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Message from our president

We ask for your help because Mama T’s believes that together we can light up Ada on the map of smalltown America. We can show other communities how downhome folks, without governmental bureaucracies, can tackle homelessness, a problem that plagues society in general.

Something needs to be done about “street people,” but we must first ask: “Why are so many without a place to call home?” The problem goes deeper than lack of a place to live. There are reasons why people are homeless. If we do not address, and attempt to solve, at least some of the profound issues that have brought them to this point; if we simply throw them into free or low-cost housing, it is no different than plastering a bandage on a serious cut without disinfecting the wound. The buried infection festers, pus oozes, and pretty soon the bandage intended as a protective shield is sluffed away much as a snake sheds its skin.

There are published statistics on the causes of homelessness. Unavoidable happenings, such as a fire or sudden loss of a job, do occur, but they are rare. In our small town, the majority coming to the homeless shelter end up here because they either have substance abuse or mental health issues. These issues are primarily responsible for residents’ lack of decent-paying employment  and hence their lack of ability to pay for even a modest place to live.

There is, however, another hidden, and vastly underestimated, factor that exacerbates existing issues and plays into the inability to obtain and maintain a place to live. It is a component passed from parents to children, a pseudo-gene transmitted through a particular type of poverty.

There are two types of poverty. The first is “situational” where you must survive temporary financial hardship brought about by a job loss, a divorce, a health crisis or other circumstance few of us are prepared to control in the here and now.

The second type is “generational”, defined  as being raised  in a family that has lived more than two generations in poverty, where lack of money is the norm, where no value is attached to a good education and innate brainpower is utilized in searching for ways to bring in free government money. It is here the pseudo-gene does its dirty work. Remember New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina - publicity over the financial poverty of the lower east ward, showed it was common to find up to four generations of families that had never held a paying job. They existed on government handouts and were part of generational poverty.

It is this type of scenario into which a newborn is immediately immersed, where children then grow up surrounded by day-to-day living that presents a distorted portrait of the real world.

It is difficult to help someone out of generational poverty because they must deal with hidden rules, the unspoken cues and habits of a group.  The person you are wanting to help must not only want to move from poverty to middle class but must be willing to obey the rules of the new socioeconomic group they wish to join, and those rules are very different.   

Bridges Out of Poverty points out that “an individual brings with him/her the hidden rules of the class in which he/she was raised.” “We can neither excuse persons from poverty nor scold them for not knowing; as professionals we must teach them and provide support, insistence and expectations. We cannot bring someone out of poverty; what we can do is to offer a way for the individual to do better. Generally, in order to successfully move from one class to the next, it is important to have a mentor from the class to which you wish to move to model and teach you the hidden rules.”

Once a resident makes a decision to leave the old way of life and move into middle class, the goals of Mama T’s are the following:

  • Determine whether an incoming resident needs substance abuse counseling and provide opportunities for that to happen through out-patient services or in-patient temporary treatment.

  • After unwinding for ten days, a case worker will start working with resident on a “Plan For Independence.”

  • Transporting residents to doctor and hospital appointments; counseling sessions; employment interviews,

  • Providing periodic and limited health wellness checks to determine whether a resident needs to be referred for treatment

  • Help residents obtain and keep employment

  • Through mandatory budget management classes help our residents learn how to live within their income

  • Teach accountability by requiring payment toward outstanding warrants, debts and past due child support as well as requiring the saving of forty percent of their income. That 40 percent will be returned to the resident when it is time for her/him to leave us for independent, productive lives. Those funds will provide move-in funds.

  • Provide children with etiquette classes, including table manners and grammatically polite conversation (ole timey “catillion” minus the dancing), on the theory that if they know the rules of polite society, it is one less thing that as they get older will differentiate them from the middle class.    

  • When a resident shows progress on their Plan for Independence but is not yet ready for completely independent living, s/he will be afforded the opportunity to move into one of our sober living facilities. There they will pay minimal rent, will have more freedom to come and go but will still be subject  to drug and alcohol testing and must continue with periodic counselling. They may remain at the sober living facility until they are prepared to live entirely on their own.


Case managers will mentor residents in how to have the best chance of success in the world of the middle class. Included will be the importance of speaking “formal” English during job interviews, of being punctual and not missing work unless it is a true emergency. Sometimes it is necessary for a resident, at least temporarily, to break up relationships in his/her lives of poverty that are holding them back, e.g., living in a home where drug use is not only permissible but encouraged. These breakups are difficult to initiate and maintain, and residents will be supported during that difficult period. Sometimes it is possible for a resident to live in two worlds…the one of the middle working class during the day and that of generational poverty at home. If that is desired and workable, we will help.

We instruct our residents on how to lead a productive, crime-free life of purpose and integrity; we make an effort to teach them how to break old habits, how to get along with other people, particularly those different from themselves. They are taught basic hygiene and are mandated to obtain employment – it may be menial at the beginning, but we point out that, for example, in a restaurant one can go from dishwasher to prep cook to line cook to managing chef.


We are considering, as funding permits, to enlarge our program and our building facility so that residents will stay at the shelter, or one of our sober living facilities, for longer periods of time; where longer term residents will do the teaching and tutoring of newer residents…”If you read at an eighth grade level you can teach someone who reads at a sixth grade level – and you get better by helping others.” We would help our residents to complete a high school equivalency certification, followed by college courses or trade courses that will help them to graduate from Mama T’s with a job, ready to continue their new lives in the mainstream of society.

Many of our ideas come from researching the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco and some of the wording in the two paragraphs above have been “lifted” from words they have previously posted. They appear to be a wonderful organization and we are grateful for the example they have set for us to follow on a much smaller scale.

Bread & Blessings

Dania Deschamps-Braly, President of the Board of Directors of Mama T’s

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