All kinds of women come to the Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services (PCHAS) campus in San Antonio seeking refuge. No one knows that better than Mari Molina, PCHAS’ single parent family and transitional living program coordinator in San Antonio.
Mari works with single mothers and their children and young women needing a place to stay through the Single Parent Family and Transitional Living Programs.
The Single Parent Family Program serves single mothers age 18 and up who have at least one child in custody. The goal of the program is to give families a chance to become strong and self-sufficient without fearing for survival. Mari works with the moms to set specific goals to improve their spiritual, physical and emotional well-being, such as finding a job or learning money management. Moms of all backgrounds come to PCHAS for help: some have just gone through a divorce and have no job experience, some have mental health issues and some are educated professionals that have fallen on hard times. There is no cookie cutter client. Since opening three years ago, the San Antonio Single Parent Family Program has been busy. “There’s always so many women who need these services,” said Mari. “Every agency is full and we refer in circles. It just amazes me that there is such a continued need.”
Mari also works with the San Antonio Transitional Living Program, which serves young women* ages 18-24 who don’t have anywhere to go. Oftentimes, the clients have aged out of foster care. The Transitional Living Program provides a safe environment during difficult times of transition so that young people can grow and eventually live independently. Mutually-agreed-upon goals are set to help the clients achieve self-sufficiency, such as completing job skills training or obtaining social services like health insurance. In the beginning, many of the clients were former group home residents who didn’t have anywhere to go. Now, Mari is also getting referrals for young women who are working or going to school and are homeless.
Though her journey has now led her to working with an older population, Mari didn’t originally work with adults and young adults. She started her career in foster care and later worked at a residential treatment center before coming to be the group home supervisor at PCHAS’s Group Homes. When the Group Homes in San Antonio closed, PCHAS offered Mari a position working with the newly established San Antonio Single Parent Family and Transitional Living Programs. “PCHAS easily could have said I wasn’t experienced enough for this, but they didn’t,” she said. “They offer opportunities not only for clients to grow, but employees as well.”
Working with adults and kids is the best of both worlds for Mari. “I love working with kids because of the hope they have that things can be better for them,” she said. She loves working with their parents and young adults because she gets to see the continuation of growth in each client.
Women who have sought shelter at the peaceful San Antonio campus not only found a safe place, but they found someone to support and encourage them. Now, they have a chance to make a better life for themselves and their children, thanks to Mari and PCHAS.
*At this time, the San Antonio Transitional Living Program only serves young women. The Waxahachie Transitional Living Program, however, serves both men and women.