Holly’s father was an alcoholic. Her mother didn’t want to raise children and spent increasing amounts of time away from the family. So from the age of 8, Holly was left in charge of her five other siblings.
“I remember telling Mom I just wanted to be a kid,” says Holly, a 39-year-old single mother at Hope Gardens. Holly says she never remembers being kissed or hugged by her mother — and she never heard the words “I love you.”
“I was so hungry for affection,” Holly recalls, “I started looking for a boyfriend when I was 11. I wanted a boyfriend who would love me.”
By the age of 13, Holly started running away from home, staying with friends’ families or living in vacant buildings. Then she discovered alcohol. “Drinking made me feel invincible and like I had it together. Like I could conquer the world. That I was attractive to men,” she says. Unfortunately, the men she attracted were mostly abusive. And alcoholics like herself. “You accept the love you think you deserve,” she says. “And I didn’t feel like I deserved more.”
By the time she was 36, Holly had six kids — all taken away from her and placed in foster care. In 2010, however, she tired of the abuse and alcohol. And she turned to God.
She got sober, got her kids back, and tried to rebuild her life. But in 2012, she and her kids were homeless.
A case worker persuaded her to go to Hope Gardens.
“Hope Gardens was this beautiful, green, healing oasis that sheltered me and my family after this horrible storm of my life,” she says. “For the first time, I felt like me and my family were safe. The staff here were so loving. It felt like family. What family is supposed to feel like.”
Through counseling and various classes that provided her with parenting and financial- management skills; through mentors and caseworkers that kept her on track; through chaplains and Bible studies that kept her focused on God — Holly says she got the parenting and nurturing she never got as a child.
Today, Holly says she’s becoming the “godly woman” she’s meant to be. She’s been sober for three years, she’s working, and her family is now preparing to move into their own apartment again.
“I’m so grateful God brought me to Hope Gardens,” she says. “I have a new apartment, but Hope Gardens will always be home.”
You Give Families Hope Today
by Zach Stratton
The transformation of Holly and her family is truly inspiring. But as a donor to Hope Gardens and Union Rescue Mission, you should know that your support transforms hundreds of families just like Holly’s every year. And that’s a powerful thing.
It’s also vitally important. The growth of family homelessness in Los Angeles is tragic. Thousands of young mothers and children face overwhelming barriers that prevent them from a better life — domestic violence, mental-health issues, addictions, emotional and sexual abuse, lack of education, joblessness, and many more.
Many times they’ve spent months or years moving from couch to couch, shelter to shelter, even living out of cars. These young mothers are so stressed keeping their families going day to day, they have no energy to think about tomorrow.
By the time these families come to Hope Gardens, they’re exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many times they arrive without hope. They need more than shelter and three meals a day. They need a chance to rest, so they can begin to heal and rebuild their families.
And that’s what you give them. You also provide them with classes in financial management, healthy relationships, and parenting. Counseling and therapy to heal past traumas. Education and job training. Case workers like me, who help them find jobs, and housing, and create a long-term plan for their lives. Finally, you give them the chance to reconnect with God and grow spiritually through chapel, Christian discipleship classes, and prayer.
Right now, your gifts are helping to support approximately 60 mothers and more than 100 children. And over the past year, you’ve helped transform the lives of as many as 200 mothers and over 400 children.
They say it takes a village to raise a child — or a family. And Hope Gardens is a kind of village — a village of precious families, a village of caring caseworkers, chaplains and staff, and a village of compassionate people like you. There is no “us and them” in this village. There is only us. Mothers, children, me, and you. And it’s a village that doesn’t exist apart from your support.
Zach Stratton is a case manager at Hope Gardens Family Center. For more information about Hope Gardens, please call 213.347. 6300 ext. 7101 or visit our website at urm.org/services/hope-gardens.
Because of You
I struggled with a drug addiction for most of my life. By 2011, it got so bad I was on the streets. When I came to Union Rescue Mission, they helped me get closer to God and taught me how to follow His instructions in the Bible to live a better life.
I’ve learned that I need to stay disciplined in all areas of my life. One discipline that helped me is running. I ran my first L.A. Marathon in 2012 and I’ve run in every one since. Today, everything is going better for me and my family. I am grateful to God there is a place like Union Rescue Mission.
Notes From Andy
Transforming Families Today — and Tomorrow
My heart just breaks. The number of children experiencing homelessness in the United States is at an all-time high. In fact, at least 10,000 families are struggling here in Los Angeles alone.
Probably 70% of these precious moms, like Holly, are victims of divorce and domestic abuse. Others struggle with inadequate educational or work skills, and long-term unemployment. Regardless
of the reasons, however, many of these beautiful young mothers are now tragically living with their children in cars, garages, sheds — or worse.
But everything changes when they come to Hope Gardens. Hope Gardens not only provides them with safety, food, and shelter, it gives them the necessary skills they need to thrive. It helps them with relationship issues, provides educational opportunities, offers mental-health care, and trains them to become better mothers to their children.
As a donor, your gifts provide resources for completely transforming mothers and children so they will never again experience homelessness in their lifetime. You give them everything they need to take care of their families today, so for the first time they can begin to dream about tomorrow. I pray God will bless you for it!