Homeward Bound continues to transform the lives of single mothers and their children
Piloted by WoodGreen in 2004 and unique in Canada, Homeward Bound is an innovative program to help inadequately housed or homeless mother-led families earn college diplomas, start careers, and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
More than 1,000 mother-led families live in Toronto shelters each night. A variety of unique circumstances can bring women to Homeward Bound, but there is one thing that unites them – HOPE. Hope for a better life for themselves and their children.
Pauline B. joined Homeward Bound in 2008 following a divorce and relocation to Ontario from Newfoundland. She had very limited resources to support herself and her two school-aged sons. She was starting her life all over again. “I needed to figure out housing, daycare and my own education and employment. That was a huge amount of stress and nearly impossible to do alone,” she said. “When I was accepted into Homeward Bound, I thought ‘someone is going to help me fix this’ and immediately felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Pauline B. graduated from Homeward Bound in 2012, and was offered a job by Industry Council member BMO in her field immediately. Since then, she has moved through the ranks and is now a Manager responsible for a team of 5 staff spread out between Chicago, Toronto and Montreal. She is currently planning an international conference in Vancouver and her career is thriving.
Throughout the four-year program, women and their children live at WoodGreen’s east end campus in affordable 2 and 3 bedroom furnished apartments, have access to a 2-year tuition-paid college diploma, receive goal-oriented case management, on-site child care, after-school programs for children and youth, financial literacy education, parenting support, and psychotherapy and trauma counseling.
Graduates of the program, who only a short time ago were living in shelters or precarious housing, are now proud holders of college diplomas, have developed essential parenting and job-readiness skills, and are employed, earning family-sustaining salaries. Their children are excelling both socially and academically.
“We are the tangible results of Homeward Bound. Look at me now. I wouldn’t be here without your support.”
The Homeward Bound Industry Council is a group of human resource, law, business, and IT executives who provide valuable labour market expertise, and also offer career-track internships within their firms. Based on feedback from both the Industry Council and participants, program enhancements were made this year to allow members of the Industry Council to have significantly more direct involvement with the women, providing important ongoing mentorship opportunities.
In 2013, The Boston Consulting Group completed their pro-bono Social Return on Investment analysis for the Homeward Bound program, looking at pre- and post-program socioeconomic status of the women. The Boston Consulting Group study shows that for every dollar invested in the program, the return to society is $4 – in improved health outcomes, reduced social-assistance payments and increased tax revenues as participants move to employment and self-sufficiency.
WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound community partners across Ontario are also continuing to develop and operate local programs. In early 2017, the newest program, Homeward Bound Brockville, was launched by the Employment & Education Centre and its local partners.
To date, 251 women and 394 children have lived at Homeward Bound. WoodGreen plans to further expand to meet the tremendous need that exists in Ontario.