Rescue and Recovery for Hurting Women and Children

Hope Ministries’ current Hope Center for Women and Children is located at 3333 E. University Avenue in Des Moines. The current location can only effectively serve around 35 women and moms with children.

Hope Ministries is seeking to purchase a property at 3800 East Douglas Avenue in Des Moines that currently houses Experience Church of the Open Bible. At this location, Hope Ministries will establish a new campus to serve up to 100 homeless women and mothers with children.

Included below is information our current programming, current safety protocols and successes.

Current Programming for Women and Children

Hope Ministries’ mission is to rescue those who are homeless, hungry, abused or addicted, providing opportunities for hope, recovery and restoration through the love of Jesus Christ. We commit to offering women and children a safe, friendly, clean, encouraging and dignified environment with 24/7 staff coverage and individualized case management. We provide food, clothing, safe refuge, and hope for the future through our short-term and long-term programs. Programming and safety are constantly evolving and adapting. Our goal is to give our clients the best opportunity to break free of homelessness.

Short-Term (30-Day) Program
The entry level program offered at Hope Center for Women and Children is our 30-Day program, in which women stay with us to actively seek employment or housing, work, go to school, etc. Minimal programming is required, including chores and a daily morning meeting. As long as clients meet fundamental criteria, such as staying clean and sober, actively seeking their next step (job, housing, education), they may receive extensions for up to 90 days.

Angela’s Story

After decades of drug abuse, prostitution and homelessness, Angela sought help at our Hope Center, where she received nutritious meals to help her regain her health and the loving guidance she needed to rebuild her life. Angela completed our two-year life recovery program and achieved one milestone after another—regaining custody of her son, renewing her driver’s license and purchasing a car, completing a management program at a local store and becoming an associate manager and reaching 3 years+ of sobriety! Today Angela lives independently and mentors other women in recovery at Hope Center!

Life Recovery Programs
Basic Skills
Before women may enter our long-term life recovery program, they must first complete Basic Skills. In this program, they undergo evaluation by staff and participate in structured introductory programming, including counseling, work skills training, practical life skills classes (e.g.: Money Basics), individual and group therapy, and an addiction recovery class. Before acceptance into our long-term life recovery program, women in Basic Skills are evaluated by staff on their openness, teachability, and willingness to change.

H.E.A.R.T. Recovery
Our long-term life recovery program—H.E.A.R.T.—lasts two years, during which women move through the program’s five phases: Healing, Equipping, Accountability, Responsibility, and Transformation. Clients spend approximately 45 hours a week in structured programming, including classes, work skills training, case management meetings, recovery groups, etc. We focus on six key areas:

  • Recovery—substance abuse counseling, therapy, support group interaction
  • Spiritual Life—Christ-centered counseling, church attendance, mentoring relationship
  • Life Skills—classes on parenting, budgeting and financial planning, anger management, developing healthy boundaries
  • Education—completing high school equivalency diploma, enrolling in local community colleges or universities
  • Health and Wellness—nutrition education, exercise classes
  • Work Readiness—resume writing classes, practice interviews, onsite work skills training assignments

The H.E.A.R.T. Recovery Program helps clients experience life change through a heart change, equipping them to succeed at making good choices and living responsibly. Upon completion of our life recovery program, individuals are clean and sober and have secured housing, employment, and an ongoing support system, including a church or recovery group.

Off-site Aftercare Program
Hope Ministries believes the life recovery process continues well beyond the completion of a life recovery program. Adequate off-site aftercare is essential for ongoing sobriety and success in transitioning from a life recovery program to independent living. Hope Ministries is committed to helping our clients find support and accountability as they begin life after residential life recovery. Our goals in aftercare include maintaining accountability, reducing dependency, fostering continued spiritual growth, and promoting camaraderie.

Through our aftercare program, our case manager continues to meet with previous life recovery program clients and graduates. Our graduates have the opportunity for continued involvement in ongoing classes and counseling, as well as outings and special activities with Hope Ministries staff and current residents.

Kelli & Manny’s Story

When Kelli first arrived at our women and children’s center, she was struggling with depression and other challenges that made it difficult to live productively and care for her son. “When I think about where I was then to where I am today,” she shares, “it’s just amazing. There’s been major improvement in every area of my life.”Kelli completed our program in early 2019. Today she is working part-time while attending college classes full-time, and she’s active in our Hope Aftercare program. She lives on the east side of Des Moines and Manny is thriving. “I still have my Hope Ministries family even as I move forward in my life. Hope Ministries is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I’ll never stop being grateful!”

Children and Youth

Our children and youth program provides a nurturing environment so young people can grow in faith, hope, and love of God and others. We work with moms to help their children develop into confident, hopeful and compassionate people who have a relationship with Jesus Christ. We want the children we serve to become all that God created them to be.

