We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Steven and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, how does your business help the community?
Hope House is metro-Denver’s only resource providing free self-sufficiency programs to parenting teen moms, including Residential, High School & GED and College & Career Programs. Additional supportive services include parenting and healthy relationships classes, an Early Learning Program, health & wellness, financial literacy and personal growth classes as well as certified counseling, all designed to prepare them for long-term independence. Hope House relies on numerous volunteers and local business partnerships to accomplish its mission.
Teen moms are one of the most vulnerable populations in our community and yet they remain largely invisible – most live well below the federal poverty line and they face tremendous economic challenges:
• Less than 50% of teen moms earn a high school diploma by age 22.
• Fewer than 2% will ever graduate from college.
• 67% of single teen moms live below the Federal poverty line.
• Nearly 2,500 babies are born to teen moms in Colorado annually.
Hope House serves teen moms who are economically disadvantaged and considered at-risk; the average participant has achieved only a 9th grade level of education. The majority of our participants have experienced abuse and come from generational poverty; we also serve teen moms aging out of the foster care system.
Parenting teen moms enter Hope House programs between the ages of 15-20, and we serve them until they turn 25. In 2020 Hope House served 231 teen moms and 332 children. Despite COVID 75% of Hope House moms demonstrated growth in the economic self-sufficiency domain and 71% demonstrated growth in the personal self-sufficiency domain.
The Hope House Residential program and Resource Centers provide a safe place for teen mothers to belong. This is a place free of judgment, where the staff and volunteers truly believe in the teen mom and her ability to build a better life for her child than what she experienced. Janelle’s story is a perfect example.
Growing up around drug abuse and domestic violence had a big impact on Janelle. By the time she was a teenager, Janelle was hanging around with the wrong crowd and the wrong boy. At age 14, she became pregnant and her boyfriend became abusive, leaving her with bruises that makeup couldn’t cover. Four years later, Janelle had another little one, and she and her two small sons were in and out of shelters, even living in her car at times.
Janelle knew she had to make a change or risk repeating the patterns of her childhood. The good news is she found Hope House and quickly earned her GED. With her newfound confidence and the support of our College & Career Program, Janelle earned an associate’s degree in Applied Science and is now working fulltime as a Machinist at Ball Aerospace. She is fully self-sufficient and recently purchased her own home, where her family is thriving!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Founding Hope House was literally a calling. I had no educational background and no business experience that would lead anyone, including me, to believe that I could build a nonprofit of our size. As a former teen mom, I simply felt compelled to help teen moms in some way. I started volunteering in a support group for teen moms and quickly realized that these mamas were facing extremely difficult barriers to self-sufficiency. Many were experiencing domestic violence, parents with addictions, or even homelessness. When we couldn’t find housing programs that would accept a parenting teen mom, we decided that we would have to open one! We grew from an exploratory Board in 2000 to a more mature Board and opened Hope House (the residential program) in 2003. I have never gone to college and never even learned to type the right way (the teen moms love to make fun of me, but I am a fast 3-finger typist😊). Hope House exists because God surrounded me with the most amazing people while building this organization. I learned about strategic planning, management, making connections, finances, and more from Board members and wise advisors. I am surrounded by an incredible staff of extremely professional and credentialed team members who are passionate about empowering our teen moms to self-sufficiency. My professional background consists of doing home daycare and working at JC Penney’s, so my education has quite literally come from experience and from learning from those around me – including our teen moms!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
You have to visit Olde Town Arvada and walk the shops, grab lunch in the backyard at the Bluegrass, a glass of wine at Silver Vines Winery, and shop the eclectic boutiques! The Denver Art Museum is not to be missed, and just about any performance at the Denver Center for Performing Arts is amazing. Of course you have to make it to the mountains – I love Gross Reservoir for a hike by the water, Georgetown for a Main Street Christmas, and Tiny Town in Turkey Creek Canyon for the kids!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
We believe that our volunteers are a foundational part of the Hope House community, providing essential support to the organization, and making a transformational impact in the lives of our teen moms. We believe that our volunteers also experience transformation in their own lives as they move from volunteer participation to engagement in the cause. Many volunteers have been working with Hope House since our inception in 2003!
At Hope House we call our donors “champions” because they are champions of our cause and their investment in our teen moms is truly transformative, whether giving a small monthly gift, sponsoring an event or blessing us with a major gift. Our champions are changing lives!
Personally, I could not do the work I do without my amazing husband of 35 years. We were married at 17 when we got pregnant with our first son. John has supported my dream to make a difference in the lives of teen moms for our whole marriage and still serves on the Board of Directors of Hope House Colorado. He is a man of deep wisdom and gives me wise advice, as well as a shoulder to cry on when our work is hard:)
Kendra Widman, Fine Fox Creative