Any social services organization makes addressing barriers its mission. This is exactly how Homeward Bound was designed – a program launched by WoodGreen that supports homeless or inadequately housed single mothers to earn college diplomas, start careers and achieve financial self-sufficiency. The idea was to eliminate barriers for single mothers, so they have an opportunity to thrive. In reality, the program has done more than just removing barriers. The program evolved into a well-oiled machine, challenging women to embark on a more self-sufficient journey.
In a span of four years, a single mother-led family goes from homelessness, survival jobs and feeling helpless to a sustainable career path, increased confidence, stable housing and unlimited potential for multiplying their successes in future generations.
How does this evolution take place? Is it a magical potion that does this trick?
Maybe, but the ingredients of this potion are hard work, a strong network, clear structure with expectations and some good luck. The women create the magic by accomplishing one milestone at a time. Their transformation is gradual. As a result, we see “the proof in the pudding.” No one can take away their achievements. All we do is remove barriers and provide a SMART plan.
In this video, Homeward Bound frontline staff explain the foundational flow of the program and point out major barriers that are being addressed. Instead of describing how the program works, I would like to demonstrate how it makes a difference in the lives of participants.
Meet Nadia*, a single mother of a sweet, shy 2-year-old boy who is always trying to hide behind her. Nadia is an immigrant who has been in Canada for over four years. Even though she has a university degree, in Canada she has only worked survival jobs in retail. After having a baby, she found herself being held hostage by her own partner, who controlled everything in her life – whom she talked to, where she went, what she did. Eventually, she found a way to get out of the abusive relationship, but the cost for her freedom was homelessness.
“The women create the magic by accomplishing one milestone at a time. Their transformation is gradual. As a result, we see ‘the proof in the pudding.'”
Then Nadia finds Homeward Bound, the program she has been praying for. She passes a rigorous intake process and is accepted into the program. Now she has housing, childcare, financial support for college education, dedicated program staff to support her but …
By this time, Nadia has experienced a lot of losses: loss of her home country, loss of her marriage, loss of her dignity, loss of her sense of security and stability, and most of all, she lost her confidence – her belief in herself, which was shattered into pieces.
The journey of reviving her confidence will be gradual and built upon a series of hard-won successes. She needs time – time to test her own abilities again, time to reflect and see how reaching each milestone restores her self-confidence, piece by piece. This fragile feeling of belief in herself is cautiously and gently boosted by the staff, who are constantly celebrating small successes and cheering Nadia on in her journey.
However, sometimes all of this is still not enough. When Nadia feels discouraged, the staff pulls out one more “magic trick”: connecting her to program alumni, women who personally travelled this road and have “crossed the bridge” from self-doubt and desperation into the world of higher self-esteem and unlimited possibilities. This does the trick, and Nadia’s anxiety and self-doubt go down a few degrees.
By this time, Nadia is a fresh college grad and is ready to launch her career. This is the stage when true transformation happens. Two years of constant studying pays off – she is at her internship! Her confidence grows daily as she watches herself actually doing this job. Her fears gradually evaporate when she can touch and feel this job. It materializes from a vague fantasy into a real, practical experience. The confidence heart is beating again; the pulse is weak but from this point on, it will only get stronger.
Nadia is a success story, a story of hard work, dedication and the right amount of supports around her. Are all stories a “success” in this way? No – some are not able to launch within the Homeward Bound timeframe of four years, or sometimes they were never actually “fully in,” looking for something else at this time in their lives. Whatever this might be, one thing is for certain: Homeward Bound is a good recipe for boosting the confidence of many women who have experienced losses, but are ready to find themselves again and launch their journey toward unlimited opportunities for themselves and their children.
*Nadia is a fictionalized character who represents a typical story of a Homeward Bound participant.