Success stories from Restoration House
“It’s sad to see that the program is shutting down. It’s sad to see that there will no longer be help for people who are stuck in a situation like me,” said Zynnia, one of New Bethany Ministries’ Restoration House Program participants forced to vacate the apartments at the end of October.
After being defunded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, all current occupants of the Restoration House apartments on Third Street had to be moved out by the first of November, regardless of whether or not they have stayed for the full 18- to 24-month duration of the program.
The Bethlehem Housing Authority (BHA) was able to help three residents successfully relocate to BHA public housing units with intentions to assist another resident, but the issue of finding affordable housing in the Lehigh Valley did not guarantee all occupants assistance.
Although every program participant is departing the Restoration House apartments for the same reason, each person’s journey prior to joining the program and transition through the program are different.
“I came to New Bethany because I was homeless,” Zynnia explained. “I had a really good job but after losing [your] job, you can’t pay your bills, so you start losing everything. Your car, your home, your furniture.
“I had to give up my daughter to my brother because I couldn’t provide for her and I was living in the streets,” she said. “It was a struggle because I would try to look for work, but I wasn’t stable. I felt like the world was crushing on top of me. I came to New Bethany to turn my life around.”
When Zynnia came to the Restoration House Program in June 2015, she was working as a daycare assistant making $7.50 an hour, but she had higher aspirations of entering the healthcare field. With the assistance and support of Restoration House, she entered a program at Cedarbrook Nursing Home to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). When she finished the program, she got a job almost immediately.
Since being hired, Zynnia has spoken to Northampton Community College and has plans to return to school for her associate’s degree to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). But according to her, the Restoration House Program helped teach her more than just how to be a student.
“It’s a very beneficial program,” she said. “It helps families become sufficient. It teaches us how to budget money if you’re bad with budgeting money. It provides us education and prepares us so that when we’re done with our two years here, we know what it is in reality to be out there.”
After leaving the Third Street apartment building, Zynnia has moved to a private, affordable, two-bedroom apartment in Bath near her daughter’s school. She said she intends to switch her schedule from mid-shift to morning shift in order for the two to spend more time together.
“It’s just sad that something like [the Restoration House Program] is just taken away because not a lot of people are going to get to experience something like this or be able to get the help that they need,” Zynnia said.
Oana, another current Restoration House resident, came to the program in February 2015. Prior to beginning at Restoration House, Oana and her son were living in the shelter on Sixth Street in Allentown where they stayed for three months. Through a connection at that shelter, she learned of New Bethany Ministries and applied for the Restoration House Program.
“I got accepted and ever since I came here, my life just changed for the better,” Oana said. “Before I had my son, I was lost. I was in New York, working, and I was a bad girl. So he was just a blessing. He changed my life.”
After the birth of her son, Oana lived with family, but it became clear that the situation was not a good one them.
“He wasn’t allowed to touch anything in the house,” she explained, “that’s why I took myself out and put myself in the shelter. I think that was the best move I ever made.”
Like Zynnia, Oana completed the same CNA program at Cedarbrook Nursing Home where she is now employed. In the future, she intends to use the experience she is gaining as a CNA and take the courses to become a registered nurse.
“I was making $316 a month, and now I’m making almost $18 an hour,” Zynnia said. “I’m proud of myself – finally – for the first time in my life.”
As of early October, Zynnia did not know where she was going to relocate to once the facility closed its doors, but she still expressed feeling fortunate for what Restoration House gave her.
“I feel lucky because we came here at the right time,” she said. “We got accepted into this program and lived here almost two years, so it is about that time to step into the real world.
“We’ve had the help; we’re fine now. I just feel bad for the younger ones, for the other families who do need the help because I know a lot of them still need help.”
According to Restoration House Case Manager Pamela Lewis, members of the community stepped forward to donate money to the program, but there was not enough funding to maintain the program year after year. Without the government funding, New Bethany had no other choice than to close its doors.
As of the beginning of November, Lewis has transitioned to the main facility at New Bethany Ministries where she hopes to continue to help transform lives of those who need it most.
“This is how we change people,” she said. “This is how we change lives. We restore them. We transform them.”