House of Sueños: Empowering single mothers through supportive housing and therapy

House of Sueños is a nonprofit organization based in Hollister that works with single mothers to break the cycle of abuse and empower them for the future.

With two property sites in Hollister, House of Sueños is a nonprofit organization that works to empower single mothers and stop the cycle of abuse through community living and in-home mental health services.

The organization launched a pilot program in Hollister in 2014 and officially received its nonprofit status in 2017.

Today, House of Sueños provides services including community living, group activities such as yoga, employment guidance, higher education mentorship, in-home child care exchange, and mental health treatment which includes in-home mental health services.

Another key aspect of the nonprofit organization is that it addresses the limited supportive housing for single mothers. At House of Sueños, in addition to a private room, rent includes mental health services, mandatory group and individual counseling, and case management.

"We look at how much [local rent] is and then we reduce the rent onsite," Founder and Executive Director Suenia Romero said.

Romero went on to say that two innovative things set House of Sueños apart from other organizations: in-home mental health care and long-term housing. She explained that all counseling sessions are conducted onsite in order to ensure that all women have free child care and do not need to worry about transportation.

“This is a program where we not only want to empower women, but want to give them services they need,” Romero said.

Candy Lopez, who currently lives onsite, credits House of Sueños for empowering her to grow in her life after leaving an abusive relationship. (Lopez's name was changed for this article.)

Originally from Santa Clara County, Lopez first came to Hollister to stay at local women’s shelter Emmaus House. Struggling to find a place to rent as a single mother with two children, Lopez found an advertisement on Craigslist for House of Sueños. She applied to live onsite after she learned more about the program and its opportunities.

“At a shelter you are only able to stay there from two weeks to six months,” Lopez said. “As a parent you think, ‘I have to find a place to stay.’ With House of Sueños there isn’t a time limit so you can stay as long as you need or like. You have a home where you aren’t rushed to leave right away.”

The stability found at House of Sueños gave Lopez the opportunity to return to school at Gavilan College to study computer science. Due to a lack of parental support and the mental strain from her abusive partner, Lopez never would have believed going to college was an option for her before her time at House of Sueños, she said.

“Suenia encouraged me to go back to school," Lopez said. "Basically because I recently got out of an abusive relationship, it was hard for me to support my kids and go back to school. [Moving into House of Sueños] I was finally able to leave working at Starbucks and start my process at Gavilan College. I would not have done that if I rented a room somewhere else.”

Though reduced rent is a key factor of the nonprofit organization for single mothers, its in-house mental health services and community living is a key step to ensure that the organization takes a whole person approach. By providing parenting classes, as well as individual and group therapy sessions, House of Sueños hopes to not only empower women, but break the cycle of abuse.

“The purpose is to break the cycle of abuse,” Development Director Mary Lou Mazzone said. “One thing I hear a lot is we want to empower moms. It’s important because children learn from their example. Let’s talk about childhood trauma and heal it to not re-traumatize children.”

Lopez supports this mission and said that the organization has given her tools to not only be a better mother, but to learn how to be a better person by healing past trauma. Working with Romero, who is a licensed Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Lopez was able to get to develop self-confidence and get to the root of why she has stayed in her abusive relationship.

Lopez  also credits the other women who are part of the House of Sueños program for helping empower not only her, but her children.

“It is like a village in a sense," Lopez said. "There is that community support. It’s good for the kids to have other kids to play with and to see other mothers trying to strive to be better. The kids are just as traumatized as us moms. To have other kids there helps take their mind off it and the House of Suenia also works one-on-one with each kid. It’s an overall help.”

Services provided for children onsite include a child development program that works with the kids to incorporate mental health services, and activities which are all supervised by a licensed clinical social worker. Mothers living in House of Sueños work together to watch one another’s children and share meals in an effort to support one another.

The nonprofit organization recently received a donated van, which will help change the lives of the women and children.

“We got a new van and the women are now going on outings together,” Romero said. “Kendra Bobsin and her father donated the van.”

Moving forward, the organization is currently applying for grants and is working to team up with San Jose State University to provide interns onsite. House of Sueños has already developed a working relationship with Palo Alto University in an effort to provide more support for the women and children onsite.

“We normalize mental health care,” Romero said. “We want women to know they aren’t alone in their struggles.”

More information on House of Sueños can be found on the organization's website or by calling (831) 313-2015.

Editor's Note: Two photos from the article were taken down at the request of House of Sueños. andCandy Lopez's real name was changed. 

Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.