Sojourner House creates a safe outdoor space for recovering families

There’s an unassuming yard off Black Street in East Liberty with some play equipment and a bench that surrounds a lush shade tree. This yard is a safe place to play for children whose mothers are recovering.

residence house, which provides housing and treatment for mothers with substance abuse and mental health issues, owns both lots. The large lawn provides plenty of room for children to run and play, but it doesn’t have a covered shelter for activities and educational programs or much landscaping.

Still, it looks better now that a cleanup has removed outdated play equipment and an old sandbox. A play structure and toy storage shed were added and the climbing tires were repainted.

“We have partnered with the Rotaryb – kudos to the Rotary Club,” says De’netta Benjamin-Miller, Executive Director of Sojourner House and Sojourner House MOMS. ” They went out. They really helped us dismantle the old equipment that was in MOMS Green. They also help us with some of MOMS Green’s planning initiatives.


Benjamin-Miller says the pandemic has taught staff resilience, “but also being careful not to be too resilient.”

“We’ve learned that it’s important to check in with each other to make sure we’re not too resilient and can’t recognize when we’re burnt out or overwhelmed.”

The idea doesn’t just apply to staff, she adds.

“Some of our clients are very resilient and some seem to be doing well, but they’re not,” says Benjamin-Miller. “Inside they are struggling.”

At the start of the pandemic, she says they also learned the importance of the outdoors. “When the kids were homeschooled, it was so important to have that space for them to get out and ground themselves in the grass.”

The outdoor space also gave families the space they needed to see other families, while remaining socially distant. It broke the isolation of the pandemic when people were meant to stay apart but yearned for community.


Members of the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh worked two Saturdays to help clean up MOMS Green in East Liberty for Sojourner House. Photo courtesy of Sojourner House.

At any given time, the three- to six-month program typically supports 14 women, each living with their children in the program apartments.

Sojourner House MOMS is a separate housing program. If there is space, families can move into the Sojourner House MOMS transitional housing program, which offers apartments for a dozen mothers with their children. Since they are not considered homeless, they are not eligible for the organization’s permanent supportive housing, which receives funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. It has apartments for 34 families, each of which can last up to five years.

In the treatment program, Benjamin-Miller says, “Not only do we help a mother with her substance abuse issues, but we also help a child deal with the adjustment of having a parent again.

Although the programs receive support from the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, the Grable Foundation, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and local Presbyterian churches, the organization still needs support. volunteers and donations.


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