General children and youth programming includes:

  • Mental health services
  • Mentoring
  • Tutoring
  • Life skills
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Community service projects
  • Arts and athletics
  • Chores
  • Spiritual development
  • Recreational and educational activities/outings
  • Reading programs
  • Assertive communication, decision making, conflict resolution

Summer children and youth programming includes:

  • Day services that include tutoring, arts, life skills
  • Camps, athletics, health and fitness

Current Safety Protocols

Hope Ministries takes safety very seriously. We continually seek to make our facilities and our neighborhoods safe and secure. By safeguarding our facilities, we also safeguard the neighborhoods around us. In that, we take a team approach. Each staff member is responsible for doing his/her part to be on the lookout for safety concerns and following specific safety procedures and protocols. Staff undergoes ongoing training related to safety protocols and changes.

Hope Ministries provides 24-hour staffing and a security system with cameras and alarms at our current women and children’s center. In addition, on the new campus for women and children, Hope Ministries will have a centralized entry and exit point from the building with a structured safety approach of monitoring and intervening.

What is our safety track record?
Hope Ministries has a great safety track record at our current locations, including our existing center for women and children. Our property is monitored vigilantly by both staff and clients. With our camera system and self-policing of our property through regular rounds, Hope Ministries staff keeps tabs on who comes and goes at all times. We have strict safety protocols about who comes on our property, and staff immediately address any departure from protocol.

Women in our life recovery program work hard to be in a safe environment and will address issues with staff that are a trigger/danger to the community. For example, in our current location, a nearby home has been involved in illegal drug activity over the years. Our clients have been quick to alert us when they see unusual, suspicious or dangerous activity occurring there or anywhere else. Hope Ministries staff has kept in contact with the police, who have responded positively to communication about our concerns and with action as needed.

Hope Ministries works hard to be a good neighbor, and we very rarely field any neighbor complaints. In fact, our women and children’s center has not received a neighborhood complaint in the past decade. In 2019 Hope Ministries women and children’s center staff made seven emergency calls, all for medical services. In our 16-year history at our current women and children’s center, there have been no crimes linked to clients while being served by Hope Ministries.

Hope Ministries staff has also built positive relationships with our neighbors who look out for us and alert us to concerns, helping to keep everyone safe, whether it’s a facility issue or dangers that are identified in the neighborhood.

How are women and children currently approved to stay at Hope Ministries?
Hope Ministries interviews all prospective clients. Women seeking our services schedule an appointment with a case manager or another trained team member. The staff member conducts a risk assessment and evaluates if the woman meets a specific set of safety criteria. We do not accept all prospective applicants.

Factors that disqualify women from staying at Hope Ministries include:

  • Unmedicated severe mental illness
  • Cases of active domestic violence
  • Cases of (active) human trafficking
  • Listed on sexual registry
  • Recent history of violence
  • Animals (except approved service dogs)

Women need to provide documentation/photo identification for themselves and the children they come in with to prove guardianship of any children.

If the woman and her children pass the preliminary risk assessment and Hope Ministries has an opening, we check them into our short-term program. At check-in, staff searches belongings for safety concerns including anything that would be classified as a weapon, as well as drugs and paraphernalia. At intake, women are tested for drugs and alcohol, as well as randomly throughout their stay.

Within the first 24-48 hours after check-in, women meet again with their assigned case manager to complete their intake paperwork, after which a background check is conducted. If staff finds safety concerns on a woman’s background check, it could lead to her being exited from the program and our facility.

What is Hope Ministries’ current approach to client visitors?
Women in Hope Ministries’ short-term program are not allowed visitors, with the exception of professionals and children not staying with the mother who are deemed safe to be on campus. Visits are only allowed in designated common area visiting spaces and during specific hours. Women are required to alert staff in advance of any visits.

Women in long-term programming are allowed authorized personal visitors who pass a safety screening. All approved safe persons in a client’s life meet with a case manager to discuss program expectations and what support needs to look like while the woman is in life recovery. Hope Ministries staff runs an Iowa Court’s background check, checks the Polk County Jail for arrests in the last year, and checks the sex-offender registry to identify possible safety concerns. Factors that exclude visitors as a safe person include past sexual abuse, active drug use, or criminal behavior, as well as not supporting the guidelines of our program with the client or not supporting Hope Ministries’ staff.

We do not allow any fathers to have child visitation on our property.

How does Hope Ministries staff currently handle loitering (both on and off property)?
Loitering is not an acceptable behavior. If loitering takes place on Hope Ministries property, staff will ask the person(s) to leave. If needed, Hope Ministries staff will contact the police. Staff will monitor this through camera surveillance, as well as by conducting regular property rounds.

