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Another Voice: Family Promise helps mothers become self-sufficient

By Peter Scott

According to a 2014 report from the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, there were 2,000 homeless families in Erie County and 73 percent were headed by a single mother. As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, let’s be mindful of the fact that while Buffalo undergoes a resurgence, not everyone is feeling its effects.

Family Promise of Western New York is holding its second annual Mother’s Day Campaign to call attention to our region’s homeless mothers, and to ask the community at large to support these women – especially on Mother’s Day.

The moms that we serve do not have the social and financial safety nets that most of us take for granted.

The National Center on Family Homelessness recently listed “the challenges of single parenting” as one of six contributing factors to child homelessness.

Solely responsible for wage earning, child care and homemaking, single mothers are often only one catastrophe away from homelessness. Only one-third of these mothers received child support, which averages around $400 a month – not enough to make rent, let alone support a family. Single-mother families are nearly five times more likely than married-couple families to fall below the poverty line.

So how can we help single mothers gain access to stable housing and achieve self-sufficiency? Experts recommend affordable housing, education, job and parenting supports, as well as trauma care services for families.

This is where we come in.

Family Promise helps moms from our local community on their path to self-sufficiency. Unlike other homeless shelters, our top priority is keeping families together in times of crisis. Our case manager and our numerous volunteers (more than 500!) reduce homelessness and create a support system for the mothers we serve.

We see time and time again that when our moms find housing, they are able to set and implement goals for themselves and their families.

A single mom of three and a past guest of Family Promise said: “Family Promise is valuable to me as a mother, because I know that my children and I are in a safe place, and that we’re not just a number. Though I’m going to find somewhere to live soon, I feel good knowing that I can always reach out to the volunteers or the staff. People truly care about me and my kids. That means a lot.”

So this Mother’s Day, we are asking you all to think about the moms who are struggling – the moms who will wake up this year in a homeless shelter – and to consider how you can help. Whether it is through volunteering or a financial contribution, you can make a difference.

Peter Scott is executive director of Family Promise of Western New York.