SOMERSWORTH — The staff of Lydia’s House of Hope, a 365-day transitional housing program for women and their children, is celebrating its two-year anniversary and its successes.
The program offers housing and rehabilitation for women who are homeless, who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder or who are victims of sexual or domestic violence. A sign in the common room reads “Love Lives Here.”
“We tell our women to make the most of themselves, by fanning the tiny sparks of possibility into flames of achievement,” said Theresa Tozier, founder and executive director of Lydia's.
That is how Seeds of Faith (SOF) began in 2000, with a small volunteer group whose only goal was to help the homeless and low income by providing clothes and meals to those in need. After years of adding services and programs for additional outreach, SOF became incorporated in 2007.
Their vision expanded to not just providing a hand out, but finding ways to offer a hand up, and from there grew the idea, the creation and development of Lydia’s House of Hope.
With comprehensive supports that include more than 30 in-house programs designed to equip and develop foundational life skills, along with a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and case manager, each woman can get the individual wrap-around services she needs.
“We work to build their confidence and encourage them to move forward,” said Tozier. “We help them to break the cycle of negativity and despair, which is all many of them have known; empowering our women to lead healthy, independent lives.”
Tozier said that with the new year comes a renewed determination and strength of purpose. She said she is reflecting back to what they have accomplished in two years and how they plan to grow stronger and more committed to their mission.
In 2018, Lydia's celebrated two graduates and they are getting ready for a third this month.
“The women are not only living independently; but flourishing with their families,” said Tozier. “They are leading self-sufficient, stable, happy and healthy lives.”
Tozier said they are empowering their women to have a voice in their own life. And, the women have registered to vote, some doing so for the first time ever this year.
“Our residents got the opportunity to spend a day at the University of New Hampshire and get a taste of college life,” said Tozier. “Inspired by that experience, three of our residents are now attending part time college classes or working for their HiSET (high school equivalency).”
The women are encouraged to do volunteer work. Tozier said they have gone to Riverside Nursing Home to bring goodies and smiles to the residents or they help at St. Mary’s School. Some have donated from Lydia's to the Cocheco Valley Humane Society to learn about giving and paying it forward.
“One of best days this year was when we received an invitation to the State House from Governor Chris Sununu for lunch and a tour,” said Tozier.
Community involvement and support is one way that helps Lydia's House to succeed.
“Businesses, corporations, individuals and churches together make up a community that continues to partner and make a difference in so many ways to us, whether financial or in-kind services,” said Tozier. “While learning to cook, do laundry, work in Excel, write out thoughts, have a successful job interview, take care of our children and themselves; they also learn to push through and not give up, learn to face conflict and resolve issues and face their past for a new beginning.”
Because no one woman or child is the same, the program has been built with services that do not dictate what these women should do, but rather create what these women need as they flourish in an environment of love, hope and independence, Tozier said.
“As we continue to tweak and adjust to accommodate the needs of the families that live here, we continue to grow and learn,” she said. “This work is not without its struggles and challenges. From both the residents and the staff, it takes strength, commitment and the ability to bounce back after setbacks. It takes trust and learning and change. We can now reflect on our accomplishments in changing the lives of women who previously had no hope. This program has morphed into what has become a unique and dedicated venture.”
LHOH receives no federal or state funding, so it relies on the support of grants, businesses and private donors. Among the community help received by LHOH, are baskets of goods from Federal Savings Bank, “Shop with A Cop,” and opportunities for Community Spirit through fun “family” field trips.
To learn more about Lydia’s house of Hope, visit their website at https://seedsoffaithnh.org/lydias-house-of-hope, or follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lydiashouseofhope.