ARIZONA NEWS

Valley nonprofit UMOM working to help women, families experiencing homelessness

Jun 20, 2023, 4:00 PM | Updated: Jun 21, 2023, 12:37 pm

(Facebook Photo/UMOM)...

(Facebook Photo/UMOM)

(Facebook Photo/UMOM)

PHOENIX — UMOM New Day Centers is a nonprofit that resembles the experience one might expect when thinking of a homeless shelter.

Ashley Abbott, a case manager at the shelter, says their goal is provide a wide array of services that help adults, especially women, get back on their feet.

“Typically, we do try to help and assist our families get housed within their 90 days,” Abbott said.

Abbott explains there’s a silver lining to the current homelessness issue. Because more people are becoming newly homeless, they’re seeing more people in need of help – but they’re easier to get help for.

“Lately we’ve been having a lot of people coming in who don’t have a lot of barriers in their backgrounds.”

Felonies and evictions are examples of barriers to housing, but the lack of those instances in more people needing help means they can get them there faster and with more success.

But even if a family manages to get off the streets and into stability, the experience affects youth in families.

Demencia Rueles is a mother of 5 children, and she is living at UMOM with them and her husband. She says they became homeless due to the COVID pandemic.

“When family felt like letting us stay with them, we’d stay with them. If not, you know…. That’s why I’m saying our children were everywhere,” Rueles says.

The lack of stability in her children’s lives was her biggest concern.

“They had to think about where they’re going to lay their head at,” Rueles said. “We would try not to stress them, but they’re at that age, they know.”

In her experience, Abbott says it’s a moment of conflict for the youth in these situations.

“They’re teenagers. They’re thinking about going out with their friends or wanting to do stuff outside of shelter. But they also understand still, ‘We’re in a shelter and we don’t want to be here,’” Abbott said.

Sometimes, those situations can lead to bad behavior.

“Why are you treating your family, your sibling and your parents like that? Some kids will go into detail,” Abbott said.

She said once youth get into the shelter and start using services like the Boys and Girls Club or working with case managers, behavior tends to improve.

“They see it as their home,” Rueles said. “OK we’re going to go to school, but we have somewhere to go.”

Stability is the key

Abbott believes keeping families together is almost always a better option that improves outcomes for everyone involved. In some cases, this simply isn’t possible.

In both cases, UMOM and HYC both focus on providing what these youth end up missing from their lives: stability.

Stable access to a safe bed, meals and school and more are all major factors that can shape a child’s future and be the deciding factors between a life of chronic homelessness and one of stability.

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Valley nonprofit UMOM working to help women, families experiencing homelessness