Refuge Host Homes: Providing Crucial Help for Moms in Need

Hello! I’m Emilie Oxley, a fellow momma and wife who is thankful for the support of the women behind The Sublime Soiree, as I attempt to “live free above the fray.” I currently serve as the Executive Director of Refuge Host Homes, a ministry that was founded in 2022 to serve vulnerable pregnant women and their children through housing, supportive relationships and the power and love of Jesus Christ. Refuge Host Homes was founded to respond to three problems that are currently overwhelming our community: an affordable housing crisis, high infant mortality rates, and an overloaded foster care system. We were honored to get to share a bit about our MINISTRY of HOSPITALITY at Camp Carl’s Mom Weekend 2023 a few weeks ago where we looked at how we get to live when we know that God is our Host! We are free to give our lives away! Because our whole ministry model centers around housing and the ministry of sharing your home and life with a child of God, we wanted to spend some time today to take a look at the housing crisis that is currently taking its toll on our community’s most vulnerable citizens: Mothers and Babies.

A Hard Look at the Housing Problem

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

It’s no secret that America, as a whole, is facing a challenging housing situation. Rising interest rates, low supply and high demand has caused much stress for the average renter. But what has this meant for those who are already struggling to find safe housing?

Low-Wage, High-Rent Gap

To understand the issue facing the unstably housed, we have to understand what makes housing truly affordable. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines Affordable Housing as housing in which the occupant is spending no more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. This frees up the remaining 70% to be spent on other living expenses.

Currently, the Ohio fair-market rent for a 2 bedroom apt is $993/month. In Akron, it’s even higher, at $1,027. When you do the math, this means that it takes an annual income amount of $41,080 to afford this as 30% of your income. The reality is that many single mothers are making $12-14/hour which allows them to afford about $600 a month in rent (provided they work 40 hours a week without calling off for a sick child.) This is the exact definition of a low-wage, high-rent gap. The math tells the story: women are either spending WAY more than 30% of their income on rent — leaving very little to buy food, pay for gas, or buy diapers — or they are left completely dependent on the welfare system of Food Assistance and Public Housing (much of which is accompanied by community safety concerns, social challenges, and slum-lord conditions). Both options leave a woman feeling helpless, hopeless, and unable to provide the safety and care for her children that she innately wants to provide.

Meet a Real Momma

We met Momma D last winter when she found herself pregnant, alone, and without housing due to an eviction threat. She had been down this road before. Although this was her first pregnancy, she had faced homelessness multiple times in her young life and now facing it with a baby on the way was terrifying. As much as she wanted to be independent, she couldn’t keep making the same choices and expect a different outcome. She desired a clean, safe place for her and her baby but she had to be willing to admit that she needed ongoing help, not just a “quick-fix”. She asked a woman at her church for help and she called us. Today, Momma D is placed in one of our Independent Supportive Housing units where she works with one of our Restorative Landlords who helps her learn about both her rights and responsibilities as a Tenant. She has to put 30% of her monthly income towards rent and our Partner Churches supplement the rest. As she gains more meaningful employment, she will be able to afford a car and other things she needs for her son and work her way to independence. She is learning that sustainable housing also means sacrificing your ideal location or “look” or even some initial independence in order to make long-term changes in how you live within your means. She’s breaking the cycle of eviction-avoidance and learning how to build a life of sustainable choices and wise financial planning. We are so proud of Momma D!

What Does this Have to Do with the Church?

Many women that come to us are not ready to be independently housed. They are simply living day to day, trying to survive a pregnancy that is scary, uncomfortable and lonely. Without support systems, they are finding themselves in desperate need of people to tangibly show them the love of Jesus. The Bible is clear that one of the most powerful ways to do this is by sharing our lives with those who need hope the most. And what better opportunity to share than through the opening of your home?

 “God places the lonely in families, he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 68:6 

Families are often the source of much of the pain and generational trauma that has led women to the point they find themselves in need of Refuge Host Homes. HOWEVER, we believe that God intends to use the family to heal these wounds as women are invited into a literal family in a home and church body where they are known and loved fully. 

We know where there is an abundance of healthy “families” (individuals, couples, parents and children): THE LOCAL CHURCH! If you have an extra bedroom or space in your home that is sitting empty and you’ve been asking God what it should be used for, would you ask Him about being a Refuge Host Home? We receive regular calls from caseworkers, medical staff, social workers and pastors looking for safe places for pregnant women who have come to them looking for help. We are excited to see the Church rise up in the time of great need in our community. The Lord has called us to love as He first loved us…and the Home is an incredible place to do it!

For more information about becoming a Host Home or to find out how your church can partner with the ministry of Refuge Host Homes, visit or call 330-227-4733.

— Emilie Oxley (c) September 2023

Leave a Reply