Lisa Ward adjusts Molly’s stroller with son Ian outside the Frederick Transitional Shelter. Photo by Tazeen Asiya Ahmad.

Capital News Service

A Homeless Mother Struggles To Survive

FREDERICK - Lisa Ward stands at the big commercial kitchen sink washing the dishes from daughter Molly’s lunch.

Across the room, a man with a long gray beard sits at a table staring into space. Another elderly man is napping in a chair. His cap is pulled down, partially covering his face.

A homeless shelter has been Ward’s home for the past year and a half.

“You keep fighting, you keep fighting and pushing and pushing and hoping for some kind of breakthrough,” said Ward, 38, who has a 6-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter, and who has been struggling to get her life in order.

A series of failed relationships led to Ward’s homelessness -- the most recent was her break up with Molly’s father.

Being a single parent and a woman stacks the odds against Ward. Not having family in the area makes it that much more difficult.

“One day I found the sheriff on my doorstep with an eviction notice. I was told I had to get out of my apartment right then and there, because the rent had not been paid in four months,” Ward said.

Single-parent households headed by a female have a poverty rate of 29.1 percent in the state compared to 7.9 percent for all Maryland families, according to a recent report coauthored by Progressive Maryland Education Fund and the Maryland Center on Economic Policy.

With her two young children in tow, Ward got a room in a nearby Motel 6. She would end up staying there for three months, draining what little savings she had.

In December, when a room opened up at the Frederick Transitional Shelter, she packed up her few belongings and moved her family there.

“It is a little homier here. You share a kitchen, bathroom and living room, but it is secure,” Ward said.

She is grateful to have a roof over her head, but worries about the future.

“The ability to care and provide for my children is so important to me and there are many days I feel a lot less of a parent because I am not doing that,” Ward said.

Ward’s two sources of income, for now, are food stamps and Molly’s child support, awarded after she went to court. Ward does not have child support for her son because she is no longer in touch with Ian’s father.

“I get $360 per month through the food supplement program. I am also supposed to get $171 per week from Molly’s father, but at times several weeks go without a payment,” Ward said.

She has contemplated donating plasma at a local clinic to earn a little extra money.

“I hate needles, but I thought it will be a little extra money,” Ward said.

What is frustrating to Ward is that her meager income prevents her from being able to afford childcare and not having her children in childcare prevents her from being able to get a job.

This has not always been the case.

Ward used to have daycare vouchers. These vouchers helped supplement the $675 per week expense to have both kids in childcare.

The problem was she couldn’t afford to keep up with the co-pays, totaling $200 per week out of pocket, so she had to pull her kids out of the program.

The result was that the vouchers expired because they were not used. Reinstating them is a long process.

In the event that she gets a job, she will have to go through the entire process of applying for the vouchers again.

In the meantime, she is faced with the dilemma of where to leave her 2-year-old if she needs to go job hunting.

“I am trying to get myself over that hump. I am trying to get my children back into daycare so I can get a job,” Ward said.

The fact that Ward has no family she can rely on for help makes it that much more difficult.

When she was 12, Ward was taken from her mother by the state of North Carolina because of abuse and neglect. The last time she saw her mother was 22 years ago. She has no contact with her six younger brothers.

“If I had family that I could turn to, things would be a lot different. But I don’t have anyone,” Ward said.