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Local group helps young women who age out of foster system

Posted at 4:02 PM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 10:51:59-04

CLEVELAND — Bessie’s Angels offers support to women who are between 18 and 24 years old.

The East Cleveland support system has been around for six years and its looking to open a second home.

Tonya Perkins-Stoudermire is president and founder of the organization.

“We talk about all kinds of stuff,” said Perkins-Stoudermire. “These young ladies are your secrets.”

She said the current home in the 1700 block of Miles Road houses seven women.

The women receive counseling, career development, financial empowerment and a place to stay for reduced rates.

“We’re helping them go from survival to living,” said board member LaToya Smith.

They’re old enough to be considered an adult but not seasoned enough to take off on their own.

“We help them with some tough love, we’ve had to have some tough conversations,” said Smith. “Some motherly, sisterly conversations. We are like mother, big sisters to these young ladies when they come into the home. I call this a home a healing, a home of love.”

Bessie’s Angels steps in when young women age out of Ohio’s foster system.

“She dropped us off, told us goodbye with tears in her eyes,” said Shalonda Swanson.

Swanson was 10 when that happened. For the next eight years, the system became her parent. Some nights, it would seem struggle became her destiny.

“My mom passed away when I was in eighth grade,” said Swanson.

Swanson is just one sad story faced by many in the foster system. She is a mother now and finished up at Cleveland State in 2017. She graduated to a sisterhood of support.

Bessie’s Angels is looking for help. You can donate here.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.