Mercy House Mothers: A Maternal Drive Toward Housing-Equality

Posted: December 4, 2013 by satherej in Uncategorized

Check the Cited Reference Material page for a book written by Rebecca Sue Wilson Isenhower, who wrote about her experiences at the Mercy House [a local homeless shelter here in Harrisonburg] through an ethnographic perspective. She says, “I analyzed homeless mothers’ responses to questions asked during interviews at a homeless shelter, Mercy House. I interviewed fifteen homeless mothers from various ethnic backgrounds ranging in age from twenty to forty-two years old (Isenhower, 2003).” From these accounts she derived themes through the narratives, themes of the risks of homelessness while also revealing strengths that helped these people to survive.

While obvious risks included poverty, mental illness, isolation, abuse, and attachment/loss, she isolated several strengths too, including education, career goals, coping strategies, and children. Her study is interesting from a maternal perspective, exemplifying both the seen and unseen similarities that remind us that we are all human and in this thing together, closing the gap of perception between those that don’t consider themselves homeless and those who do. The perception difference is not any mental disparity or emotional lack of determination, as it is clear that, “Most of the women held strong middle-class values, including the importance of education for both themselves and their children and the importance of finding meaningful work (Isenhower, 2003),” it’s simply a feeling, a feeling of the security, stability and invulnerability that a person feels when they don’t have to answer daily the question of where to sleep that night. This is why the values expressed from a maternal standpoint are especially enlightening, as the statements often exemplify persistence, resilience and motivation to work and to live like other people, and for the person(s) they often love the most; their children. These points typify key strengths in their work ethic and show that despite unfortunate and poor conditions they have looked to the future for both themselves, but especially their children.

All people have difficulty finding the meaning in life; my argument is that it is through our similarities that we should find a common bond as people that have ambitions, dreams and the ever-present insecurity of our collective environments. With all the other forms of fluctuation in our lives, why is it so ridiculous to assume a belief in one constant in our collective lives that is we treat each other as we each wish to be treated. The Golden Rule is of reciprocity – see a need, fill a need; just as you would wish someone would do for you in your time of need.

“The provision of a stable environment, such as the program provided by Mercy House, helps these mothers develop their own definitions of ‘home’ within the safety net of the homeless shelter (Isenhower, 2003).” Such an environment is the recipe for a gradual increase in success in helping people our of the hole of poverty, however it is from the will of all mothers that we see true altruism and a way to defend our collective future, a way to mold our ways to the equal and fair future philanthropists truly hope to see.

Isenhower, R. (2003). Mercy House mothers : homeless women in their own words / Rebecca Sue Wilson Isenhower. 2003.


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