People of Housing Security:

New Hope for Families’ family services coordinator has passion for helping others

Mary Ellis has always had a passion for kids and helping others. At New Hope for Families, she is able to live out this passion, all while making a wide impact on housing security in the community. 

Mary currently serves as the family services coordinator at New Hope for Families, a nonprofit based in Bloomington. In this position, she works with families that stay in The Roof, New Hope’s emergency shelter for families experiencing homelessness. There are accommodations for 12 families at a time and on average, families stay in the facility for about three months. Mary’s work includes having a weekly one-hour case management meeting with each family. 

While Mary has not spent her whole career in the field of housing security, she has continuously made an impact in the lives of children in the community. After graduating from Indiana University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal history and minors in psychology and social work, Mary started a five-year career as a juvenile probation officer. She worked directly with children and learned that their perceived behavioral issues were the result of their basic needs not being met. 

Families that live at The Roof often face challenges that have made it difficult to find housing, so Mary steps in to become a housing advocate for them and provide some stability. As the family services coordinator, Mary’s daily routine includes many different tasks. She helps families fill out food stamp applications, drives children to school, provides transportation to appointments and apartments that they’re interested in leasing, helps with conflict resolution in the shelter and much more. 

An important aspect of Mary’s job is that she serves as a liaison between families and housing authorities, landlords and property managers. This helps families navigate the complicated process of trying to find and move into an affordable and accessible home. 

“People should know about the disparity in how landlords react to those living month to month.” – Mary Ellis

Despite the challenges of finding housing, the staff at New Hope for Families takes pride in their success of housing placement. Mary said that New Hope has an 85% success rate in families leaving the facility, moving into housing and signing a lease in their own name. 

Mary feels passionately about the work she does and believes there are many things that the wider community should know and understand. This includes the discrimination faced by those experiencing housing insecurity.

“People should know about the disparity in how landlords react to those living month to month,” Mary said. Unfortunately, bias towards low-income families has created a barrier for those looking for housing. Often, individuals experiencing housing insecurity are faced with expensive housing application fees and a lack of resources. However, New Hope for Families helps to cover these high costs and provides mentorship for those looking for housing.

On difficult days, Mary feels encouraged by the kids at New Hope for Families. She’s motivated by knowing that she can help create an environment where the children can be happy and not traumatized.

About the People of Housing Security: This series highlights the work of those committed to improving the lives of residents in South Central Indiana. Find all the articles in this series here.