A Second Chance at Childhood | National Week of Housing Action

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Mandy and her children were the very first family to move into UMOM’s Parsons Village. Here over the past four years they’ve built a life that Mandy never believed would be possible.

Her son Daniel was only 3 years old when they arrived. Parsons Village is all he knows—and he loves it. The now-7-year-old loves going swimming with his friends, playing games on the computers and Xbox at the community center, and attending the weekly chess club meetings put on by volunteers.

Her 13-year-old daughter Hannah is like any teenager—this summer she’s been staying up all night and has an obsessive knowledge of all things Gilmore Girls. She’s happy that her family is closer than ever after years of uncertainty and fear.

Mandy spent years of hopping from place to place and falling through every loophole possible when it came to getting help and support for employment, housing and child care. Now her family’s current situation is a dream. Affordable housing at UMOM and the supportive staff and services available have given her opportunities small and large. For the first time ever, everyone has their own bedroom. They can throw family movie mornings and debate which Star Wars movie is the best. In a way she couldn’t for years, Mandy says she now can finally, finally just gets to be a mom.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is organizing a National Week of Housing Action from July 22-29 to call attention to those struggling to make enough money to have a place to call home. Read more about UMOM’s housing efforts here, and make a gift to support a family’s dream of permanent housing here.

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Graduation Day | National Week of Housing Action

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May 25th was a big day for the little family of 46-year-old Jessie and her 18-year-old daughter, Tina. The two strung up balloons and barbecued for their family and neighbors. Just hours earlier Tina had crossed the stage, high school diploma gripped in hand. And the same afternoon, Jessie opened the mail to find her GED enclosed.

The image of mother and daughter graduating on the same day wouldn’t have been possible before Jessie and Tina moved into their affordable unit at UMOM’s Parsons Village a little over a year ago. But the stability of a safe place to call home gave Jessie the chance to focus on the things to help her move forward. It began with the self-worth Jessie felt as soon as she got the keys to her own apartment. That hope and confidence helped her take the leap to even pursue her GED.

And with the support from UMOM staff—whether it was providing bus passes or helping navigate healthcare costs—Jessie could once again begin visiting the three specialists crucial to her care after a stroke in 2013. The impact is already clear: she says she doesn’t need to use her cane nearly as often.

Tina kept excelling in school, balancing classes with cheer leading and dance. Jessie and Tina bonded over helping each other with trigonometry homework.

Now Jessie is preparing to attend a job fair specifically for people with disabilities like herself. She’s ready to work again and no longer depend on her daughter and others for help. That celebration on May 25th, surrounded by “Happy Graduation” balloons and loved ones, was the first step to a bright and independent future.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is organizing a National Week of Housing Action from July 22-29 to call attention to those struggling to make enough money to have a place to call home. Read more about UMOM’s housing efforts here, and make a gift to support a family’s dream of permanent housing here.

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Found Family | National Week of Housing Action

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Denee always taught her children that family is more than blood. But it’s a lesson she truly only learned herself when they moved into UMOM’s Parsons Village last year.

The 30-year-old says everyone who lives there is so close it evokes those “cup of sugar” days. She knows a neighbor or staff member always has an eye on her children. There’s a whole community of people to ask a favor of. That connection is due in part to their shared experience with homelessness and struggle, she says.

“We’re stronger because we all know where we came from,” Denee said.

More than anything else, affordable housing provides both the support and the privacy needed to build her family their own way. It’s the first time she and her three children (ages 12, 6 and 5 respectively) have a place to call home. In the case of her 31-year-old boyfriend, it’s the first time he’s ever been able to put an address on his driver’s license. Sometimes it feels too good to be true.

As her kids attend chess classes, play bingo with volunteers, and explore the city and new opportunities on field trips, she doesn’t want them to forget where they came from. She sends her 12-year-old son to volunteer at St Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, packing food boxes for families in situations not unlike where they once were. Their family passed out blankets to people experience homelessness last Christmas.

And her family continues to grow: on August 31 she and her boyfriend will be expecting their first child together. Welcoming a new child was never something Denee thought would be possible until they moved into their new, safe affordable home. Starting over has meant creating a new life in more ways than one.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is organizing a National Week of Housing Action from July 22-29 to call attention to those struggling to make enough money to have a place to call home. Read more about UMOM’s housing efforts here, and make a gift to support a family’s dream of permanent housing here.

