It is fitting that we are just a week away from Easter Weekend. We at Urban Abbey have experienced this past week the death of a dream for a vulnerable population of women - a house they could finally call a safe home destroyed by fire. But we have also experienced the resurrection power of God's love as beauty is arising from the ashes.
What is Thrive?
Thrive is not a housing program - Urban Abbey offers housing with full wrap-around services, 24 hour, per day, care and guidance as well as counseling, mentor moms, life-skills course and family-systems training. We provide transportation services daily as well as food and liaison services with social work, court and policing services on a weekly basis all for $600.00 per month. We receive no supplemental help from government or any other source.
The six staff who work for Thrive raise their own support and live sacrificially to make this environment possible! We thank God for them - they are an incredibly courageous and selfless crew!
The house we called home has been devastated by flames this week. This house represented HOPE to a number of vulnerable and displaced women. It was a place of hope that they could be clean and sober and become contributing members of our community. It was a place of hope that they could have custody of their children returned and become moms who offer a place of safety and beauty to their children. It was a place of hope that there was a home for their own healing journey. It was also a place where they were able to brush shoulders with followers of Jesus on a regular basis throughout their day.
The fire occurred at around 2pm on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. None of the residents or staff were in the building when the flames engulfed the home. All were safely away participating in university courses, or shopping or programming for the day. For this we are so thankful to Jesus! Yet that evening we had 6 women without a home!
The provision of God was immediate. One staff member was able to move in with family, another moved into Abbey Manor with another Abbey staff member. The four women were able to stay in Urban Abbey. The Urban Abbey staff quickly dismantled our children's learning rooms, put together beds, mattresses, linens and towels and made them into bedrooms. Our hospitality staff bought necessary groceries for dietary needs based on severe illness of some of our women. Together we prayed and waited to see what God might do next.
We were surrounded in prayer by the Anglican Mission in Canada who sent their prayers and encouragement. Toronto Emmanuel Church is doing an offering for us on Easter morning - this was so symbolic for us here at the Abbey - the resurrection power of Jesus Christ is ours. He will resurrect Thrive from the ashes!
People arrived from the community, folks who are members of our congregation, part of Moms Connect, in our Leadership Development Class. They came with immediate gifts of toiletries, cash and hugs and tears to provide support and love. We were told, "Here's some money, please get them at least one new outfit so that everything they get is not just second hand." We were told, "We stand with you, our love and prayers are with you."
We also immediately began a fund-raising campaign to see how God might provide through this means. God had given us $12,000.00 within 24 hours of the fire. The prayers of God's people were being heard and answered.
April 7, 2017 - within less than 48 hours God found a home for us through his Sovereign Preparation. In a city where our vacancy rate is less than 4.5% (Canada housing and mortgage Corporation Statistics) - God provided! He is good and his mercy endures forever.
A Christian couple from Hamilton Ontario bought a four bedroom, spacious home in Thunder Bay. They are not moving here until October 2017. They were looking for renters! Summit Property Management was caring for their home in their absence. This Management company, owned and operated by Christians, heard of our dilemma and contacted us. They advocated on our behalf with the couple and asked them if they would be willing to rent to a demographic of women that are in a group home setting and our staff. It is not easy to find landlords for our program! They immediately said they would rent to us - and would include utilities in our rent- at a rate of $1850.00 per month all inclusive. We were delighted and they graciously agreed to let us have the key the same day.
So, here we on the third day - and we are moving the women in today! We are finding used furniture, dishes, pots, pans, linens, bedding and the women will be in their new home by evening! God's generous provision through friends far away, and the city of Thunder Bay, who have generously been giving to Thrive, has provided for our needs.
No Insurance Money for Thrive Participants or A New Home
There is NO INSURANCE money for Thrive. We were renting space from New Life Ministries Thunder Bay (NLMTB) at a very reduced rate - they were exceptionally kind in partnering with us in this way. We were originally paying for rent by providing $7000.00 of labor for a roof job and then $1500.00 of labor for repairing interior damage to drywall and painting. We moved two site supervisors in October 1 - NLMTB required an on-site supervisor to be present for their insurance purposes. Then, in January 2017 our first participants started to arrive. We had just made our first payment for rent, that was not covered by our construction labor, for the month of April. That cheque was destroyed in the fire. NLMTB has agreed to forgo that rent cheque to assist our Thrive participants with rebuilding their lives.
We are thankful for the partnership that existed with NLMTB - when we moved into that property all of the accoutrements necessary were already present - beautifully decorated rooms, bedding, towels, a fully out-fitted kitchen and so much more!
What our Fundraising Will Provide For
As we move this time - we will be moving into an empty house. The fundraising we are doing will help to cover rent for the next 6 months, as well as the purchase of all that we need to furnish a house and kitchen - 90% second-hand. It will also help us to provide for all the laptops and tablets, etc that were destroyed in the flames and women's immediate effects, property, clothing, toiletries and jewelry.
With full hearts we thank God - thank our mission society - thank our community - and thank our staff for an incredible three days of mercy, grace, love and support!