Offering mothers & children a home and a place to play

“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.’” (Luke 1:46-48)

This month we celebrate mothers with Mother’s Day. It is a day to call to mind Jesus’ mother, Mary, and her great compassion and sacrifice. She is a model for all mothers.

At Catholic Social Services (CSS) we serve so many mothers who need help as they raise and support their families. These families and children are the future of our community and we strive to support and strengthen them.

Clare House is a CSS program that provides emergency shelter and transitional housing for mothers with children experiencing homelessness. We offer safe shelter and case management to move to permanent housing, long-term employment and a stable life for mothers and their children.

Catholic Social Services moved into the new Clare House building on Spenard Road a few years ago. The space has allowed a transformation in our services, including the establishment of trauma-informed care as our service model, and the addition of progressive housing, which allows families to stay in a subsidized unit while saving money and working with a case manager on becoming independent. Additionally, we added a new staff person dedicated to working with employers and connecting mothers with jobs. This is a critical part of long-term success for families.

When we planned the new Clare House, we designated a small lot in back for an outdoor play space. The land came with the building. When Clare House is full with 100 people, it can be challenging for kids to play, especially in the busy neighborhood. The intended play garden with simple equipment and green space will add an important aspect to our programming.

Play is important to a child’s life and development, but children in poverty may not have safe parks and playgrounds. Since lower-income parents have to deal with additional social, emotional and economic stressors of daily living, they may have less time, energy and resources available to provide active and creative playtime at the playground or in the home.

Children at Clare House lack an ideal space for active and creative play. We as an agency can help to address this by providing a safe space and programming so moms have more time and energy to support their children in play. Children’s play is linked to improved physical health, improved brain development, and developing healthy and strong social and emotional ties. We want to support healthy strong adults in future generations — and becoming that kind of adult takes practice. Our new play garden will help young minds and bodies get that practice. It will also provide a space for peaceful repose and contemplation for our Clare House mothers.

As with all programs at Clare House, the play garden was a concept of the community. We are proud to connect our community with outdoor volunteer opportunities to serve families at Clare House.

Play and family are core to a healthy life. We honor and celebrate mothers in our community this month. Thank you Mother Mary, for your blessings on our lives, and thank you Anchorage for your commitment to your neighbors and friends.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit

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