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Making a Home | National Week of Housing Action

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April was so used to bouncing from place to place that when she finally moved into an apartment at UMOM’s Parsons Village with her two young sons, she wasn’t sure how to fully unpack the boxes and organize her home. It was hard to shake the feeling that at any given moment she would have to pick up and move on.

“I can’t stop thinking like that, even though I know I shouldn’t be,” she confessed.

It took time, but the safety and security April found at Parsons Village began to chip away at the anxiety and distrust built up from her young family’s experience with homelessness.

The childcare services, employment programs and compassionate UMOM staff all helped build a supportive community at Parsons Village. April says her neighbors feel more like an extended family. Together they celebrate their children’s birthdays with BBQs in the playground. Her downstairs neighbor brings her coffee every morning to sip as they talk about their plans for the day. For the first time she’s not scared to let her 8-year-old and 4-year-old sons walk over to the community center by themselves.

That sense of security brought with it freedom for April. It was easier than ever for her to make physical therapy appointments and to go job hunting. She was at last in the position to make good on her promises to herself to save up for a car, start a data entry and analysis job that suited her number-minded brain, and focus on being a better mom.

Earlier this July, her sister visited from Austin, Texas after she saved up for months. Together the family dined out and zipped down the slides at the water park Big Surf, making up for years lost. And after a year of living at Parsons Village, with her sister’s help April was finally ready to unpack that last box. She wouldn’t be going anywhere else soon.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is organizing a National Week of Housing Action from July 22-29 to call attention to those struggling to make enough money to have a place to call home. Read more about UMOM’s housing efforts here, and make a gift to support a family’s dream of permanent housing here.

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Affordable Housing Is Invaluable | National Housing Week of Action

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It seems impossible to put a price on the joys that a family home can bring. A neighborhood BBQ, your son getting his own bedroom, a place to host your daughter’s graduation party—none of these appear to be made out of dollar signs. But for families struggling to find housing, any housing that they can afford, these benefits do come a price point that is consistently, painfully out of reach.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is organizing a National Week of Housing Action from July 22-29 to call attention to those struggling to make enough money to have a place to call home. Homelessness and affordable housing are issues that go hand-in-hand. Months of heart-wrenching apartment and house hunting to find something they can afford go by before any family, youth or individual is forced to live out of their car or on the street. It’s an issue that affects people in every community nationwide, and made even more perilous by potential federal government budget cuts.

Did You Know?

  • Nationwide, there are only 35 affordable homes for every 100 extremely low income renter households
  • Low-income kids living in stable, affordable homes are more likely to thrive in school, attend college and earn more income as adults
  • Affordable housing allows people to spend 5x more on healthcare and 3x more on nutritious food
  • In Arizona, a person with a minimum wage job would have to work 70 hours a week to afford a 2-bedroom rental home
  • In Arizona, proposed cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2018 budget would eliminate more than $64 million in funding, affecting 36,800 households and increasing their rent by 27%

  • In honor of this week, we’ll be introducing you to the stories of four families who have experienced the uncertainty and terror that homelessness brings as well as the security and freedom that a home brings. They are more than their tragedies. They are family movie nights, neighborhood parties and new days. And it’s all thanks to affordable housing programs like those at UMOM, and to people like you who support them.

    Read more about UMOM’s housing efforts here, and make a gift to support a family’s dream of permanent housing here.


    A New Day For Homeless Single Women


    UMOM New Day Centers, Arizona’s largest provider of shelter and services to homeless people, dedicated its new Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation Women’s Center today. When the Center opens to clients in July, it will be the first shelter in Maricopa County designed expressly for single women experiencing homelessness.

    For the past 20 years, homeless women have been cared for at the Watkins Emergency Shelter, sleeping on cots in a cavernous open room. Every morning, up to 130 women must compete to use only 30 showers, then are required to stay away from the shelter between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. They receive just one meal each day and live with a near-constant threat of violence.
    “Fifteen years ago, when I first started as CEO at UMOM and visited Watkins for the first time, I knew someday we could do better,” said UMOM CEO Darlene Newsom. “I seldom left Watkins not in tears.”

