Nonprofits  March 1, 2022

Hope House opens first affiliate in Northern Coloado

GREELEY — Teen moms living in Northern Colorado don’t have to travel to Denver to get the crucial services they need.

Hope House Northern Colorado opened an affiliate last year as a mini version of the supportive services offered at the original Hope House Colorado. The services range from certified counseling to parenting, healthy relationship and financial literacy classes and are available for free to teen moms ages 15 to 20 until they age out at 25.

“We’re not school-based, so we have a lot more flexibility,” said Lisa Steven, founder and executive director of Hope House, which she founded in 2000 and opened as a residential facility in Arvada in 2003. “The thing that’s different about Hope House is it’s broad and inclusive. Any teen mom who can get here (finds) we are probably the most holistic program that exists.”

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The Northern Colorado affiliate, located in Greeley, is the first of three affiliates Hope House Colorado plans to open — the other two are projected to begin operations by the end of the year in Canon City and Nashville, Tennessee. 

Colleen Emery, executive director of Hope House Northern Colorado, came up with the idea for the first affiliate. She had identified a lack of resources for teen moms living in Northern Colorado to work toward self-sufficiency, so she connected with Hope House Colorado, since it offered something similar to what she wanted to do. 

“They have the background and experience. Why would I invent the wheel when they do it so well already?” Emery said. “This is a great way to jumpstart what we want to do with the processes, and the branding is already in place.”

Hope House Northern Colorado consists of a resource center but does not yet have a residential program like the main office able to house teen moms. The Hope House NoCo Resource Center gives the moms the tools they need to achieve personal and economic self-sufficiency from a Christian perspective, though program participants are not required to be Christian. Services are offered in a menu-style approach, enabling the teen moms to define and reach their goals as they attend parenting classes, get educational support, undergo individual counseling and participate in social activities, as well as gain access to donated essentials such as diapers, wipes, food, books and baby formula.

The affiliate plans to add healthy relationship classes in spring 2022 and financial literacy classes in the next few months.

“It’s pretty much a mini-version of everything we do,” Steven said. “They look like us. They use the same branding and programming. We train them and walk alongside them.”

As funding becomes available, Hope House Northern Colorado plans to include additional services that follow the model of Hope House Colorado. Those services include a high school and GED program through a partnership with Poudre School District’s and Greeley-Evans School District’s teen parent programs — teen moms will be able to receive one-on-one instruction and tutoring at their own pace instead of having to follow a traditional classroom model. There also will be a college and career program with free tutoring, access to equipment, assistance with school entrance and financial aid applications, and career-related workshops.

In Colorado, 50% of teen moms graduate from high school by the time they’re 21 and less than 2% will attend college, Emery said. 

“Education is a huge part of self-sufficiency,” Emery said. “They would love the opportunity, but they don’t know how to navigate the systems that will help them do that. It’s just navigating a way forward for them and having a support system behind them.”

Hope House Northern Colorado also will add a residential program as funding becomes available. It’s more expensive than a resource center, so Emery started with what was feasible, though her original plans were to build a home, she said. 

“It’s a place for girls to have activities with one another,” Emery said. “The ability to have that community is really important for so many reasons. They’ve been shamed, and people have left them. They’re still teenagers … looking for a community to understand them and a place they can belong.”

Hope House Colorado’s residential program is for teen moms who are homeless or living in an unsafe environment. They’re expected to earn a GED, move on to further education and participate in Hope House’s parenting, life skills and healthy relationships classes. 

“Hope House Colorado started out as a residential program, then grew to incorporate the rest of the programs we do,” Steven said.

Three years after Hope House Colorado opened, the GED program for mothers living off-site was added, followed by the additional programming. Hope House Colorado also will add a new childcare center to address a statewide lack of quality childcare and to help program participants overcome a barrier to self-sufficiency, providing childcare services while they attend school or work. Construction on the center is expected to begin in the first quarter 2023. 

Currently, childcare is available to teen moms while they attend Hope House and GED classes through the Early Learning Program, which helps young children develop literacy and social-emotional skills.

“It’s one of the top three barriers to self-sufficiency, housing, childcare and transportation. This will help us to mitigate that second major barrier so they can keep moving toward self-sufficiency,” Steven said.

Hope House Colorado is expected to serve 250 teen moms this year with six to seven on average living in the 12-bedroom home. The home provides the mothers with up to one week of respite care and up to nine months of transitional housing or up to two years of comprehensive programming. Last year, Hope House served 230 teen moms and has seen steady growth of about 15% a year.

“They’re not doing this hard work just for themselves. They’re doing the work for their child,” Steven said. “They just need someone to come alongside them to help them.”

Steven founded Hope House after experiencing teenage pregnancy with her husband — they still are married — and realizing how difficult the experience was. She began working with teen MOPs, or Mothers of Preschoolers, and realized many of the teens didn’t have family support and faced difficult and sometimes dangerous family and living situations. As she built trust with them, she had requests to stay with her, so she looked for housing and, not finding any, decided to build her own residential program. She called the program Hope House to demonstrate building a hope-filled future for the teen moms and their children.

“The number one thing is it’s highly relational,” Steven said. “Change happens in long-term relationships with healthy adults. Secondarily we’re tapping into their mommy motivation, their natural desire to grow and change and build something better for their kiddos.”

GREELEY — Teen moms living in Northern Colorado don’t have to travel to Denver to get the crucial services they need.

Hope House Northern Colorado opened an affiliate last year as a mini version of the supportive services offered at the original Hope House Colorado. The services range from certified counseling to parenting, healthy relationship and financial literacy classes and are available for free to teen moms ages 15 to 20 until they age out at 25.

“We’re not school-based, so we have a lot more flexibility,” said Lisa Steven, founder and executive director of Hope House, which she founded in…

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