The Director of Women and Children’s Ministries and staff are accessible and responsive to neighbors.

What happens with children while moms are in class or at work?
Children are not allowed to be unsupervised while mom is a client at Hope Ministries. Mothers are responsible for arranging babysitting with another adult client or using off-property child care, if she is in class or working. The only exceptions to this are when the child is attending specific programming with Hope Ministries staff or volunteers.

How does Hope Ministries handle teenagers?
Hope Ministries safety and effectively serves moms with teenaged children through careful ongoing monitoring and assessment. This occurs during mom’s check-in process and throughout her stay.

In a larger facility, we will use an expanded risk and needs assessment with teens prior to check-in covering factors such as:

  • Standard identifying information
  • History and current status with mental health, juvenile court and behavioral services
  • Safety status (i.e. aggression, running away, sexual behavior, self harm, suicidal tendencies, vandalism, destruction of property, degrees of theft, drug use, gang affiliation, etc.)
  • Interests, activities, hobbies
  • Academic history and current status
  • Openness to a Christian environment and lifestyle

This needs assessment fleshes out potential risks, which guide Hope Ministries staff in determining if families and teens are a suitable fit for our program. Safety concerns are disqualifying factors for the teen to stay with us.

After check-in, if any of these safety concerns occur, Hope Ministries staff addresses the issue swiftly and the teen may be required to exit our facility.

What is the current exit/dismissal process?
Depending on a woman’s stage of programming, Hope Ministries has various non-negotiables in place. The majority of these deal with safety issues (such as threatening behavior, theft, drug/non-authorized medications). When women in our short-term program participate in these behaviors, they are exited. They are also on an infraction system so if they reach the maximum number of infractions in a month, they are exited. Once exited from Hope Ministries, any client remaining on our property would be trespassing and staff would contact authorities.

Seventy percent of the women Hope Ministries served in 2019 entered our life recovery program. Women in our life recovery programming who participate in unwelcome behavior are offered a leave of reflection, whereby they leave overnight and return the next day for an accountability meeting. At this meeting women are asked to take responsibility for their actions/choices and come up with a plan for making better choices moving forward. If clients are responsive and cooperative with this process, they are allowed to stay in the life recovery program following their accountability meeting. They are not held to the same infraction system as women in the short-term program.

Hope Ministries staff talks to short-term clients each day at a morning meeting about having a back-up plan in place for where they will go if they are required to leave Hope Ministries. This is also reviewed with women in life recovery programming frequently and they are required to put a plan in writing and save money for an emergency. Women exited are not permitted to loiter on our grounds.

Mindy’s Story

Mindy grew up in a poverty-stricken environment . . . and her adult years only become tougher as she faced a difficult marriage. She came to our women and children’s center looking for the tools and life skills she needed to become financially independent. While in our program, Mindy rediscovered her dream to become a pastry chef and began pursuing that career, while securing stable employment. She recently completed our program and now lives independently. “I learned so much at Hope Ministries,” she says. “I lost myself a long time ago and but I found her again!”

Successes: What do women gain/learn while at Hope Ministries?

Short-term (30-day)

Women staying with Hope Ministries in our short-term program receive:

  • Physical safety and care: a roof over their heads, food to eat, a secure building, clean and sober living
  • Emotional safety: counseling by Hope Ministries staff trained in trauma-informed care
  • Freedom to explore spirituality: opportunities to ask questions and attend studies and church services
  • Safe support system: staff trained in trauma-informed care, program designed to uphold the law on all levels
  • Responsibility through accountability: system of accountability with consequences, chores, kitchen and work skill opportunities, providing documentation towards goal of housing/employment
  • Opportunity to safely secure housing
  • Opportunity to work full-time or part-time while saving money for rent
  • Personal dignity, love and care regardless of social, religious, ethnic, economic or any other status

Life recovery programming

Women participating in Hope Ministries life recovery programming gain all the benefits of the short-term program plus:

  • Individualized counseling in all areas of life by trauma-informed staff
  • Access to an on-site therapist for women and children to begin working through unresolved trauma that continues to threaten long-term success
  • Mental health services
  • Required classes in:
    • Parenting
    • Choosing safe people
    • Relapse prevention
    • Spiritual development
    • Critical thinking skills
    • Grief and loss
    • Relationship addiction
    • Domestic abuse
    • Money management
    • Homecare
    • Cooking and nutrition
    • Personality and understanding selves
    • Anger management
    • Healthy boundaries in life
    • Dating
    • Independent living
  • Being a contributing member of the community through work skills, volunteer work, and cooking
  • Opportunities to build up a personal support system for independent living through mentors, safe friends, church members, etc.
  • Legal issue resolution
  • Self-evaluation of behaviors and beliefs in a safe environment
  • Weekly health and wellness classes
  • Building work readiness, career advancement or education
  • Activities and programming for children
Heather and Bravyn’s Story

Heather was at the end of her rope when she came to Hope Ministries. Childhood trauma had led to a drug addiction and homelessness. Her son, Bravyn, also faced challenges due to his unstable childhood— particularly speech delays. Our case managers and program classes helped Heather with her parenting skills. Bravyn began enjoying Kids Night and he started speech therapy at a local agency.

