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How could she choose between her children?
Demetria paced the hospital room where ten-year-old Marcus slept. He would always have special medical needs. That’s why they moved to Houston, for the advanced medical care, and why she worked part-time, for the flexible hours. Her ex-husband had stopped paying child support and, no matter how often she ran the figures, she was always short when the rent came due. If the landlord evicted her, she and her 13-year-old daughter would have to sleep in the car. And she knew the hospital would never release a fragile boy in a wheelchair to a homeless mother.
Down the hall, Demetria explained her dilemma to a stranger in the waiting room. The stranger said, “You might have to give up custody of your daughter in order to keep your son.” Just like that. As if a mother could choose between her children. Demetria went back to Marcus’ room and resumed pacing.
Demetria called the counselor at her children’s school who referred her to Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services. Michelle O’Neill, a specialist in our Child and Family Program, assisted Demetria through the immediate crisis and then referred her to our Single Parent Family Program (SPFP). Soon after, Demetria and her children moved into a rent-free apartment on a PCHAS campus and began a new life.
Most SPFP clients aim to save enough money to rent an apartment on their own. Program Coordinator Raina Bailey asked Demetria about her goals. “Once I’m back on my feet, I’d really like to own my own home,” Demetria told her. “It seems impossible. But I’ve got a college degree and I’m a hard worker.”
Raina was impressed with Demetria’s work ethic and wisdom. “This single mom had no other support in Houston and just wanted short-term help to reach her long-term goals,” she says. “That’s why this agency exists: to care for and support families. We start with small goals to meet big goals.” A few months later, Raina facilitated meetings with an agency and a bank that collaborate to assist first-time home buyers. “The bank required Demetria to save a certain amount over six months, so I helped her make a budget.”
When Demetria qualified for a loan, she and Raina met with a construction company about building a small house. They planned for ramps, wide hallways and an accessible bathroom for Marcus. Together they reviewed legal and financial paperwork. Eventually Demetria and both children moved into their permanent home. Today, the family continues to thrive. Raina speaks proudly of Demetria’s choice: “The Single Parent Family Program gave her the stability to get out of survival mode and then there was no stopping her!”
PCHAS offers a continuum of care to keep families together. Our Child and Family Program operates in 16 cities to help families weather a crisis. The Single Parent Family Program includes long-term residential programs in four cities. It accepts clients through an application, interview and assessment process. Learn more by contacting us online or calling 800-888-1904.