Donor Buys Duplex for Agape

By Rosalind Guy

Thanks to a $70,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor, Agape Child and Family Services' Families in Touch (FIT) program will begin moving into new office space at the end of the month.

Officials said the donor has bought a duplex for FIT not far from its current campus, the location of which Agape does not publicize because of clients' safety. FIT provides housing and counseling to homeless pregnant women and their children.

"(The donor) is familiar with Agape and he's worked with other nonprofits and been on several boards," said FIT coordinator Angela White. "And he just kind of struck up a conversation with (David Jordan, executive director of Agape) about wanting to do something for FIT. Out of all the programs we have, he chose FIT, that his family could really come in and provide a home."

The new property is off Jackson Avenue in Midtown.

Growth ahead

Initially, White said the donation was intended to provide housing for two women and their children, but since the home is a short distance away from the FIT campus, where the women live in close proximity to one another, FIT officials determined the best use for the new property would be for office space.

The current office takes up one half of a duplex, with the other half used to offer life skills training to the women in the program. But White said as the program grows and accepts more women, it's beginning to outgrow that space.

Agape has five employees and one to be hired soon. That's in addition to the 10 women and 16 children currently served.

The five employees include White, the FIT coordinator, an administrative assistant, a social worker and two resident counselors who are available to the women 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

They recently began shuttling the women to the Agape building at 111 Racine St. for the life skills training programs.

Hope for hopeless

Jordan said as the program grows, they'd like to grow the population they serve to include women with alcohol and drug dependencies.

"Our goal this year is to be able to serve 20 homeless pregnant women and their children, with this added aspect added to our program of housing women who are actively using alcohol and marijuana when they come to us and being pregnant," Jordan said. "Obviously, we want no harm done to the fetus as well as the mom. So we're expanding the FIT program to begin serving some of those women who are actively using, but saying they want to stop."

Jordan said FIT will partner with other outside entities, such as drug rehabilitation agencies, to provide intensive support to help the women quit.

"They will then be able to move on into the FIT program, where they can stay for up to two years with a goal of moving into their own home, parenting their children and being employed," he said.

Having housing for up to 20 women will allow FIT to begin to help just some of the people turned away in the past because of limited space.

"We had in the neighborhood of about 300 referrals last year," Jordan said, "and around 80 percent of those were for women who were struggling with alcohol, using drugs ... and so we're really wanting to address that population; again they're still homeless, they're still pregnant, but on top of that is the alcohol and drug use."

That's why FIT has been aggressively growing since beginning the program seven years ago. When it started, it provided housing to six women and their
children; and while the goal is to shoot for 20 women this year, Jordan said he'd eventually like to be able to serve 40 to 50 women.

The FIT program is funded in part with grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The HUD money goes to pay for the women's housing and utilities.