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Surviving “Harvey”

Written by a Journalist from the “The Leader” – McElvey Media Publication – The Heights – 

Kyonghui Hoffart lost her husband in January, just five months after their apartment flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The one-two punch left Kyonghui (pronounced kee-YUNG-wee) homeless and it was then that she turned to the Mission of Yahweh for assistance .

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“People don’t understand that you can get into these situations,” Kyonghui said. “Some people have patience and will listen to you, help you. These people (at Mission of Yahweh) try to help – you can’t beat that.”

She is one of 120 women and children at the mission, located on Algiers Street in west Houston off of Gessner. This year, as in 2017, Mission of Yahweh will be the featured charity from the 2nd annual Women at Work luncheon, sponsored by The Leader newspaper.

It has been a challenging year for the mission, led by Executive Director Richard Hill. “(Harvey) created a lot more homeless people in the community. We knew it would affect us, but didn’t know the timing,” he said.

Turns out, that timing is best described as “ongoing.” Nearly a quarter of the mission’s clients were displaced by the storm – a number which Client Services Director Tameka Pounds said has been steady since not long after the storm.

But the Mission of Yahweh is much more than a homeless shelter. We profiled the agency in The Leader a year ago, and while the original vision of the late Sister Helen Gay continues to evolve, the agency still seeks at its core to help women and families re-establish their lives through job training, continuing education and “after care” programs.

“The Mission of Yahweh’s goal is to help homeless women and children achieve a successful exit to permanent housing that is sustainable by earning a livable wage and having medical benefits,” states Hill in a letter to potential donors.

In Kyonghui’s case, that means transitioning back to the post-Harvey apartment which she also lost when her husband passed away. The mission staff worked with the SEARCH group in downtown Houston to help her. Before coming to Mission of Yahweh, Kyonghui was in a “camping situation” in the city.

Hill and Pounds say she is an example of one client who benefits from across-the-board services at the mission. They have a transportation program, dental program, Workforce Integration Now (WIN), after care and the senior care program which was deeply helpful in Kyunghui’s case.

But there are other successes at Mission of Yahweh, as all these programs weave together to turn heartbreak into hope.

“I have been able to get back to work and since then have been offered the opportunity to move up into management,” said client Sherrita T., whose family was displaced after Harvey. “If any single mother or woman wants to get their life together – I mean really get their life together – MOY is the place to do that.”

Pounds said the women who come through the doors at the mission are offered one of three tracks to get back on their feet. Tailored toward individual needs, the tracks have names like “Integrity Plus” and

“Work Faith Connections.” In addition to these classes and trainings, most women are required to provide from 10-20 volunteer hours per week at the facility.

Her goal is to see the women break the cycle leading to homelessness. Hill says the key is for the women to absorb the skill-building resources offered through MOY and get into better-paying jobs. There is even a transitional housing program geared toward helping the ladies save up for their own permanent housing solution.

“You need to have three things in place: The housing piece, income stream and medical insurance,” Hill said. “The benefit is, if they have a better paying job, they can save up. And if there’s an emergency – and it happens to all of us – it doesn’t have to wipe them out.”

Sister Gay would be proud of the continuing efforts to save women made possible by the Mission of Yahweh.

Want to help Mission of Yahweh? Call them at 713-466-4785 or check their website www.missionofyahweh.org for donation information and an updated “needs list” for physical donations of clothing, food and more.

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