Saying “Yes” to Supporting Families

Written from the Perspective of a Host Family from Portland, Oregon

We first met Serena during the summer of 2020. I was approached by church staff that there was a local young lady in need of some resources as she was soon expecting her first baby. I was told in order to get involved, I’d need to make it official and get involved with Safe Families. I was compelled to say “Yes” as I knew that I and the many moms around me would be happy to help her out.  Little did I know at the time that this would turn into more than giving assistance to someone in need, it would turn into a friendship.

I soon met with Serena, Micah (SFFC Program Director), and my Family Coach Deanna at Panera Bread where we shared smoothies and conversation. It was then that I learned the very difficult path Serena and her boyfriend, Derek, had been on at the young age of 19. She shared that they had been living on the streets for somewhere around four years. She confided that she was uncertain as to whether or not she was going to keep this baby who was coming in just a few short months. Micah was able to help Serena write out a needs list and we were able to obtain almost everything as people generously gave things like a brand new queen bed, furniture, and all things baby. This was initially very overwhelming for them and Derek did not take well to living with so many things in their new studio apartment. It took time and processing for them to determine which items were most useful and how to best organize them. Deanna was often spending time with them, bringing them groceries and attempting to teach them about budgeting and finance. 

After baby Anna arrived, it seemed to inspire an instant and loving mother/child relationship between Serena and Anna. She did ask that I keep the baby initially as she was overwhelmed and exhausted. Deanna and Family Friends brought over a few meals and groceries and helped Serena keep up with laundry.

Fast forward to a year later and their baby turned one. We all helped throw Serena a beautiful little party and enjoyed each other’s company. I have been noticing more recently that Derek has been looking for ways to connect with my husband, watching to see if he’s consistent and trustworthy. He’ll talk about cars and engage more. At first, Derek wouldn’t even sit on our couch, wouldn’t accept a cup of coffee but literally stand for visits with his guard visibly up. This has since melted away and he sits! I hope they feel more and more comfortable with continued time.

I keep in touch with Serena regularly and keep Anna for a few hours here and there as she needs a little extra time to clean her house and get organized. It has been so fun, inspiring, and encouraging to see them operating as a family unit and to see how they have blossomed as parents. Derek has now been able to maintain a full-time job and Serena is keeping up with the house and baby. She is even in the process of learning to drive and has gotten her learner’s permit. We feel we have a soft spot in our hearts for this sweet family and it’s been an honor and a blessing to be a part of their journey.  We continue to pray for good things ahead for them.

“If it wasn’t for Safe Families, I don’t think I would have been able to keep my baby, Anna.” ~Serena