Heather completed our life recovery program and now she and Bravyn live independently. “I used to wonder where I was going to get the next meal for my child. I was in survival mode. Now Bravyn . . . he’s like a different kid! His behavior is better. He’s just happy all the time.”

What struggles do women come in with and what strengths do they leave with?

Since 2014, women who have completed Hope Ministries’ life recovery program have a 72% average success rate six months after program completion in all four key areas we track: permanent housing, employment, sobriety, and recovery community/church involvement. Most women come to Hope Ministries with none of these four areas successfully in place.

Following are just a few of the challenges women face when they come to Hope Ministries, along with examples we’ve seen of successful life transformation.

Parenting challenges women experience: parenting out of guilt, losing children due to substance abuse or relationship addiction, lack of discipline, part-time custody and co-parenting issues, etc.

In 2017, a woman was in our life recovery program while only having part-time custody of her children. She is now working as a full-time assistant manager at a local supermarket and has full-time custody of her children. We see children thrive as moms gain parenting and co-parenting skills while at Hope Ministries.

Money management problems: poor credit, lack of savings, unnecessary spending, identifying needs verses wants, high debt, severely limited job potential due to lack of education and past bad choices

In 2016, a woman completed Hope Ministries’ life recovery program with savings of more than $4,000. She came in after being so depressed that she spent about 20 hours in her bed most days. By the final stages of life recovery, she was able to gain employment with a contracted company that works with a government agency. She now lives independently with her 12-year-old daughter, has an annual income of more than $40,000, incredible job performance and attendance, and a monthly budget. We see women thrive with education and the opportunity to begin saving for their future.

Mental health issues: undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental illness, lack of medication, self-medicating on substances, instability

In 2016, a woman came in drinking a gallon of vodka every day as a way to self-medicate her mental health issues. Due to this, she had previously lost custody of her daughters and lost her skilled medical care position. While at Hope Ministries, she was properly diagnosed and medicated for her mental health. She has now graduated and has been living independently for several years without relapse, gained weekly visits with her children, and works full-time at a government agency. We see women thrive when they have a safe place to get stable in their mental health and learn skills, tools and resources to manage it in the future.

Substance abuse relapse: unable to recognize red flags, no tools or support system, addictive thought processes, choosing to isolate rather than reach out

In 2019, a woman who had completed the life recovery program and moved in with a roommate identified that life had become exceptionally difficult for her. She was concerned she was on the path to relapse. Rather than continue down that path, she chose to reach out to us and returned for a temporary stay to get back into a good routine with accountability before moving to independent living. We see women thrive when they can identify thought processes that lead them back into old patterns and have a safe place to walk a different path.

Unresolved trauma: childhood abuse, sexual abuse and rape, grief and loss, domestic violence

Three women who completed a level of life recovery programming with Hope Ministries over the past 13 years are now employed by Hope Ministries. For each of these women, unresolved trauma from their past kept them from being able to reach their potential, but at Hope Ministries they found a place to focus on healing. They believe so strongly in Hope Ministries’ programs and services they came back several years later to support the ministry and other women through employment. We see women thrive when they are able to fully heal from wounds that once went so deep they hadn’t even realized they were holding them back.

Problems with boundaries: poor family support, unsafe family and friends, co-dependency, finding a voice

One woman came to us in 2015 from a marriage that was falling apart. She was riddled with addiction and had no contact with her children. At Hope Ministries, she was able to identify that many of her substance abuse choices came from co-dependency and lack of safe support. Now, in 2020, she has custody of her minor child, secured housing, and is heavily involved in her local church where she has the support of mentors. She attends DMACC and works as a cook in a local establishment. We see women thrive when they are able to correctly identify what is their responsibility to manage and what is out of their control.

Need for spiritual development: no personal relationship with Jesus, lack of church attendance or involvement, little understanding of the Bible and living out faith

One woman, who came to Hope Ministries with an addiction to meth, graduated in 2016 when her daughter was a teenager. That child went on to graduate high school and began working at a church camp and camp for children with incarcerated parents. The now 21-year-old young woman is plugged in to a local church, continues to mature in her faith, and stays in consistent contact with Hope Ministries staff to check in and let us know how she is doing. She regularly spends time with other children who lived at Hope Ministries at the same time she did, and she intentionally invests in their lives.