• May 30, 2024

Affordable Housing For Single Mothers at STC

Affordable Housing For Single Mothers at STC

Only a few months ago, South Texas College Nursing student Maria Luisa Quintana and her two children were living in her car sleeping in parking lots and signing up for shelter waitlists that were too long for her to even have hope, but thanks to Christian’s Manor in San Juan, Quintana now has a roof over their head.

Christian’s Manor is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit organization created by Hidalgo County Precinct 2 Commissioner Eddie Cantu and his son Christian Cantu, whom the organization is named after, to help single parents, who are pursuing a higher education, with affordable housing and support services.

Set to graduate in December 2024, the 25-year-old said she was only in her first year of nursing school when a fallout between her and her grandmother caused a domino effect that led to homelessness.

“I was raised by my grandparents, but after my step grandfather passed away in 2020, my grandma went into a deep depression that changed her and changed our relationship,” she said. “I was kicked out and I had nowhere to go. That is how I became homeless.”

Quintana was inspired at a young age to become a nurse by the medical staff that cared for her grandparents during their numerous doctor and hospital visits, therefore she wasn’t only desperate to take care of her family, but also continue her education.

“When I became homeless, there were days that continuing school seemed impossible,” said Quintana. “Even through doubts I continued, because I know my education is what will get us out of poverty.”

It was a meeting with her VIDA counselor that changed her outlook on life.

VIDA refers to the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, a local nonprofit organization that helps low-income, unemployed and underemployed residents in the Rio Grande Valley with financial assistance, support services and career guidance.

“My VIDA counselor knew I was struggling, so they introduced me to Christian’s Manor,” she said. “I immediately applied and within one week, the process that changed my life, began.”

Quintana was one of the first single-parent residents to occupy an apartment at Christian’s Manor. Christian’s Manor is now assisting 11 single parents and their families.

“I went from using wipes to shower and clean my babies to having a private, three-bedroom apartment,” said Quintana. “If not for Christian’s Manor, I’d still be out there. Christian’s Manor is hope.”

Christian’s Manor is a 16-unit apartment complex strategically situated near the Hidalgo County Advancement Center, Boys and Girls Club, IDEA and PSJA ISD schools in San Juan. It is also in close proximity to the expressway, making it an accessible location for single parents who study at STC or the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).

Christian’s Manor’s four-pillar, two-generational approach provides affordable housing and a safe haven for single parents and their families, empowers single parents through family coaching by a licensed social worker, tracks a single parent’s education and offers a career services program.

“Our goal is to have our single parents grow to their full potential, and we guide them in baby steps to eventually move out of Christian’s Manor and be on their own,” said Marienma Valencia, licensed clinical social worker at Christian’s Manor. “We get our single parents out of survival mode so they can concentrate on what’s important – their families and their education.”

Single parents who live at Christian’s Manor are required to be enrolled, at least part time, in an associate or bachelor’s degree program, work a minimum of only 10 hours a week so they can focus on their studies and meet with a licensed social worker or case manager to create and track goals.

Rent at Christian’s Manor is based on an individual’s income but has been capped at $500 a month with all utilities and internet covered. In the future, Christian’s Manor hopes to expand into McAllen, at a location near STC.

As for Quintana, she currently works as a part-time tutor at STC’s Nursing and Allied Health campus and said after graduating in December and passing her licensing exam, she plans on beginning her career, and is considering continuing her education.

“Christian’s Manor and STC have empowered me to believe in myself. They have transformed my future,” she said. “They have also given my children hope in their dreams. My daughter now wants to go to STC and be a doctor, and I hope I’m setting a good example. My kids are my purpose, and I don’t want them to struggle like I have.”

Quintana, once overwhelmed with hopelessness, says today she is filled with gratitude.

“This is only a temporary setback and STC, Christian’s Manor and VIDA are helping me push forward so I can overcome this difficult time in my life,” said Quintana. “I hope these programs continue to reach more single parents because they have given me a reassurance and comfort. I know I can be successful. It’s a good feeling.”

For more information on Christian’s Manor or to make a donation, visit christiansmanor.org.

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