Provides support to mothers and their children
By Meagan McGone
SUNTREE - More than 1,200 children in the county's school system do not have a place to call home. And in a dismal economy, children and their families face growing challenges.
Aiming to break the cycle of homelessness in Brevard, the Space Coast Center for Mothers with Children assists homeless single mothers by providing a comprehensive program that guides them in mind, body and spirit.
The center's mission is to provide safe housing, spiritual guidance and supportive services for mothers, as well as their children, who are striving to become self-sufficient.
"These children are in danger of being permanently separated from their mothers because they are homeless," said Lila Buescher, president and CEO of Space Coast Centers for Mothers with Children. "And the mothers are homeless because it's generational."
To break the cycle of poverty, the center provides rent-free living spaces, free utilities, transportation, and support to enable mothers to focus on their children and rebuilding their lives. Additionally, the mothers and children receive counseling, medical and dental treatment, nutritional education, vocational training and enrollment at an accredited institution.
"The first year, when these moms come in, they are very focused on getting a job, " Mrs. Buescher said. "We help them realize that to break the cycle and to be fully self-sufficient, you need to get an education. Right now, all three mothers that live here are enrolled at BCC."
Mrs. Buescher said that perhaps the program's most critical component is its spiritual side. As a faith-based organization, the center partners with local churches to introduce mothers and their children to their faith in God and to a loving community.
Next year, the center hopes to implement Phase II of its program, in which mothers can live an independent lifestyle in affordable on-site housing, with the help of Habitat for Humanity of Brevard, a nonprofit organization committed to building housing for in-need families.
"These mothers will have access to a continuum of care, which is critical," Mrs. Buescher said. "Our approach here is to end that cycle of homelessness for these families. You can empower these families for the two years they're in this program, but if they don't have the means to stable housing and a safe environment after that, they could inevitably go back to the environment that they came from."
Presently, the organization houses three mothers and six children, but Mrs. Buescher said the center is planning for an expansion in the near future. With its current facilities, the center sometimes has to turn people down.
"When these mothers call, they're desperate," she said. "They are living in abandoned buildings and in vehicles, hopping from shelter to shelter. It's heartbreaking to have to say no to these moms."
Amy Box was one of those mothers, calling the center every day for two months straight in an effort to get her and her 7-year-old son, Tristyn, out of shelters.
"Finally, they interviewed me, and I got in," she said. "By that time, Tristyn was really sick of being homeless. Both of us had really just been devastated by the whole thing. Before coming here, we had been in 12 shelters."
Ms. Box now attends school at Brevard Community College and maintains a 3.0 GPA, and Tristyn is entering second grade at a school in Rockledge this month.
"Being at the center has been amazing," she said. "I have self esteem now. The support here is amazing. The volunteers here are my friends and my extended family. I've never had that - ever. I've been on my own since I was 14."
Mrs. Buescher said that without the generosity of residents on the Space Coast, the organization would not be possible, as it is completely funded by churches, businesses, various fundraising events and benevolent individuals.
"I've always known that Brevard County residents would step up," Mrs. Buescher said. "We've got a lot of great people here."