The thought of living in her car with her three kids drove Gwenita into the care of Pearl’s Hope. “The downfall started with the divorce,” she shared. Gwenita is a single mother with 3 children. Her ex-husband did not work so there was little financial support.
Despite her degree in accounting and a job at a correctional facility, she was barely making ends meet. Her weekly commute cost $500 in gas, so she took a job near home that was within walking distance. Gwenita’s financial troubles continued until she was given a notice from her landlord: Move out before Christmas.
She inquired into multiple social service housing programs and had left a voicemail with Pearl’s Hope. Gwenita received a call back while standing in line at the Social Security office. A week later, she was moving into Buhl cottage at the Francis Willard Ministry Center in Tulsa.
Pearl’s Hope is a transitional housing program where homeless women with children live on campus for about 9 months. Three multi-family cottages are dedicated to housing and there are typically 7-10 women living on campus with their children. During that time, they search for jobs, participate in counseling and life skills training, and, most importantly for Gwenita, learn budgeting skills. The program breaks the cycle of poverty by teaching lessons that last a lifetime.
Looking back, she describes this program in glowing terms. “This place is a Godsend, that phone call was nothing but God. I was looking at living out of a car. My spending was out of control.”
But it hasn’t been an easy journey. She remembers early on that one of the counselors told her, “You’re not really going to like me.” It’s hard, Gwenita explains, for a 40 year old woman to change.
Early in the program, when Gwenita’s spending exceeded the budget she created with the staff; she was issued a letter of conditioncy. That letter, which acts as a warning, brought tears to her eyes because it meant that she was not holding up her end of the bargain. It let her know how serious the consequences would be if she did not stick to the program.
That was a turning point for her. Gwenita accomplishes what she sets out for herself on a monthly goal sheet. She’s working full-time, has paid off debt, saved money, and purchased a car. And on a hot weekend in July, she accomplished the ultimate goal: graduating the program and moving out! Throughout the whole experience she shares that, “I was never talked down, everything was conducted in a professional manner.”
Her time in the program has finished, but the lessons she learned will endure. She now has the skills to be an independent and productive member of society. And, in addition, she plans to teach these lessons to her children. “Before, I worked for my money. I learned how the money needs to work for you.”