Recent graduates of the Project Home Trust program, run by the Quality Housing Coalition. Contributed / Project Home Trust

A guaranteed income program for single mothers launched last year has provided 20 women with monthly payments of $1,000 to use as they see fit for their families and get them out of “survival mode.”

The women, with 33 children between them, have now graduated from the yearlong Project Home Trust program and have in place a new community and a strong support system, according to program Manager Peace Mutesi.

“They’re now thinking about the future, and not just in survival mode anymore,” she said.

The Trust program, part of Portland-based nonprofit Quality Housing Coalition’s offerings, is preparing for its second year and will select a new cohort of recipients by lottery in June.

All of the Project Home Trust members were participants in the coalition’s Project Home, which partners with agencies, organizations, individuals and landlords throughout the state to remove housing barriers for low-income renters who are housing insecure. That larger program is designed to get participants “off government assistance in 12-18 months,” said the coalition’s executive director, Victoria Morales, and so far has provided homes to more than 780 families.

The Trust program was created when the coalition saw Project Home’s single mothers facing greater challenges than the other participants, including a lack of child care options, Morales said.


“We talked to our residents who are single moms and asked them what they really need, and they all said they need cash that isn’t restricted for specific uses,” she said. “They reported, ‘We don’t want to have to prove our poverty over and over and prove how we’re spending our money.'”

The “trust” in the program’s name has two meanings, she said. It’s both guaranteed funds, and also indicative of their trust in the participants to determine their own financial needs. “We’re giving people a trust that they don’t usually have in their income bracket,” she said.

“They feel they’re able to do things now that they weren’t before,” said Morales.

Mutesi is a former Project Home participant.

“I was one of the moms included in that first interview about the challenges we face,” she said. “When I had the opportunity to solve this issue in our community, I couldn’t say no. I wanted to be part of the solution.”

While facing housing insecurity, “it’s a big challenge knowing that you also have to provide for your kids,” Mutesi said. “There’s also a fear that if you’re not able to provide for them, you might lose them at some point.”


Holding a job while also supporting children and trying to be a steady presence in their lives is difficult, she said.

“Sometimes you can’t move forward when you don’t have any flexibility,” she said.

Much of the assistance the mothers previously received, she said, “restricted them to one specific thing, when their needs changed every month.” Project Home Trust’s cash assistance allows them to make judgment calls for their own family about what needs to take priority, she said.

The mothers who graduated from Project Home Trust took the initiative to set up a shared trust of their own going forward. They wanted to collectively manage the trust and to tap into it when needed, Mutesi said. In addition to giving them a safety cushion, it also allows them to gain money management skills, she said.

The community the mothers have created through the Trust project has been the most notable part of the program, she said. Though the women in the group speak seven different languages, they have bonded through their shared experiences and offered one another a much-needed support system.

Many of the women live in Lewiston and Auburn, and the October mass shooting in Lewiston triggered trauma for those who had lived in war zones. That night, Mutesi said, they were up until 2 a.m. in their online group chat, checking in on one another and offering support.

“We’ve seen a very strong community be built,” she said.

Project Home Trust celebrated its graduates earlier this month at an event in Portland that also served as a fundraiser. The program receives most of its funding from a Portland Community Block Grant.

For more information on Quality Housing Coalition and its work, go to

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