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Meet Janet Collinsworth of Agape Resource & Assistance Center

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janet Collinsworth.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Since opening our first small, east Plano house in 11/2013 with 2 beds & a crib, Agape has grown to 6 housing units with 30+ beds and has provided housing & hope for 87 unduplicated souls, including 34 women head of household families with 53 children. As of the end of June 2017 Agape provided over 19,000 nights of shelter and SIXTEEN FAMILIES including 22 children have graduated from Agape with jobs that enable them to provide homes & stability for their children.

To serve the myriad of needs of homeless women, moms & their children, Agape created Housing 4 Hope (H4H), a unique, holistic, faith based program serving women led families by providing safe, stable housing & transformation services to single women, moms & their kids in crisis or living at or below the poverty level in Collin County & zip codes within 5 miles of Agape’s office in East Plano.

WHY AGAPE WAS CREATED …. POVERTY & HOMELESSNESS IN COLLIN COUNTY.

Affordable housing is effectively non-existent in Collin County. There are no emergency shelters and extended stay hotels have become de facto “homes” on school bus routes. Although Collin County communities are viewed as affluent, there are less than 300 shelter & agency beds, all chronically full, resulting in over 4,000 people turned away EACH YEAR 2012 – 2016 from housing agencies; 75% of which were single women head of households, most with children 10 years & under.

Plano Independent School District (“PISD”) children on free/reduced lunch has MORE THAN DOUBLED since 2010 (30% /16,000 in 2016 vs 14% /10,000 in 2010).  PISD children identified as homeless has increased nearly five-fold (>500 in 2016 vs 115 in 2009).

AGAPE MISSION: To provide safe, stable housing and transformational services to homeless single women, moms and their children that empower them to move from crisis and poverty to fulfilling, self-sustaining lives.

While safe, stable housing is a critical need, Agape believes it is only the first step in a long, hard journey to self-sufficiency. The key elements for lasting change are transformational services that equip & empower single women to change their lives mind, body & spirit. Agape empowers this change through long term commitment & a proven accountability based protocol that a) focuses on children healing & development that enables the whole family to improve; b) empowers women to set realistic personal goals for self-sustainability; c) provides the means & compassionate accountability to help families achieve their goals; d) leverages limited resources by collaborating with likeminded groups & agencies; e) facilitates holistic healing through counseling, nutrition, health care, education & spiritual formation.

OUR WHY – so moms can achieve head of house incomes and care for their kids and so kids can see a future filled with hope, not defined by the trauma and fear experienced in their short lives.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Absolutely not! Our community, including me before 2008, simply has not accepted the growing poverty and homelessness in Collin County. Our neighbors opposed having Agape homes in their neighborhood. We started with next to nothing and operated with a staff of 100% volunteers from 2013 – 2015, adding our first employee in 2016. We are chronically full and each week we turn away on average 10 women in need. These are the logistic struggles – but this work is just plain emotionally hard. Women and children entering Agape are traumatized – over 80% are domestic violence refugees, some from trafficking and sexual assault. It takes a while for them to realize they have a clean, safe bed behind locked doors and have enough to eat. To apply to Agape a woman must have a job, any job and most barely earn minimum wage. To go from minimum wage to head of house income – when also caring for kids – is more than a monumental journey. For moms and kids to heal from trauma alone is an uphill battle. But these families do it. They all, especially the moms, are heroes. Some of the biggest challenges our staff have is to help the women develop an achievable plan to achieve self-sufficiency and then walk the journey with them, nudging back on track, creating ways to overcome hurdles, encouraging them to keep going when they don’t think they can…and all the while let them know they are truly cared for as strong, beloved, daughters of God.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Agape provides safe, stable housing and a myriad of transformational services and support to homeless single women, moms and their children that empower them to move from crisis and poverty to fulfilling, self-sustaining independent lives. From the very beginning we realized that true solutions had to be holistic. Just providing housing will not help a homeless mom stay out of homelessness or leave poverty.

Agape has developed a holistic program that provides the ways and means to help our families overcome the primary barriers to economic stability: housing, head of house income, child care, transportation and personal healing.

I am so proud of all the women and children who have come into Agape. However long women and children stay in Agape, they all leave so much better equipped – mind, body & spirit – than when they came to us. From our earliest days, the community support has been a source of strength and encouragement. Each staff person, volunteer, donor, sponsor and community advocate have been part of the journey to success of all Agape women and children. Choosing to be part of their solutions is exciting and encouraging for other women and children in need.

What were you like growing up?
I am blessed to have grown up in a close, supportive family that encouraged my sister, brother and I to reach for the stars. Growing up I was active in school, church and girl scouts and enjoyed having fun with friends. I love the outdoors – camping, fishing, hiking were normal family vacations. Travel and the arts have always been passions of mine that I now see my children enjoy.

Pricing:

  • Monthly financial support of $1,00o will support one housing unit which generally houses up to 3 single mom families in Agape’s sharing housing program.
  • $125 will provide one mom with a week of counseling, casework, child advocacy and vocation advocacy.
  • $100 will provide 1 week of Adventure Camp for 1 child including weekly field trips to awesome place like the zoo, Perot, DMA, Dallas Aquarium and personal counseling and academic coaching.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
1st – Happy Agape Kids! 2nd – Gabby, 3rd – dino kids

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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