Alora Mason was alone, homeless and pregnant, feeling like she had no options.
Bouncing from one family member’s house to another was not working anymore, especially with a little one on the way.
Now, at the God’s Love family transitional unit, Mason and her 3-week-old daughter, Olivia, have ample support from those at the center along with the rest of the Helena community.
“Everyone who lives up here, we’re all friends like a little family,” Mason said, cradling her cooing daughter.
“I have my own little family now,” she added.
For Christmas, Mason and her baby were adopted by a local business, which lavished them with clothing and other gifts. This is typical during the holiday season, according to Joe Wojton, co-manager of God’s Love.
“The Helena community really cares for the kids as well as the parents,” he said.
“This time of year can be really depressing for those in this kind of setting,” Wojton added.
Mason, a 22-year-old woman with a kind, freckled face, moved from Sidney to Helena in the summer in order to join the God’s Love program. Like many others, she knew of the men’s shelter but was not aware of the family unit until informed by a friend. She officially moved in July 10 — her birthday.
In the last six months, Mason has flourished, according to Wojton. Mason is currently supporting herself with the help of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program and is searching for a job.
“Now, I’m not going back to bouncing from family to family — it’s just too stressful,” Mason said.
The God’s Love family program lasts from six months up to two years, depending on the individual’s needs. The goal is for participants to be able to maintain permanent housing.
“So, they don’t need us ever again,” Wojton added.
Currently the unit houses 12 people — six adults and six children. The facility, which is upstairs from the men’s shelter, can hold up to 40 at a time. This is the first time in many years that the unit has had empty rooms during the holidays, Wojton said.
The transitional unit, which offers nine rooms, opened in 1999 and is supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Recently, the unit was chosen to receive a $143,305 grant from HUD’s Continuum of Care program. The county generally matches the federal funds with $50,000.
Rooms are open to families, single fathers and mothers and single women. Generally, residents are referred by schools, local assistance agencies and other programs for the homeless.
Wojton said the unit is busiest in August when it’s back to school time. Many families can camp during the summer but then need shelter for the upcoming school year and the harsh winter that follows.
The facility is staffed 24-hours-a-day. Prerequisites for residents include passing a drug screen and going through an application process and interview. Those staying at the family unit pay 30 percent of their wages or other earnings as rent.
Some residents need help with financial issues while others face addiction problems. A case manager works with the families to aid in achieving their goals. Those in the program must adhere to rules, including a curfew.
Mason said she has no problems following the restrictions.
“I’d probably be in two hours before curfew anyway,” she said, gazing down at her newborn. eporter Angela Brandt: 447-4078 or email@example.com