“I’m very honored to have been chosen by God to head up a ministry that provides a shelter for homeless women with babies and small children who reside in the South Bay,” said Tara Nierenhausen, Director of Community’s Child, at a recent fundraiser.
Community’s Child, a non-denominational Christian program in Southern California’s South Bay region, is committed to providing homeless women with infants healthy alternatives to abuse, poverty, neglect, addictions, and hopelessness. The program offers homeless women and their infants safe, compassionate, yet structured living environments. At Community’s Child, women acquire the education, skills training, employment opportunities and support services necessary to break the patterns associated with homelessness.
“I was shocked to find out we have 95,000 homeless children in [California], and these statistics are about four years old, so the numbers are actually growing. Nearly half are going hungry. The South Bay is tied with downtown Los Angeles for the highest number of homeless women with infants, so God really put it on my heart to do something in this community to raise up these women and children,” says Nierenhausen.
“[The Lord] gave me a vision three years ago to move forward with a team of other Christian members in the community to build a facility and God knocked it out of the park. And while we were building it, he had us open up what started as a small food pantry in the area where we were taking care of maybe twenty families. But that food pantry and ministry has grown where we have touched almost 5,000 people’s lives for Christ [last] year alone. I just thank Jesus for the privilege of serving Him and doing this.
“One of the major contributors to homelessness for women with children is acts of violence, whether it’s domestic violence, whether it’s rape, verbal abuse, abandonment and it doesn’t always have to be a spouse, a lot of times it’s familial abuse that will cause women to flee with their children. A lot of times they hide and they hide because if you’re found to be homeless in the community, The Department of Social Services will actually come and take your children from you. So you’ve already suffered all this loss and then suffer the loss of their children as well, is sometimes too much for these women to bear.”
“One of the major contributors to homelessness for women with children is acts of violence, whether it’s domestic violence, whether it’s rape, verbal abuse, abandonment and it doesn’t always have to be a spouse, a lot of times it’s familial abuse that will cause women to flee with their children.”
In efforts to ensure a quality continuum of services, Community’s Child works in collaboration with Southern California’s foundations, business, churches, service clubs, legal aid, medical providers, social services, learning institutes, governments and other nonprofits.
“When the women come with their children to live in the house, they’re given a lot,” Nierenhausen explains. “The first thing they’re given is open arms and unconditional love. These women often have a lot of hurts, so we really try to show them the love of Christ. The other things they are provided are food, clothing, complete shelter, help with health care, education and obtaining sustainable employment but also in obtaining a healthy support network. Most of these women to not have healthy families, do not have healthy support networks, so we set up mentoring programs, they go to Bible studies, they go to church, and we have in-services. They have a lot of stuff going on and sometimes [the women] tell me I have the bar a little too high.
“We also do a huge outreach, we have a community pantry and a community closet where we provide diapers, wipes, personal hygiene products, clothing, all kinds of things for families in need. This Thanksgiving we had the privilege of providing 221 families with complete turkey dinners to go home and cook and for those that were homeless we gave gift cards to and this [last] Christmas we [had] the privilege of providing 250 children in the community with a Christmas.”
Nierenhausen adds, “We can’t run without volunteers. We always need volunteers. If you’re ever looking for a place to volunteer, please call us. There isn’t anyone who can’t contribute something.”
Community’s Child is located in Lomita, California. For more information call 310-534-4040 or visit their website at www.communityschild.com