When Julie (not her real name in order to protect her privacy) approached St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities two months ago, she only had a grocery bag with her belongings, and the clothing on her back. With the newly discovered pregnancy of her fourth child, finding full shelters was not an option. Luckily, Julie found a warm place to stay. “I came here with nothing, and now I have clothes. I stayed in my car for two months in Louisville,” said Julie. For now, things are going very well for Julie, as the house parents at St. Elizabeth assist her with errands, job searches, parenting classes and counseling services.
“I stayed in another center in 2009, and that was more like an institution. Over here, I feel like I’m at home. I feel like I’m safe right now. I’m getting into programs, and they help me with everything and baby stuff,” said Julie. Danielle Archer, development director, St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities, explained that since the merger of St. Elizabeth and Catholic Charities, eight years ago, there are now several needs met for pregnant and parenting women. There is the transition home for women who are pregnant or parenting, who are more independent and at least 18. Located a block down the street, there is the maternity home, which is where Julie lives.
“The maternity home is for younger women, and it’s always supervised. They travel as a group, and the goal is healthy mom and baby,” said Archer. Those in the maternity home participate in classes regarding budgeting, nutrition, childcare and other topics. A labor coach is also assigned to the women. The volunteer coach helps the mother through the pregnancy, attends doctor appointments, assists with birth plans and attends the birth. “I can tell this is not something she (coach) has been made to do. I can tell she really wants to be here with me,” said Julie, who is due to delivery her baby on November 3. Once Julie has her baby, she may live in the transition home, where there are seven apartments. Archer explained that the mothers are welcome to stay for two years, but the average stay is eight months. Most of the mothers in the transition home either work or attend school. In order to assist the mothers, there is a computer station in the transition home and a house parent that spends the night. However, the hope is that they learn skills of stability.
“We are measured by how many clients leave and go into permanent housing. If they leave and go into a permanent home, that’s a success for us. We teach them the skills that are necessary to live on their own,” said Archer, who explained that while the clients in the transition home pay only a small amount for food and laundry, the goal is for them to learn independence and budgeting. Currently, the success rate for St. Elizabeth is 80%. “My ultimate goal is to get stable housing,” said Julie. While there is usually a waiting list for the transition home, Archer explained that the maternity home will do everything it can to find space for a young pregnant woman in need. St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities also serves the community as a licensed adoption agency, the Supported Living Program for developmentally delayed adults, Court Appointed Special Advocates and community outreach. St. Elizabeth is always open to those in need of baby supplies, but the last Monday of every month is Distribution Day and they open their doors to the community as a distribution day. According to Archer, last year more than $10,000 in diapers were given away. Clients of the maternity home and transition home are also welcome to baby supplies, and they may purchase new baby items with earned points. St. Elizabeth is funded through a HUD grant, private donations and the two special fundraising events which include their annual gala and raffle ticket event held in the fall. The organization also depends heavily on volunteers to do everything from babysitting to landscaping.
St. Elizabeth is located on Market Street in New Albany, but it has served women from across the nation. For more information visit archindy.org/cc/newalbany/index.html.
Some statistics from the Annual Report: Fiscal Year 2010-2011
- 17 Pregnant women provided shelter and services
- 6 Women under the age of 18
- 4 Women lived in the home after the babies were born
- 24 Single mothers sheltered
- 33 Children sheltered
- 8 Average length of stay
- 2 Child placements with adoptive couples
- 21 Birth parent counseling
- 6 Domestic home studies
- 2 Domestic supervisions
- 30 Individuals recieved counseling on a sliding scale
- 16 Individuals referred to specialized counseling
- 241 Families assisted
- $10,000 in diapers donated
- 137 Children served
- 54 Volunteers
- 8,300 Hours of volunteer service
Supported Living Program
- 16 Developmentally delayed adults served
- 5,592 Staff hours spent with clients