Homeless mothers centre on the horizon

  • Transformational Living Centre: staff from insurance firm Enstar Group helping in the garden of what will be the Transformational Living Centre for homeless women with children (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Transformational Living Centre: staff from insurance firm Enstar Group helping in the garden of what will be the Transformational Living Centre for homeless women with children (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

  • Helping hands: Warwick Academy pupils spruce up the site

    Helping hands: Warwick Academy pupils spruce up the site

  • Passionate about project: Sheelagh Cooper, left, and Elaine Butterfield at the site of the former Pembroke Rest Home, which is being converted into the Transformational Living Centre for Families to provide accommodation and support for young women (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Passionate about project: Sheelagh Cooper, left, and Elaine Butterfield at the site of the former Pembroke Rest Home, which is being converted into the Transformational Living Centre for Families to provide accommodation and support for young women (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)


What the children say ...

“I am not homeless, I just have to stay with my mom’s friends.

“We move a lot.

“I’m OK, but it’s hard getting to school from different places. It’s confusing.

“I feel sad because my mom is sad.” — Jameira*, 8

“The best thing about Cup Match and summer is that we can live in a tent and everybody just thinks we are camping.” — Troy*, 9

* Names have been changed

A life-changing centre for homeless mothers and children could be open by the middle of next year, its founders have revealed.

The Transformational Living Centre for Families was created because of a need for accommodation and support to help young women to get their lives back on track.

Sheelagh Cooper, the chairwoman of Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda, said: “We are on target for completion at some point in the new year.”

Elaine Butterfield, the executive director of the Women’s Resource Centre, added that it was hoped the centre could open its doors in “mid-2020”.

The news came after charity leaders warned in The Royal Gazette yesterday that homelessness among families was a “national crisis”.

They added that children who did not have a permanent roof over their heads could suffer long-term emotional damage as a result.

The former Pembroke Rest Home is to be transformed into a residential centre that can cater for ten families, who would live there for up to a year while they are involved in programmes and services.

Ms Cooper said: “Renovations to the Pembroke Rest Home are well under way and largely because we have had such great corporate support, particularly in donations in kind for things like windows, doors, flooring and various other construction materials.”

Ms Butterfield added: “In the very near future, we will be making an announcement with further details of the establishment of the Transformational Living Centre and with specific requirements for areas of support.”

It is expected to include a community campaign that will allow completion of renovations and the operation of the centre.

The TLC for Families campaign was launched after a think-tank run by the two charities in April 2018, when a group of social services agencies met to look at the demand for affordable housing and how it could be dealt with.

Ms Butterfield explained: “It was generally agreed that the goal is to create a safe, holistic, supportive and therapeutic environment for homeless families while empowering them to become independent and self-sufficient.

“Such an environment would provide a comprehensive range of services and opportunities including, but not limited to, counselling, substance abuse rehabilitation, job readiness, further education, training and life skills.

Ms Butterfield added: “As of September 2019, the Women’s Resource Centre in partnership with HSBC has introduced the Transformational Support Services for women, which is a pilot programme that includes psychosocial skills and education assessments.”

She said that ten women, including some who were, or have been, homeless, who were “underperforming in life” will be provided with tailored plans that include training, education and counselling to help them become better able to provide for their families.

Ms Butterfield said: “This programme will be transferred into the soon-to-be-established Transformational Living Centre for Families.”

She said that Bermuda suffered from a lack of emergency housing for homeless mothers and their children.

The Teen Services/Teen Haven non-profit organisation offers temporary accommodation for women aged between 16 and 25 who are pregnant or have children.

Michelle Wade, its executive director, said last week that the facility had been full for about the past six months and up to eight young women were on the waiting list.

The Bermuda Housing Corporation, a government agency designed to provide affordable rental accommodation and homes to buy, had a waiting list of 119 applicants in need of housing at the end of last month.

A Ministry of Public Works spokesman explained that the BHC was at capacity and housed about 1,428 people across 500 rental properties, as well as about 180 “transitional housing rooms”.

Ms Cooper explained that many of the women who might be considered for the TLC for Families faced a variety of problems, but that she and Ms Butterfield believed in “housing first”.

She said: “Essentially, that is the recognition of the fact that it’s very difficult to assist a person developmentally, educationally or psychologically unless their basic needs for food and shelter are met.

“While there are programmes here and there that attempt to do that, it’s lost on a woman who is struggling on a daily basis to feed her children and wondering where she will sleep.

“It’s our belief that we will start with housing, food and shelter and, within that context, the transformational programmes will have some good effect.”

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Published Nov 22, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 22, 2019 at 7:14 am)

Homeless mothers centre on the horizon

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