Persons of the Week: Warrior Women wage war against poverty in Detroit

Posted at 10:52 PM, Mar 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-17 22:52:11-04

There is a war going on in this country, not on the battle field but against women and children caught in an unending cycle of poverty.

So we wanted to shed some light on a group of women who have joined forces to put an end to the struggle passed on from one generation to the next.

They go by the name "Warrior Women Against Poverty" - a powerful name with a powerful mission. By lending their time, their resources and their support, this group is changing lives, one woman at a time.

If you look around certain rooms at the Cots Homeless Shelter in Detroit, it may seem like a social gathering, but if you look deeper you'll quickly realize there are ladies gathering who mean business.

In fact they are declaring war.

Their battle begins on the streets of Detroit, where they're fighting poverty, homelessness and their number one target to prevent it is African American women.

Ethel Rucker a Warrior Women mentee says, "I never thought me and my four children would end up in a homeless shelter. Of course you hear horror stories about homeless shelters."

Two years ago Ethel and her four children were homeless with no transportation to work or school. They landed at Cots.

After her divorce, getting back on her feet seemed impossible.

Ethel says, "It was like a vicious cycle. I would keep on trying, like an uphill battle."

Ethel stayed in the shelter for six months and then voluntarily joined Warrior Women Against Poverty, a support group at Cots.

Carol Goss says, "It really is a network, a movement really of African American women helping other women."

It was founded by the retired CEO of the Skillman Foundation, Carol Goss, who spent a year at Harvad University focusing on social justice issues.

Upon return she invited 40 other women to join her movement to help black women escape poverty and to become more self sufficient.

Carol Goss says, "The support that they receive unconditionally, we're not asking for anything in return, except for them to move on with their lives."

Women like Ethel are mentored by accomplished women like Pearlanne Pollard.

First they talked on the phone and, once trust was established, they met face-to-face and a lasting friendship began.

After a year Pearlanne realized a big obstacle for Ethel not going back to school or holding down a job was no transportation, so she got her a car.

Pearlanne says, "She was just screaming 'who does this, who does this.' She said, 'Thank you God, what do I owe you,' you owe me a college degree."

Ethel started college in September of last year.

Another Warrior Women mentee is Tamika Evans, who landed at Cots unexpectedly.

Tamika says, "I was married and my husband was abusive and I decided to leave."

She didn't want her 8-year-old to believe violence was okay and she had dreams of one day owning her own bakery. Warrior Women was a perfect fit.

Tamika says, "African American women that are really there to support you, not there to bash you or judge you."

Cots CEO Cheryl Johnson has been fighting homelessness at this shelter for 27 years. She has served mothers and fathers at Cots, then years later she would see their children return for help because they became homeless too.

Cheryl Johnson says, "Seeing people leaving, coming back as adults something was wrong with that."

She believes, if the cycle of poverty will ever be broken, we must lift parents up. It really is a movement that when scaled up could impact our entire region that's what is important.

For women like Ethel and Tamika and their mentors the whole process is life changing.

Pearlanne says "iI really made me understand the meaning of love. I don't have to be related to someone to love them unconditionally."

Ethel says, "To have this network of women to help guide me to get them is such a wonderful thing."

The women meet monthly to set goals.The mentorship lasts a year, and then another group of Warrior Women will be teamed with selected mentees.

For changing lives and making a path forward is why we choose you are our Persons of the Week.