    The new Halle Women’s Center is located on the site of a former motel, a property purchased by UMOM and refurbished to create a safe, secure, temporary home for women rebuilding their lives. Because the women can stay on-campus during the day, it will be much easier to connect them to the services they need to move from homelessness to permanent housing.
    “We took a good step with the opening of Watkins. Good services were provided there,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “Now, we’ve gone from good to great. This is a huge improvement and a step in the right direction.”

    Rather than sharing space with more than 100 other women, the Halle Center will house two to three women in a room equipped with a private bath. Each room has an emergency pull cord to summon assistance quickly. The Center will be staffed 24/7, with systems and protocols in place to further ensure the safety of every client.
    Each woman will receive three meals a day, prepared in the onsite commercial kitchen, and will have access to laundry facilities as well as a locked space to store personal belongings.

    “Like so many of UMOM’s programs and services, the Halle Women’s Center is an innovative approach to ending homelessness,” said Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema in a statement. “For too long, single homeless women in Maricopa County had limited options for emergency shelter…That changes today.”
    Approximately 130 women will live for up to 120 days in the Center, with two beds always reserved for those transported to the facility by first responders.

    “We talk a lot about homeless men and homeless families, but how often do we talk about homeless women?” said CEO Newsom, adding, “So you can see why this is a happy day for our community: finally, in 2017, we have a full-service shelter for single women.”

    “The women here remind us that life is more than endurance, but the endless possibility to prevail,” said Andrew Bridge, director of the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation.

    For more information please contact Alex Scoville at 602-710-2132 or ascoville@umom.org.

    Watch UMOM on 12 News! Read the online story here.


    Happy National Volunteer Month! | Lily’s Story


    Every day homeless families depend on UMOM programs and services to change their lives and create a bright future. None of it would be possible without volunteers. Without their help, there would be no UMOM.

    Thousands of volunteers dedicate tens of thousands of hours each year at UMOM to help homeless families. They sort donated clothes, play with kids, tutor teens, paint walls, help with paperwork, serve meals…the list goes on and on. Each and every volunteer is essential to ending the cycle of homelessness. The time they give is generous and important.

    Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes here. Some come alone, some bring their entire families. Some visit every week like clockwork, some focus their time on guaranteeing our families the gift of a happy holidays. And some, like the volunteer you’re about to meet, are furry and have four legs.

    Lily is a therapy dog that volunteers with her human Libby Burns every Tuesday night at UMOM. Together they ease the many burdens our families face, and even just for a minute, provide unconditional love when people need it most.


    My name’s Lily—it’s nice to meet you! I’m a 5-year-old goldendoodle, I have beautiful long white fur and I love volunteering at UMOM. Everyone says I’m a good girl, but I already know that.

    I may look cute (and I am!), but I take my job very seriously. I went to school for it and took tests and everything. When I see my owner Libby grab my powder blue therapy dog handkerchief, I know it’s time to go to work. By the time we pull up to UMOM every Tuesday night, I’m already in the zone.

    What does a therapy dog like me do? Whether I’m visiting elderly humans at a nursing home, comforting humans who are very sick or playing with homeless kids at UMOM, I’m there to be a best friend when people think they don’t have one anymore.


    We sit in the beautiful stained glass chapel at UMOM until a family comes in. They stop by if something’s bothering them or they’re upset. I’m really sensitive to when humans are sad. I can’t help but notice when they’re eyes and noses are leaking all over the place. That’s when I go over and sit next to them, maybe put my head in their lap and wag my tail! My mom says my fur’s like butter it’s so soft—I think that’s why everyone loves petting me so much. Humans sense my kindness and I feel them calm down immediately.

    One time a mom came in with four of her kids. She was crying a lot—her fifth child had just been arrested and she didn’t know what to do. I could tell she was distraught, so I sat next to her right away. Even though she was staring off into space, lost in thought, she never stopped softly rubbing my fur. When she left, her smile let me know I did my job.

    I think little kids love me the most. They always run in to come see me and say hi! A lot of them used to have dogs like me at their old homes. After petting me they always ask their parents if they can get a dog again when they move into a brand new home. Dreaming of owning a dog of their own again gives them some inspiration and a little hope.

