By Teri Carnicelli
When she was 19 years old, Marlene K. became addicted to crystal meth. She got pregnant when she was 21 and worked hard to get sober and find a stable job. But six years later, she slipped and was back on drugs. She eventually lost her home and her daughter, and was in and out of jail.
Marlene once again decided to try to get her life back on track, and agreed to enter a 30-day, in-patient rehabilitation program. Before she completed the 30 days, her drug counselor gave her an application to a program called Bridge To Hope. Marlene was skeptical and more than a little reluctant—but she knew she’d have a better chance of success with the support of a team behind her. So she filled out the application.
After two in-person interviews, Marlene was accepted into the Bridge To Hope (B2H) program, which is a faith-based ministry that works outside of and across denominations to end homelessness, one family at a time, by working with a partner Christian church to take a vested interest in a single mother and her children in crisis. The program is based in North Central Phoenix, at 1815 W. Missouri Ave., #105.
Marlene started the program in June 2015, and celebrated her graduation with friends, family and other supporters at a dinner event on Aug. 17 at Bethany Bible Church, 6060 N. 7th Ave.
“I have a job, I have a home, I have a checking account, and I’ve paid off most of my debt,” Marlene said at the dinner. “And, I have my family back.”
Bridge To Hope found a new partner in the program with Faith Bible Church in Glendale, which agreed to be matched with Marlene during her journey. It was a rough start for both sides; Marlene admitted she was difficult to work with a first, and members of the Faith Bible team were still finding their footing in what was a new ministry for them.
Her B2H case manager, Sallie Jarboe, said Marlene was definitely a challenge as she had built up walls of mistrust over the years, and was used to being on her own. It took time for Marlene to learn to trust and work with others, but when she did, it was a joyous moment for everyone.
“Our goal was to meet her where she was before her life fell apart, and pick up the pieces and move forward,” Jarboe says. “We worked with her to set goals, and then helped her in meeting those goals.”
The “help” came in the form of temporary housing, drug counseling, vocational training, budgeting, and monthly activities with her Faith Bible Church team members, who also provided rides to and from B2H as well as fun, family-building activities with Marlene and her 11-year-old daughter.
“I have made lifelong friends and have grown my relationship with God and with myself,” Marlene said. She hopes to eventually come back to the program—as a mentor to another mother who is struggling to get her life back on track.
Currently the B2H program can only serve four single mothers at a time. Some complete the program sooner than others. But the limitation comes from partner church teams. Currently there are only four Valley churches that have partnered with the program. If more churches stepped up with a ministry team to work with a mother (generally a two year commitment), B2H could serve more single moms who are struggling to get their lives back on track.
“We get a handful of calls every single day from social workers and counselors hoping to place someone in our program, and we have to turn them away,” says AmySue Seiser, director of the program. “It’s truly heartbreaking. We know the program works, we know we can end the cycle of drugs and homelessness for these moms—one family at a time.”
Pat Harter, a B2H board member, said, “The transformation you see in these women is just amazing. It takes a lot of courage to say you need help. But if you do, great things can happen.”
Valley churches that want to learn more about partnering with the Bridge To Hope program should contact AmySue Seiser at 602-589-5556 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, members of the community who would like to help can find a list of ongoing needs, such as toiletries, diapers and women and children’s clothing, on the organization’s website at www.b2hope.org, under the “Get Involved” tab.