New nonprofit helps single mothers
By Jazmine Steele
Michelle Henry can be considered an official Mother Hen for the city of Detroit. For the past 20 years she has raised six children of her own in addition to helping countless other single mothers raise their children.
“I always took in ... and raised kids,” Henry said. “Anybody that knows me knows this is my heart and what I love to do.”
Henry recently founded Charismata Homes and Company, a nonprofit dedicated to helping single mothers connect with community resources and housing. The organization provides mentoring, educational and parenting workshops. Clients are also granted furnished transitional housing through property Henry owns.
“Whatever their needs are, we try to meet them,” she said.
Henry named the organization Charismata, a greek word for a gift from God, because she feels spiritually connected to this line of work.
“I asked God to help me give them the right advice and encouraging words,” she said. “They’re just young girls that need help and structure.”
Henry works out an affordable rental rate for each mother based on their income. She currently owns three properties in Detroit and is in the process of acquiring more. On the Eastside of Detroit she has a three-bedroom bungalow where three women share the house and split the rent. If she can’t place a client in one of her properties she uses her network of friends to find placement for them.
On any given night you can catch Henry running out to the grocery store to pick up extra food or diapers for her clients. She runs Charismata, holds down a full-time job, and still caters to her family. She says if she’s not busy “something is wrong.”
“I have days when I’m exhausted or tired,” she said. “Everything gets done but it’s God. That’s all I can say.”
She usually meets her clients through word of mouth or referrals. She begins the mentoring process with an initial interview to understand their situation and what resources they need most.
“They have to be in school or working to be in the program,” she said. “So that they can’t just be dependent on aid and end up homeless again.”
The biggest challenge for Henry is keeping the women focused on their self-improvement without the distraction of non-productive men. It’s a rule that no men are allowed to live in the Charismata property.
She said, “if he can’t help pay your rent, lights and gas he shouldn’t be around.”
Today Henry has a supportive husband by her side helping get things done, but it wasn’t always this way. She says she once struggled as a single mother with three kids and a fourth on the way.
“You have to go through it in order to [help],” she said. “There were people that stepped up to help me that weren’t my blood and I said ‘If God helps me I’m going to give back.’”
Once Henry managed to get her life back on track she opened a nail salon, also called Charismata, where she met a lot of the girls in need of help. Her innate, nurturing spirit kicked into auto pilot and she began mentoring them.
“It’s really not about the money to me, it’s about keeping them off the street,” she said. “I can’t help the world but if I can get 25 families off the street I’ll be happy.”
Charismata Homes and Company is an official 501(c)3 founded in April 2009. They are currently funded through fundraising, donations and Henry’s personal finances.
The organization has just acquired a building at 15823 W. McNichols in Detroit. The space will be used as a place for the women to gather and have parenting classes and personal development workshops.
They are in the process of acquiring more funding.
If you are a single mother in need of assistance or would like to donate to this cause visit www.Charismatahomesand company.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call 248.773.2866 for more information.