There has been quite a bit of buzz around this topic since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ministries across the country have found themselves on vacillating ends of the spectrum between empty and full houses with burgeoning waiting lists. So why the variance?
I recently spoke with homes from different regions of the country, each with varied programming models, ministry models, and eligibility criteria. I found that the homes with low occupancy rates (For the purposes of this writing, “low” will be less than 25%) repeatedly described their experiences of receiving calls from women in the community inquiring about their home or even interviewing some women, however, these women did not meet the criteria to be eligible to move into the home. Reasons ranged from past or current drug use, criminal record, previous pregnancies, previous children removed from care, children currently in care, or perhaps a generally poor attitude. Needless to say, this can be an exhausting daily merry-go-round for ministries.
Many of us serving in maternity housing ministries have found ourselves in similar shoes! The lives of our residents can be complicated and the definition of “success” is admittedly subjective. Using a tool such as the Evaluation Matrix for Maternity Homes, which you will find cost-free in the Heartbeat affiliation tools for maternity homes, can help to provide an objective and quantifiable measure of progress in the lives of residents.
It is important to provide data on a few specific outcomes that are directly related to your mission statement, typically about 3-5 outcomes. Our recommendation is to internally measure a wide variety of indicators (about 10-15) and externally present the selected few. This will help guide the public in awareness of specifically how your mission statement is affecting the community as well as keep you equipped with relevant data about many areas of a resident’s progress to have on hand for conversations with donors.
Great topic of discussion here. First, I’ll share that you are not alone. This is the most common place of exasperation among maternity housing ministries that I hear of on a regular basis! Several factors may play into this, chief among them being our high rate of unemployment nationally at this time. Most communities are facing labor shortages with ministries not being any different.
So, what to do to keep the ship afloat during the storm? While we have a shortage in labor, we ironically do not have a shortage of unpaid labor in most communities! My recommendation is to make the most of this season to build a first-class volunteer program in your ministry. A thriving volunteer program can bolster every aspect of your ministry from recruitment, evangelism, programmatic operations, and especially development/fundraising.
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