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Helping young families and children out of homelessness

By Emilie Poplett | July 1, 2021 | Community Health, Community Partners

Mia was 19 when she gathered up her two young children and escaped, leaving behind an abusive relationship and the life she knew.

“I never wanted to die. But I didn’t feel like I wanted to live, either,” Mia said. “I just hoped and prayed that someone would care enough for my kids to want to take care of them and give them a good home.”

Someone did.

It was Families Moving Forward (FMF), a Durham-based organization that helps families experiencing homelessness find their way home. They provide temporary housing, case management, skills education, and connection to resources to help parents and their children find permanent, stable homes.

With FMF’s support, Mia and her kids have found a place to call home. Their three-bedroom, two-bathroom house has a backyard where the kids can play. And Tia found therapy and mental health resources to help her thrive.

“I have finally found peace,” she said. “I owe this smile and my peace of mind to Families Moving Forward.”

Currently, FMF houses eight young families who, like Mia’s, have found themselves without a home. Tierra Daniels, a family services coordinator, supports them as they find their footing. She walks alongside them, building a trusting relationship and helping them connect with the resources they need. But, she said, it’s the families who truly lead the way.

“A lot of these families have experienced generational trauma,” Tierra said. “I get to see everything they have within themselves to field that distress and find the resilience to continue on. Sometimes they are capable of more than they think. It’s just about helping them to look within.”

Mom and dad hold baby girl and smile
One of the families FMF has supported

Tierra celebrates the big steps, like when families find permanent housing. But she’s also there for the little moments: when the families encourage and inspire each other, when the kids play together in the sprinkler outside, or when a parent finds work-appropriate clothing for a job interview.

“They teach me resilience,” Tierra said. “Watching them overcome obstacles is rewarding.”

Ann Tropiano, Director of Residential and Support Services for FMF, said the families work hard to achieve better lives for themselves and their children—but also for each other.

“I love understanding the heart and how much every single family in this building gives of themselves and gives to one another,” she said. “They are advocates for themselves and others as parents and individuals, sons, daughters, friends, and partners.”

Once they transition to permanent housing, FMF continues to support families as needed. That’s where Healthy Blue comes in, providing funding to support life skills coaching, transportation, help with a resume, or whatever they need to take their next steps.

“Healthy Blue knows that housing is critical to stability,” said Angela Boykin, Vice President, Government Operations at Blue Cross NC. “It’s one of those drivers of health that’s going to impact your ability to be employed, maintain a healthy lifestyle, or get your child to a well-child visit. The families want the best for their children. We just come in to help remove the barriers.”