The AGAPE Families in Transition Program: One Solution for Poverty in Memphis

Families in Transition (FIT) is a transitional supportive housing program designed to support to homeless, pregnant women and their children. FIT links agencies together to provide wrap-around services designed to move women and children toward self-sufficient living. It is one resource local families in Memphis can turn to in order to ensure optimal early brain development.

Poverty early in life threatens the well-being of families, and undermines early brain development. For many families, poverty means unsafe and uncertain housing, uneven access to healthy food, and unreliable transportation. All of these factors raise levels of toxic stress in the lives of developing children. For young brains to develop to their full potential, they need healthy and safe environments and enriching and loving care and nurturance.

Levels of family income are strong predictors of child development and well-being. When children grow up in extremely poor families, they are more likely to struggle in school and in life. Children and families in dire poverty are more likely to go hungry, live in over-crowded households, are forced to move more frequently, and experience chronic stress. In addition, children in these families are more likely to do poorly in school and on IQ, verbal ability and achievement tests (CUCP 2009).

The Memphis child poverty rate is fully double the national rate, and half of all families with young children in poverty in Memphis are living far below the federal poverty line. These families are much more likely to run the risk of becoming homeless. More than 1 in 3 homeless preschoolers exhibit emotional and behavioral problems.

The Takeaway

The AGAPE Families In Transition Program is a helpful resource for fragile families in Memphis. There are up to 10,000 homeless persons in Memphis/Shelby County. One third of those are women and children. Two-thirds of these children are infants and preschoolers. Families In Transition is the only program of its kind in Shelby County, helping to place homeless, pregnant women and their children in transitional housing. FIT also provides life skills classes, counseling, mentoring, and case management services. In these ways, FIT helps to heal the deep wound of poverty and homelessness rather than simply providing a temporary band-aid.