Better Together: Moms helping moms

For single mothers, living paycheck to paycheck while raising a child is hard work. There are 11 million single mothers in America today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.     

Some rely on other single moms, thanks to Carmel Boss’ idea created out of desperation. After her 17 year marriage abruptly ended, Boss and her then 7-year-old son Cooper faced an uncertain future.

"I was on my own. That loneliness brought up a lot of anxiety, and I sort of took that into meditation one day," Boss said. "And then there was the idea, a very crystal clear idea, of finding another single mother to house share with."

Boss created CoAbode.org, which connects single moms to live together and combine their paychecks to cover rent, utilities and groceries,

"So, in this case, it’s single mothers coming together to share housing. They get emotional support, and a friend, and a buddy and a little bit of the village," Boss said.

Boss soon learned a lot of single moms live in less than ideal conditions. "One of them was living in a converted garage with her two children. Others live in either studio apartments or one bedroom apartments," she said. 

CoAbode.com launched in 2000, and there have been more than 70,000 registered profiles. There are currently eight listings in Cape Girardeau, 14 in Carbondale, six in Paducah and three in Murray. A multi-page questionnaire helps place single moms with similar interests and values. Questions include: "Are you currently involved with anyone who will be a regular overnight guest?" and "How would you describe your views on child discipline?"

The U.S. Census Bureau also found roughly 35 percent of single mother families don’t have enough food, and 13 percent of single mothers require help from food pantries. Conditions like those are why some single mothers slip into homelessness. 

"Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population nationwide," Paducah Cooperative Ministry Executive Director Heidi Suhrheinrich said.

Suhrheinrich says shelter homes that make up the Fresh Start Village serve as the building blocks for homeless single moms to pull themselves out of their current situations. 

"That’s the first thing you have to have is a safe place, and a healthy place and a place where you can breath. And then you can start thinking about a future again," Suhrheinrich added.

Sheila Forrest is the shelter director and monitors the Fresh Start Village.

"I check to make sure that everybody is up and out and gone, that the house is clean, that the beds are made. Everybody succeeds. That means that somebody else is out there working, paying taxes, becoming a productive citizen. Their children are going to do well in school."

There are currently four housing units with multiple bedrooms and shared living spaces available for nearly two dozen people. It’s free to stay there while kids go to school and the women search for work. They also learn life skills like doing laundry, cooking and cleaning. 

Single women and single mothers who call Tte Fresh Start Village home were reluctant to speak with Local 6 and share their stories because of the stigma that surrounds them and their kids.

"There are so many reasons why a person might become homeless, and rarely is it one single thing with an easy fix. Typically, it’s several things all tangled up together, and so it takes a little while to untangle that and get somebody moving forward again," Suhrheinrich said.

Paducah Cooperative Ministry has plans to build additional shelter homes in the future. 

Are you a good single mother candidate to move in with another single mother? Take our quiz below the CoAbode Questionnaire to find out.

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