Shelter Crisis Housing: Stories of Hope
Our renovated Shelter building has been busy! We encounter orphanage graduates in many different situations. With help from our vibrant community of staff, volunteers, and donors, we’re meeting each young person or young family right where they are.
We recently shared Olya’s story on Facebook. Now for the happy ending! Staff member (and orphanage graduate) Yulia tracked down the mother of a baby girl abandoned at the hospital. She found Olya in squalid, unsafe living conditions with two other children. Olya was devastated that she couldn’t provide for her baby. Thanks to Yulia’s intervention, Olya was reunited with her baby, and the family of four moved into the Shelter facility. Because Last Bell helped her with housing, food, and clothes, after three months she had saved enough of her own money to move into a safe apartment. She was glad for her own place, but expressed repeatedly how grateful she is to Last Bell.
Olya sorting through clothes with one of her boys
We’ve known Masha for several years now. Abandoned by her mother, she was taken to an orphanage at five years old. Around the same time, her father was killed in an accident. Masha first lived at the Shelter when it was a residential program for trade school students; then she became pregnant. Masha’s a very young mom – she was seventeen when Milana was born three years ago – and she struggled to make positive, safe choices without loving adults to guide her. For the last couple of years, she lived in an apartment, then the trade school (eventually her room was needed for refugees from eastern Ukraine), then in a social dorm. But now, at the Shelter, she’s thriving under the care and immediate, real-time influence of our staff. Masha’s become a very good mom, and a few weeks ago she even became a Christian! We’re excited to see how her little family will flourish, breaking the cycle of abandonment and neglect she grew up with.
Milana’s third birthday with Masha and Masha’s brothers and sister
Natasha and baby Irina were living with her sister’s family. The conditions were very poor, and the home was too crowded. Irina’s father was not supportive; he wanted Natasha to get an abortion, because he secretly had another girlfriend with a child. Luba Yaroshuk invited Natasha and her baby to live at the Shelter. Before, Natasha had never experienced taking a shower or a bath – she had only taken sponge-baths “in a big bowl.” Because she has a safe place to live, she can begin to think about the future. She wants to re-enter trade school, and she’d like Last Bell’s help renovating her sister’s house. She’s so thankful to be at the Shelter right now! “Shelter helps me bring up Irina,” she said.
Natasha and Irina
Tanya used to live with five-year-old Vlada in a nearby village, in a house with a bad roof – and missing a whole wall. Beyond the dangerous living conditions, there was no work in the village, so Oksana invited her to come stay in the Shelter facility. Tanya also was pressured to have an abortion. Her boyfriend’s brother even drove her to the hospital for the procedure, but she ran away. Tanya is very thankful to the Shelter because she and her daughter “have enough to eat and a house that is not dangerous, and a warm, clean bed with pillows.” She’s grateful to the Shelter Crisis Housing staff for childcare while she works as a shop assistant, especially since Vlada is often sick. Eventually, Tanya wants to live on her own in Zhytomyr, renting a room or what Ukrainians call “a corner.”
Tanya and Vlada
The Shelter Crisis Center might be a young mom’s first encounter with the Last Bell community. One young woman moved in, only to go back to her boyfriend after three weeks. But this is not a defeat. It’s the beginning of a trust relationship, and we’ll continue to pray and seek her out.
While the Shelter Crisis Center primarily benefits moms from our Stop the Cycle program, on occasion we see a different need. We met Sveta through our outreach to trade schools. Before, she lived in a social dorm where people drank a lot. Then she went to rehab. Instead of returning to the social dorm, she was invited to stay at the Shelter. She can live away from temptation, with the help and guidance of our staff, until she’s back on her feet.
Who’s next? We’re praying to meet those orphanage graduates who will most benefit from emergency housing. Thank you to everyone who helps us provide these welcoming walls!