Grace Place Provides Help for Mothers and Children Experiencing Homelessness.

by | Feb 2024

SOME SINGLE mothers work multiple jobs to keep their families afloat, but with housing and utility prices at an all-time high, child care costs mounting, and grocery prices steadily rising, many are still struggling. One missed paycheck can equal homelessness. That’s where Grace Place steps in. 

“Since we began operating in 2015, Grace Place has helped restore the lives of hundreds of women and children who were experiencing the despair of homelessness. Eighty-seven percent of our graduate families are still independent and leading restored, sustainable lives. These women and children are thriving now and give back to this community in countless ways. They’ve changed the trajectory of the generations who will come after we’re all long gone,” shared founder Desneige VanCleve. 

Previously focused on marketing for small businesses, VanCleve felt the nudge to invest in others. In 2013, she decided to pursue her dream of making a difference. 

“I went back to college for ministry and organizational leadership and began working in the Benevolence Ministry of a local church. Through this position, I realized the enormous need for a long-term life restoration program and a home for mothers and children. Our mission statement is to empower single mothers in need and their children toward developing healthy, safe, and independent lives in the local community,” she explained.

Grace Place can serve up to eight families between its Crisis to Stability program and its Graduate program. But in 2022, they received an astounding 392 requests for assistance, and in 2023, that number increased. VanCleve said that Grace Place is not an emergency shelter and cannot offer emergency placements. It focuses on equipping mothers, helping them eliminate risks and barriers, and securing sustainable housing. 

In August of 2022, Grace Place purchased 4.5 acres and plans to build 43 cottage-style homes, an education building, outdoor courtyards and gathering areas, and sports courts and playgrounds.

“We will be able to serve more than five times the number of families we [can now serve] annually. And our evidence-based programs will be even more impactful on this scale than they’ve proven to be over the last eight years. We’re very excited about the impact we know this organization is going to make and also the impact our families are going to make with this opportunity! It’s an enormous burden to carry when you know the need and what these families are up against with the cost of housing here.

“It’s hard to put into words the way it feels when our families first come to Grace Place completely shattered and then leave completely equipped with so much hope and confidence for their futures. We have kids who have lived here who are adults now, and they want to show their gratitude for the huge turning point in their lives that happened when their mother brought them to Grace Place’s.”

VanCleve hopes this much-needed expansion will serve as an example for other communities and said the orgnization’s success has opened up a meaningful dialogue about the homeless epidemic and attainable housing crisis.

“We are no longer turning a blind eye to suffering. When we wake up each day and make sure we’re loving others in the absolute best way possible, that has to [make] the future better in ways we will never really know, right? Isn’t that hope in its purest, most visible form?”

Though not originally from Middle Tennessee, VanCleve believes that the success of Grace Place and each mother who has come through the doors is because of the support they’ve received from Sumner County.

“Thank you — all of you. You took a big chance on a young, wild Yankee transplant and believed in the vision God put in my heart. I hope you’re proud of this beautiful love letter you’ve been writing to single moms and children experiencing homelessness for eight years now!”

VanCleve also attributes the success of Grace Place to the mothers themselves. 

“Our families are the heroes here. It’s far from easy. It’s the hardest stage of their lives, and they’re achieving seemingly impossible things. Whenever I’m facing any kind of challenge, I think of these women and children. I think of what they’ve faced and continue to face. I think of their stories. It gives me strength and courage.” 

Grace Place will host its annual luncheon on April 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Long Hollow Church. This is a free event open to the community, but reservations must be made in advance. Donations will be accepted and appreciated. GN 

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