By Gwen Rollings
“Everything is work. Finding food, clothes, finding a place to take a shower. Those millions of little things that can be easy to take for granted just aren’t there,” Breanna Lathrop of Good Samaritan Health Center said, referring to women in desperate situations.
Everyone associated with Mary & Martha House in Ruskin knows this to be true.
According to a 2018 Point-in-Time survey, more than 216,000 women are homeless on a given night in the United States. As many as 8.5 million women are victims of domestic abuse each year. Countless millions of children are exposed to the effects of domestic abuse and homelessness.
The personal faces of these overwhelming statistics arrive one at a time on the doorstep of Mary & Martha House. Women of all ages over 18 years old and all racial and ethnic backgrounds, regardless of socio-economic history, come, often accompanied with children.
Each woman’s story and journey to healing is unique, like Shannon’s, who said, “I was broken and desperate for help. The Mary & Martha House guided me on a path to healing through counseling and training. I did not feel judged, I felt understood. I don’t know where I would be today without them.”
Since 1982, Mary & Martha House has been about personal connections. The name is derived from a story about two sisters in Luke 10:39-42 of the Bible. Mary and Martha opened their home in the small town of Bethany near Jerusalem to give individuals on a spiritual journey with Jesus a place to stay and food to eat. The personal connections with these travelers transformed the sisters’ lives forever.
Mary & Martha House also seeks to be the catalyst to transform lives of abused and homeless women and their children in the small town of Ruskin near Tampa for those in South Hillsborough County. Providing shelter, support and success, women can reclaim their lives with strength, honor and dignity, one step at a time.
Laurie Herring, executive director, said the first step for women in crises is having the courage to walk away from abusive relationships. “Once the women show up at the Mary & Martha House, we are committed to helping them put their lives back together, overcoming each barrier.”
Herring believes that the financial impact of pulling hundreds of families out of homelessness and rebuilding their lives cannot be calculated. “There is a huge multiplier effect when you have families who can now send their children to school and mothers who are confident and fully employed.”
Arriving at that successful destination requires much dedication, determination, support and vision.
The vision, after almost four decades, was to replace the original 23-bed facility on the same location with a much larger 54-bed house. Construction began late last summer to make this a reality.
Jeanetta Taylor, program and housing manager for Mary & Martha House, beamed like a proud mother as she explained what the new home will provide for these women and children who deserve the chance for a better future.
Some of what the new Mary & Martha House will have:
Trained counselors available immediately upon arrival to ascertain needs.
All necessary clothing supplied for every family member.
Personal hygiene items.
54 beds available.
Food allowances for individuals/families, if required.
Personal refrigerators in the kitchen for each room.
A fully supplied kitchen with stoves/ovens as each woman cooks for herself/family.
Assigned kitchen cabinets to store their food and dishes.
Large commercial washers/dryers for personal use of residents.
An education center with 15 computers for education and employment assistance.
Goals identification and pathway assistance to achieving them.
And a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Completion of the 10,000-square-foot house saw cost escalations on certain items due to COVID-19. Herring said community involvement with financial donations are essential. As Mary & Martha House’s doors swing open to provide food, clothing, showers and necessities most take for granted, consider a generous donation or give in honor of a loved one and help reclaim lives.
For more information on how you can make a difference, call 645-7874 or visit www.marymarthahouse.org.