Christian Chronicle Religion News Service

In New Mexico town, single parents get free rent, benefits — if they’ll go to church

Faith-based program ties opportunities to behavior.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

PORTALES, N.M. — Biatriz Larez knows what it’s like to struggle to feed her family.

A few years ago, the single mother and her three young children made do in a crumbling, two-bedroom mobile home.

She worked an hourly, low-wage job as a custodian.

“It was paycheck-to-paycheck living,” said Larez, who was born and raised in this eastern New Mexico town best known for its peanut and dairy farms. “It wasn’t great.”

But her economic — and spiritual — outlook changed when a friend introduced her to Hope Haven, a faith-based duplex community built by New Mexico Christian Children’s Home.

For up to four years while single parents go to college or develop careers, the ministry associated with Churches of Christ offers free rent, utilities and internet.

The families receive canned goods, nonperishables and meat through the children’s home’s commissary. They have access to a clothing closet.

Donors shower the children with birthday and Christmas gifts.

“Who doesn’t like that?” said Bill Marshall, the program’s director. “It relieves them of financial pressure to the tune of $18,000 to $22,000 a year.”

But with those benefits come expectations: No smoking or drinking. No physical relationships. No guests of the opposite sex, except for relatives.

And for many, this is the big one: The entire family must attend church services three times per week.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the September print edition of The Christian Chronicle.  It was picked up by Religion News Service and distributed on its national wire.

RELATED: They fled a civil war. Now they fear America’s streets (reporting from Portales, N.M.)

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