    I love coming to UMOM even for just a couple hours every week. It’s my purpose. It’s like my mom always says: if we can help someone get through even that night, it’s worth it.


    Empowering Domestic Violence Survivors for 10 Years


    We all have days where our worries and problems seem insurmountable. The ones where it seems impossible to make it out of bed. But somehow, we find a way to take those first steps and make it happen.

    But for Katherine, it was more difficult than we could ever imagine. Those sort of days take a special kind of bravery for those who are homeless after they escaped domestic violence.

    The control and violence of domestic abuse escalates over time. Slowly but surely the offender robs their victim of their self-worth. Looking back, the signs and symptoms of the abuse are clear to see. The victims say, “If only I had known sooner, things might be different.”

    Many of the residents at UMOM have suffered some form of intimidation or abuse at the hands of someone they loved. But the families in our Domestic Violence program have been through the worst imaginable situations. Despite the odds they found the courage to make a choice, a choice for their children to confront the uncertainty and escape the danger.

    This March marks 10 years since we first opened our doors to abused women and men. Read Katherine’s story to see how she and her kids were brave in the face of danger, uncertainty and pain.


    Katherine opened her eyes each morning fearing the day to come.

    After years of abuse, her dreams of a happy family, a career in nursing, were destroyed. She fled with two young children, Samantha and Michael—ages 8 and 10—who still desperately needed her.  She woke up uncertain of what each day would hold. What more, Michael was on the autism spectrum, and struggled to do day-to-day what we don’t even think about.  The special attention Michael needed to thrive was impossible to get while living on the streets. Katherine and her family were homeless for three years, stuck between the past and the future, fear and hope. 

    Bravely, Katherine entered the Domestic Violence program at UMOM. The safety and security the program offered were a weight off her shoulders. The family was finally in a nurturing place where they could start to heal and begin again. But that was easier said than done. 

    Katherine now had to find work for herself and schools for her children. But Michael’s disability made the search even more difficult. Katherine was stretched thin between her diligent job hunt, completing nursing school applications and taking Michael to various specialist appointments. With no car, she walked and took the bus everywhere. She began to wonder if she could ever make a better life for her family. Maybe a brighter future wasn’t for her.

    But so often it’s only after we reach our lowest, when we expect it least, that life looks back up. The pieces began to fall into place. Michael got into a school where he could get the attention and care he needed. Katherine found a car and was no longer bound to long walks or unreliable bus schedules. A letter with good—no, THE BEST—news finally arrived. She opened it with shivering hands. Katherine was officially a nursing student. Her new school helped her find a job soon after.

    And last December, she took one more step. Katherine will never forget the day she got the keys to her new apartment. Rubbing the cold metal keys between her fingers, she couldn’t help but break down. After years of running from abuse, years of uncertainty for her family, years of pain, now she had a home. All her own. 

    No longer settling to think about what might have been, Katherine and her family can look forward to what will be. 

    When Katherine woke up the next morning, the first morning in her new home, she looked forward to the new day.


    You Made a Difference in 2016 | Community Impact Report 2015-2016

    Thousands. Thousands of families helped, thousands of hours spent volunteering, thousands of second chances given.

    2016 was a big year for UMOM, all thanks to you. Your support drives the programs and services that make an impact on the homeless everyday. Thank you.

    As we get to work making 2017 an even bigger successful story, take a look at how your time, donations and advocacy changed lives in 2016 in our new annual impact report.

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    Hands of Promise Hosts $5,000 Matching Campaign for Giving Tuesday!

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    Come together with UMOM for Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29! We need your help to give homeless families a second chance and make this the best global day of giving yet.

    It’s easier than ever because this Giving Tuesday, your gift counts twice! Hands of Promise has made a promise to match donations to UMOM dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000. We’re so thankful for their generosity. Let your giving go twice as far this year! We’ll also go live on Facebook with our CEO, Darlene Newsom and CPO, Mattie Lord in the morning for about an hour to discuss our life changing programs and services. Tune in to learn about your impact on UMOM!

    Giving Tuesday is a global day of charity and philanthropy that started in 2012. It was created to follow and counteract the consumerism and commercialization found in Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The movement raised more than a $100 million for nonprofits worldwide in 2015, and gets bigger every year.

    Make a difference in the life a homeless family and donate to UMOM this Giving Tuesday!