New Life Mission to revamp Hacienda Girls Ranch for homeless mothers and children
Homeless after fleeing domestic violence, Brittany and her 7-year-old daughter are forced to sleep in their car at night due to tight finances.
They then spent a stressful six months in crowded rooms inside the emergency shelter in Brevard County until they secured housing and a support system to restart their lives at Melbourne’s New Life Mission. .
“It was such a humbling experience to be able to leave my toothbrush in the bathroom and not have to bring it into my bedroom and lock it every day,” recalls Brittany, 32.
“The first night I was able to potty myself, I cried,” she said.
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The New Life Mission (previously called the Brevard Rescue Mission) is a Christian non-profit organization that provides housing for homeless women with children, usually for one to two years. Comprehensive programs include parenting, counseling, financial coaching, education and employment assistance.
Today, the organization has nearly doubled its housing capacity through a $3 million capital campaign. The New Life Mission lives in Melbourne’s former Hacienda Girls Ranch, living in cars, couchsurfing with friends and relatives, living in low-cost motels, facing imminent eviction, and deprivation. It has been refurbished as a communal shelter for mothers who are living with a child.
Development director Tim Wilson said, “This is the solution. Once they’ve completed the program and exited, they’re now back in society, becoming contributing members, and hopefully never going back to being homeless again. ‘ said.
Amid inflation and rising rents, demand for struggling mothers continues to grow across the Space Coast. The New Life Mission saw a 181% surge in calls and applications for help last year, said CEO Amy Lyon.
“Evictions are on the rise. And people are becoming incapacitated. The cost of nurseries and the price of food are all going up,” Lyon said.
“And we can fill that gap. Some of them just have time to save money,” she said.
New Life Mission was founded by CEO Stacia Gravus, who had just retired after a young impoverished mother of a one-year-old baby collapsed outside her Rockledge home in 2006 after an asthma attack. Gravus and her husband Pete helped her out. When she returned to her nearby apartment, she was shocked to find the woman living in poor conditions.
Hacienda Girls Ranch is a cluster of buildings on Croton Road that has provided housing and educational opportunities to teenage girls with family problems for over 30 years. The Florida Children’s Homes Association sold the largely forested 25-acre site to New Life Mission in May 2021 for $2.25 million.
Prior to acquiring the ranch, New Life Mission could house up to 21 families in small apartments in the O’Gurrie complex on US 1 and two properties in Melbourne with classified addresses. Some clients, like Brittany, are fleeing domestic violence.
Refurbishment work continues on the former women’s ranch, and another 15 to 18 families will live in a building staffed by a “House Mama” to oversee and share a kitchen and laundry room. Dubbed the New Life Village, the facility also includes a crèche for children participating in the program.
Future plans call for the construction of a two-story dormitory that can accommodate an additional 60 families. Lyon said it has no schedule for this expansion phase.
During the previous fiscal year, New Life Mission reported operating revenues of $1.8 million (including $679,000 from capital campaigns) and operating expenses of $1.4 million (including $127,000 in campus renovations).
Donations and fundraising from individuals, churches and businesses make up the bulk of the funding. Volunteer and community engagement director Stacy Donovan said fundraising for the annual luncheon in the ballroom at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place typically accounts for about half of the operating budget. Entitled “Opening Eyes to the Homeless,” the two-day event took place in late April.
At the Former Women’s Ranch, New Life Mission Residents Brittany, Tiffany, and Jerema work together to unpack and store a roomful of donated health and beauty supplies, including cosmetics, clothing, shoes, hair products, curling irons, and more. Organized and created a dressing boutique for the resident’s mother. .
Tiffany, 39, is a victim of domestic violence. Following the death of her husband in December 2021, public facilities at her mold-infested home in the Palm Bay area of Melbourne were shut down.
“I was in a bit of a situation and I was looking for a place to pray. I have a 4-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter. So during that time, I was praying to have hope. “It was a tough time,” Tiffany said.
The family moved into the New Life Mission apartment in April 2022. Describing the program as a “single mother’s boot camp,” she said she’s regaining her cosmetology license, looking for a job and solving health problems.
“They teach you different life skills, like budgeting, which I really didn’t know because I was in a controlling relationship. And I didn’t have those skills.” ‘ said Tiffany.
“Counseling me and my children was amazing. We have grown so much. I was so scared, nervous ‘about the future and what it would really look like,’ she said.
“Not now. My future looks very clear and bright.”
Rick Neal South Brevard Watchdog reporter for FLORIDA TODAY (for more on his story, visit click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or email@example.com. twitter: @RickNeale1
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