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Safe Harbor

Single moms find stability, purpose at Mary’s Home

“Chaotic” and “unstable” is how Nina describes growing up with a single mother who worked three jobs to keep her five children clothed and fed.

“My childhood life was not beautiful,” says Nina, who lost a hard-drinking brother to suicide. She blames a lack of love and structure for her hard-headedness, inability to cope with life, feelings of being lost, and petty crimes.

After she became pregnant at age 20, she feared she would repeat her unhealthy childhood story: a single mother working low-paying jobs and struggling to realize her dreams for her child. She feared becoming part of a worrisome statistic—two-thirds of homeless women have children with them.

But Nina resolved to change the script.

“When my son came into this world, I knew I needed to make a change, and I promised I was going to give him the things I never had,” she says.

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Now she’s working to keep those promises, thanks to the transformation she’s experienced and the help she’s getting from Mary’s Home, a charity in Colorado Springs, Colo., that helps single moms.

A resident since April 2019, Nina has thrived amid her newfound safety and stability. She has learned life skills, received counseling, taken nursing classes, and earned CNA certification as a certified nurse assistant, enabling her to work as a home health care provider.

She recently moved to a new set of apartments Mary’s Home opened this year for moms who have progressed to greater independence, and is studying to become a registered nurse.

“There’s so much Mary’s Home has given me: compassion, stability, and the kind of  unconditional love I’ve not experienced before.”

And she’s hopeful for her son, who celebrated his third birthday on Thanksgiving.

“I feel really good about the roots I have planted in him,” she says.

Inspired my Jesus’s mother

Mary’s Home is named after the mother of Jesus. The biblical passage that inspired the name isn’t the passage often read at Christmastime that describes Mary’s search for a place to give birth to her son.

Rather, the inspiration comes from Christ’s care for Mary in the final moments of life, as described in the Gospel of John. Nearing death on the cross, Christ tells John, “Here is your mother.”

“Jesus commissioned his best friend to take care of his single mom,” said Matthew Ayers, CEO of Dream Centers of Colorado Springs, which operates Mary’s Home. “That’s our call in the city of Colorado Springs, to take care of single moms and come around them to support their families.”

Since its opening in 2015, Mary’s Home has moved 40 families through a multi-year program. The ministry’s three apartment buildings currently serve 19 families. Dream Centers also operates a women’s clinic that provides health care and mental health services through more than 8,000 patient contacts a year.

Dream Centers has an annual budget of $3 million, 85 percent of which is generated by donations. Its mostly-female staff of 17 is magnified by a few hundred volunteers from 50 local churches who donate nearly 20,000 volunteer hours a year.

Volunteers form family support teams that work with single moms like Nina to help them succeed, which may mean ferrying kids to school or doctor visits so moms can work and take classes. Many families volunteer together, and some parents say they do so in part to help their children learn about the challenges poor children face.

Ayers graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 and taught business at the Academy in 2007. He also earned a degree from Fuller Seminary.

He always assumed he would get involved in charity after a post-military second career, but he jump-started those plans in 2008 after a friend challenged him to help New Life Church organize its missions department.

The megachurch supports dozens of missionaries around the world, as symbolized by the international flags hanging in its auditorium. It also funds initiatives closer to home.

New Life Church founded Dream Centers of Colorado Springs as an independent 501(c)3 charity in 2011 with the help of other local leaders. New Life senior pastor Brady Boyd is president of the Dream Centers board.

The local ministry was inspired by the Los Angeles-based international Dream Center Network, which encourages churches to seek out and meet needs in their cities. The local Dream Centers is not an official member of the network, but shares the group’s approach and theology.

“Our faith motivates everything we do,” says Ayers, “but we serve everyone, without judgment.”

Ayers says one of the earliest moms at Mary’s Home thanked the ministry for giving her 3-year-old son a precious gift: his first-ever night of sound sleep.

“In helping single mothers, we’re also changing kids, and that can transform the next generation of our city,” says Ayers.

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.