Birmingham Program Helps Families Find Their Way Home

By: Laura Poff

After escaping an abusive relationship, Michaela Bustamante was determined to find a safe home for her two children and for herself.

“After we separated, things went downhill,” she said. “I kept trying to get in school to make our life better for us, but it was hard.”

She needed help finding and establishing stability at home and resources to finance her education. That’s when she heard about The Salvation Army’s My Home program in Birmingham, Alabama.

The My Home program helps working parents and veterans who are homeless or living in a treatment center with the first month’s rent, utility costs and furniture and appliances to help families move into homes of their own. It also provides one year of case management, private meetings with a life skills coach, budget and financing classes provided by an area bank, funding for continuing education for parents and work uniforms. To qualify, adults in the household must be employed for 30 hours per week. For those who aren’t, My Home staff offers resume writing and interviewing training and partners with local temp agencies to help clients find full time work.

“We are the only program around that does this,” said Omisha McConnico, My Home case manager.

“Some shelters may assist with utility deposits or furniture, but most of them refer their families to us because we are able to do a lot more to help the whole family, not just pay a bill here and there.”

For Bustamante, without comprehensive family care, advancement was impossible.

“I was trying to find someone to keep my son while I go to school, trying to keep a job, and once I got into the shelter, the shelter provided all of the things that I was looking for,” she said. “Not only shelter but daycare and tokens to get on the bus to go look for a job.”

With the help of My Home, Bustamante completed her certified nursing assistant’s degree and moved into a place of her own.

Many families who have been assisted by My Home stay in touch with case workers after their year of case management is complete. One woman, a single mother of four who sought help after moving from out of state after her divorce, has had a continued impact on McConnico.

“She told me that she didn’t have any family nearby, so we became her family,” McConnico said. “She showed me that no matter where you come from, you can’t predict the future.” Almost two years after seeking assistance, the client recently bought a home and invited McConnico to her housewarming party at the end of the month.

“When I met her she was depressed and was working a restaurant job because she had just moved here and taken the first thing she could find,” McConnico said. Now she’s doing so well, she’s where a lot of our clients want to be. She’s happy. It’s amazing how two years can completely change your life.”