single person who never had children plus a couple who are grandparents.

“What brought us together was the Holy Spirit moving in people,” explains Michelle. “I got the message out there, but what was interesting is that when people called me they said, ‘We’ve been looking for something to get involved in. We want to do more.’ There’s definitely a hunger for people to be more involved in a direct way.”

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.