Teen Haven can really make a difference

  • On hand: the Teen Haven charity is seeing a rise in calls for help with shelter from mothers of all ages (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    On hand: the Teen Haven charity is seeing a rise in calls for help with shelter from mothers of all ages (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

A year ago, the fictitiously named Mary was faced with a difficult situation.

At 22, she found herself pregnant and living in a bad situation.

“There was a lot of smoking going on where I was,” she said. “And there were always people coming and going.”

In fact, she thought there was a possibility that the Department of Social Services could take her baby away if she remained where she was.

“I said that’s it,” she said. “I need to focus and get myself together. My choices before just weren’t good. I was okay with living where I was living because it was just me. Having a son changed me.”

She didn’t have much money. She’d had a job in digital marketing, but was paid on commission.

“I didn’t get any clients, so I wasn’t making any money,” she said.

She couldn’t go home to her mother who had enough on her plate with young children of her own.

A social worker suggested Mary try Teen Haven. The charity on Happy Valley Road shelters and assists mothers between the ages of 16 and 25, with shelter, counselling and other services.

At the time, Mary didn’t know much about the place, but took up the suggestion.

“I judged it, not knowing anything,” she said. “I thought it would be like living in a shelter.”

She moved in April and her son is now seven months old.

Teen Haven turned out to be very different from what she expected.

“When I came here, all my worries went away,” she said. “Living in a stable situation helps you get into a better mind frame.”

She now has a room at the facility for her and her son. On her bedroom wall is a vision board with words she finds motivating.

“One of the words up there is consistency,” she said. “It is hard to stay consistent, especially when you have a baby. You never know what will happen.”

Other words include faith, focus, discipline and priorities.

“I don’t want to be comfortable and stay here,” she said. “But I just feel like everything is here.”

By everything she means food, a safe space, resources and connections in the community. With help from Teen Haven, she recently started a job at the health department. She works during the day and her son goes to nursery school.

“I did a year of college away studying accounting, but I didn’t finish,” she said. “I want to be an entrepreneur.”

Her dream is to eventually go back to college to get a degree in business management, or something business-related.

Teen Haven director Michelle Wade said residents are supposed to stay a year, but in the last decade, because of the economic climate, have sometimes stayed for much longer.

“We’ve had people stay up to two years,” she said, “because they are not prepared to go. They might have a job, but not make enough for rent and nursery fees.

“Some of our girls who have left in the past have gone back to families. Relationships have been healed, so they can go back and contribute to their own household. It is difficult out there.”

Mary was one of the lucky ones to find a place at Teen Haven.

Teen Haven is full with five families, including 11 children.

Ms Wade said the charity has seen a decline in the number of teen mothers needing help in the last 25 years, but has seen an increase in calls for help from mothers of all ages.

“Every week we get calls from two or three desperate mothers,” Ms Wade said. “Some of them are 38, 39 or 40.”

Ms Wade said a lot of the women who call asking for help are struggling with the cost of rent in Bermuda, unemployment and other issues.

“People are really stressed out and not having anywhere to go,” she said. “The fear of maybe having to separate the family, with children going into foster care if they can’t go with a family member. A lot of people want to be together with our family. We have taken people a little older if it was an emergency, but we try to stick to our mandate.”

Ms Wade said if Bermuda is going to get a grip on homelessness and poverty in the community, everyone has to pitch in, from the top government officials to blue-collar workers.

“I know that is hard sometimes because people take advantage,” she said. “We are mindful of that in the social service system. But this time of year there are a lot of people very sad, who have lost loved ones, or don’t have enough money.

“We need to be there as much as we can and think of others at a time like this. That is what the haven is about, thinking about others.”

Ms Wade said Teen Haven, like many other local charities, is struggling financially.

“We do receive funding from Government, but we also have to fund raise to keep the lights on and feed everyone,” she said. “It becomes difficult to enhance our programmes so that they can have the best of the best, when you don’t have enough money and resources to train everyone and keep up-to-date.”

But Teen Haven installed a new board in September that is fresh and ready to go.

“We will be fighting to get us back financially in a place where we can really do some stuff for these ladies — more than they are getting now,” Ms Wade said. “We keep striving.”

For more information call 292-4598 or e-mail teenservices@northrock.bm

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Published Dec 30, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 30, 2019 at 7:22 am)

Teen Haven can really make a difference

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