By Susan Grant
Bethel Next Step Coordinator
A Chattanooga native, Susan has a Master of Social Work degree and is licensed in TN and in GA. She recently retired after 25 years as a foster care worker and court liaison for Hamilton County with the TN Dept. of Children’s Services. She also has experience in education and behavioral health. She is a wife, mother and grandmother and a Bible study leader in her church.
How much difference can a transitional housing program make for a single mom in crisis? Jayda and her children are living proof that Bethel’s Next Step program can open doors to a new life.
Jayda never thought she would be raising two children without help from their father. Like many single moms, however, she is shouldering all the financial and child-raising responsibilities by herself.
When Jayda contacted Bethel, it was clear she had a lot going for her: Intelligence, great customer service skills and a steady job, but her income was low.
After paying for childcare, she could barely cover rent. What little she had was chipped away by unexpected bills, especially emergency car repairs. When she was notified that she and her children were going to be evicted, she was exhausted but determined to find a new path.
Hope and a Hand Up
Jayda understood that Bethel’s Next Step transitional housing program was a temporary housing solution, a way for her to regroup, save money, and create a sustainable life plan.
She applied for the program, provided the documentation required, and was accepted. Shortly after that, Jayda and her children moved into a clean home on our campus with a shady yard and a safe place to play.
As Next Step coordinator, I met with Jayda every week, reviewing her budgeting efforts, brainstorming on new problems, and sharing a devotional and prayer time.
Although she was discouraged at times about her situation, Jayda never gave up. She applied for jobs and received five offers, but all required hours that were not compatible with affordable childcare. She worked on getting her GED. She applied for a Chattanooga Housing Voucher, which is awarded through a lottery.
Jayda caught on quickly to sound budgeting, but her failing car was a thorn in her flesh. She bought it not realizing it was a money pit and that the seller was a predatory lender. It was a budget buster, but she felt that she had put so much money into the car that she could not let it go.
So, we did the thing we do best at Bethel: We prayed about it. God’s answer was to allow the car to die and the lender to repossess it. At the same time a car was donated to Bethel that she could buy for a small amount, but it was still out of budget.
This was her lowest point in the journey. It was Christmas time. She needed new glasses. She was borrowing her sister’s car to pursue jobs and housing. Naturally she worried about presents for her kids.
So often we see God work most powerfully when we feel we have hit the end of our rope.
At last, Jayda found a job that paid a bit more and worked well with her scheduling needs for childcare. She won the Housing Authority lottery and received a voucher which qualified her for safe, affordable housing when it became available. Then, a Bethel sponsor asked if there was a family in Next Step he could sponsor for Christmas.
As a result, Jayda’s kids had gifts at Christmas. Jayda got her glasses. And, with the sponsor’s help, she was able to afford the donated car. Just as our name says, it really does take a “village” to help families in crisis and we are so grateful for those who partner with us.
A New Beginning
Jayda recently left Bethel with our blessing. She was driving a car that is paid for, living in affordable housing in an area that is safe for her children, making more money and has a plan to complete her GED. She also has markedly more confidence and trust in God than when she first arrived on our campus.
I asked Jayda what was one of the most important lessons she learned while at Bethel. She replied that she had learned to think through the difference between a “need” and a “want.” A life lesson for sure. One that will help her continue to sustain her new-found life.
Find out more about Bethel’s Next Step transitional housing program