How two inspiring mothers found their village at the Women’s Community Kitchen
Stories of sacrifice, resilience, and HOPE in the face of hardship
There’s a saying that goes, “Home is where Mom is.” No one understands that more than children who have experienced homelessness and housing insecurity. At the Atlanta Women’s Community Kitchen (WCK)*, motherly love is in full force. What began as a place for women to receive a hot meal has become a fully-fledged support system — something that every mom needs, but especially those who struggle and sacrifice to provide necessities for their families.
Laverne and Melissa, both moms and longtime WCK guests, are the embodiment of motherly love. Here are their stories.
Most parents know what it’s like to have a toddler who’s sick with an ear infection. Imagine if you had to choose between seeking medical attention for your little one and having a safe place to sleep that night.
That was the reality for Laverne, a mother of two who once lived in homeless shelters with her children.
“I didn’t know anything about being in a shelter. We got kicked out because my daughter had an ear infection,” she said. “I had to take her to the emergency room, and they said, ‘If you leave, you can’t come back.’”
Like many families experiencing homelessness, Laverne’s struggles began with a sudden emergency: she fell and broke her hip. “I ended up getting evicted. It just went from bad to worse,” she said. “I didn’t have food stamps or nothing. I couldn’t make ends meet.”
Thus began a hard-fought journey to secure stable housing, moving between homeless shelters with her family in the meantime. “I never lived on the street,” she said. “I couldn’t go that route, especially not with kids.”
In a day shelter, Laverne first heard about the Women’s Community Kitchen, which became a reliable resource for the family as they navigated the housing system. Although times were tough, she was determined to stay positive. “Keep encouraging yourself. Remain positive. Keep your mind focused on what you need to,” she said. “Be aware of your surroundings but don’t get caught up in them.”
Her determination paid off. Laverne now lives in a house with her 15-year-old daughter. She currently works for a nonprofit assisting with outreach and working towards her social work certification, with just one class left to complete. One day, she would like to start her own business.
“Complain less. Pray more. That’s what got me through these times,” she said.
Melissa’s two children — a daughter and a son — are typical, happy high schoolers focused on getting good grades and dreaming about their futures. That’s all thanks to their mother Melissa’s sacrifices and unwavering support, even when faced with crushing hardships.
When her health issues left the family without income (and mounting medical bills), she heard about the Women’s Community Kitchen and all of its available resources for women and children.
“They were [providing] medical classes, cooking classes, health screenings. They were helping me with housing. I talked to social workers,” she said. “Before COVID-19, they would have clothing and shoes. If they had it, they would let me know, and me and my kids would come to get some stuff.”
At the WCK, Melissa found a community of other women with similar challenges.
“We would sit here and share other information with other women. Everyone would share their resources and flyers and paperwork and see if they can help us,” she said.
At one point, for seven months, Melissa and her kids were living in a shelter. Still, she worked relentlessly to secure necessities like health insurance, disability income, and stable housing. She was finally able to secure a Section 8 voucher and a house for her family.
These days, she’s able to focus on helping her daughter with her applications.
“I’m looking for an internship for my daughter right now because she’s 18. She’s graduating next month!” said the proud mom. “She wants to go into cosmetology school, so we’ve been putting in some applications.”
As for her 15-year-old son? “His mind is a sponge. He’s a genius. I’m like, ‘Where do you get all of this stuff?’” she said. “He has so much knowledge in his head. He does so good at school.”
Having come to WCK for five years, Melissa still shows up regularly to stretch the household budget. “If I see someone else I know that’s going through the same stuff, I let them know about Grace*. They’ve helped me with a lot,” she said.
Even more importantly?
“They love my children.”
Many Georgia mothers like Melissa and Laverne rely on HOPE Atlanta’s services when faced with hunger, homelessness, or both. Help us provide the year-round support system they need by making a monthly gift. You can even donate in a friend or loved one’s name (in fact, we can’t think of a better way to honor a special mom in your life).
*The Women’s Community Kitchen (WCK), on the campus of Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta, was founded in 1984 as a program of Action Ministries. Run primarily by volunteers, WCK provides more than 20,000 meals per year to women and children in need.