I was introduced to Mercy a couple of years ago and quickly saw how important their work was. There are several local agencies helping provide the homeless with shelter, but Mercy goes beyond that. Not only do they provide shelter, they also provide the counseling and structure and support these moms need to become self-sufficient. Mercy will help moms: get off drugs, go back to school, find a job, get transportation to/from the job, budget for life outside of Mercy, find an apartment, furnish the apartment, etc. How many not-for-profits are this wholistic? This is not a temporary fix. It's life-changing for the moms willing to put in the effort.
I first got involved with MERCY about four year ago when the executive director, Mary Stone, asked me to serve on a volunteer committee. At first, I didn't know much about the organization other than that they worked with women and their children, but the more I learned about MERCY's model and their programs, the more inspiring it was. I took a training class that Mary taught for women who were interested in mentoring a mom in the program, and we read the book "Understanding the Causes of Poverty." Even though I already had a background in psychology and social work, it really helped me see things from a different perspective and understand the challenges that these moms were facing. I mentored a woman named Jodi, and although she left the program after about 6 months, it was still a very rewarding experience. MERCY is not for everyone, and these woman have to be willing to make significant changes in their lives to be successful in the program- it's not just a homeless shelter or a way to get free services for a period of time. Because of my experience mentoring through MERCY, my church ended up sponsoring a MERCY family and two women from the congregation are currently mentoring a mom in the program. While I am not involved in the mentoring aspect, I am the landlord so I am still able to be part of the church partnership in that way. One of the most exciting projects that I've been involved with through MERCY was the first ever "Homeless to Homeowner" partnership. In 2008, my husband and I purchased a house in a neighborhood where many of MERCY's families are located, and with the help of many volunteers, we rehabbed the house on behalf of a MERCY mom who wanted to become a homeowner. Through the various donations and volunteer labor, we were able to keep the house affordable for her while making sure she would have a nice place to live. Just last month she was able to become a homeowner, after originally being homeless when she first came to MERCY just five years ago. That's a remarkable journey, and I am so glad to have been able to play a small part in her life changing experience. I know that MERCY made those changes in her life possible by walking with her every step of the way and showing her what she was capable of achieving for herself and her children to have a better life.
As a landlord who has rented to MERCY, I became a supporter and donor after seeing firsthand the way the organization works with its clients to support them. Professionals are with the clients on a daily basis, helping them to set goals and achieve them. The staff is both compassionate and strict with the clients, holding them accountable for their actions. As one who has worked in the field of low-income housing for 20 years, I believe that the kind of supportive services that MERCY provides is the key to success of a housing program.