The most notable trend which emerged from these conversations comes as no surprise to all of you in the maternity housing field. Maternity Homes with fewer residential eligibility criteria generally remain at a higher occupancy rate than homes with many eligibility criteria. Overall, I found that the greater the number of “checkpoints” to pass to qualify to move into the maternity home the lower the occupancy rate of the home overall. So what should we take away from this?
Before you jump to removing all of your eligibility criteria in desperation to fill your beds there are a few considerations to be had. Here are a few questions for open discussion with your staff:
- How did we come to choose these parameters that we’ve set to be considered eligible to move in? Review each criteria individually.
- Why are our parameters set in such a way that the majority of inquiring candidates do not meet them?
- Who did the Lord call our organization to serve? Where is this population found?
- Do we believe that the Lord only wants this organization to serve those that meet this set of criteria?
While these questions can feel uncomfortable at first glance, take another look at them. Each question may very well be answered affirmatively to the ways your organization is currently operating. If this is the case, then carry on during your season of lulling occupancy to make the most of your (probably short) window of opportunity.
I suspect there may be a few of you that can relate to myself and many others I connected with in the maternity housing ministry that found upon closer inspection that many of the criteria I’d set for residents were set for reasons that no longer seemed quite so critical. Much of the criteria did not match the changing trends of our local community which explained why our beds were empty - there simply weren’t very many women in the city that matched that profile. Other reasons include fear of losing control of the home or even helplessness in not knowing how to help someone with such severe problems. It is in this place that I encourage you to consider an update to the criteria for residents to be considered eligible to move in. With this refresh you may need to add resources and training to meet the needs of new residents moving in.
I’d be remiss to not mention a quick note about mission drift.There is a delicate balance between adapting to the trends of the community and resisting the temptation to be “trendy” in ministry. It is normal to find yourself realizing that perhaps it is time for your organization to take a fresh analytical look at the current trends in the population around you. Where are they? What are their needs? What is their story? Where have they been? Studying questions such as these will help you to connect the core mission of your home with the needs of your community. In this way, you may shift the “how” of your ministry but remain faithful to the “what.”