Becoming a mother is a life-changing event. It changes your perceptions of the world, your responsibilities, your financial needs, your priorities, and even the way you love others. Some are more prepared for the changes that pregnancy and motherhood bring while others are less prepared. Imagine becoming a mother as a young teen who is also experiencing homelessness. Over the past several weeks, our Passage House mothers have also had to go through the stress of COVID-19 and have faced the challenges of loss of employment and the closure of childcare facilities. Like everyone else during this time, our young mothers are navigating the changes that have taken place in day-to-day life.
During Hunker Down, two babies have been born to Passage House mothers—one born at the beginning and one born this past Monday. It has been an especially hard time for them because they were not able to have the usual experience that new mothers expect at the birth of their first child. Usually after a birth, family and friends visit together after the delivery in the hospital room, but because they’re only able to have 1 person in at a time, this happy moment looked a lot different. “It’s not the normal celebration people are used to. Passage House was able to send them flowers but even that was difficult because the hospitals are trying to get people in and out more quickly, so coordinating that delivery was not simple,” Passage House Coordinator, Gena Graves says, “and usually after returning home from a birth, Passage House facilitates the bonding time between the father and the baby. Usually, the father would be able to visit Passage House, but because of health safety, we aren’t allowing visitors.”
During the first couple of weeks of the Hunker Down order, one mother had a toddler living with her at Passage House. Staff quickly realized that communicating to a child not to touch others is really difficult. Because exposure is limited as much as possible, that mother and her child have been temporarily placed in a separate living situation. Besides a huge increase in cleaning and the new babies, the biggest change has been the inability to connect to other family members. Staff go home to their families after their shift, but these youth can’t, which makes them feel frustrated and more isolated. Because the girls are encouraged to work to create support systems outside of the home, many of them are experiencing feelings of loneliness and disconnection. One young girl in particular had close bonds with family from her home village and she has not been able to connect with them.
Another great loss is the Women’s Leadership Conference that usually takes place at this time each year. This is the first time in 22 years that it hasn’t happened. The professional style conference has been a great way for past, current, and potential residents to reconnect with their roots. It is an experience designed to help moms feel empowered and rejuvenated while connecting them to others in the community who can provide tools for success. Gena Graves says, “Overall, it has been extremely challenging to connect with our alumni, even virtually, because not everyone has the same internet access or technology access. We’ve been able to do some food box deliveries to our families, but we haven’t really been able to interact.”
Though the young mothers at Passage House find refuge in the housing and program, they are having a hard time emotionally. These young ladies are some of the strongest individuals and mothers you will ever meet, doing everything they can for the health and safety of their families. But, they still need the support and guidance from our staff to reach stability and independence. You can help them and their families by purchasing one of the special packages being sold to raise funds for the Passage House Program. These are available to purchase until the end of day today at 11:59 pm. You also have the opportunity to make a $10 donation to register for our Virtual Mother’s Day Tea event until Saturday, May 9, the day before event. Purchase gift packages and event registration by clicking HERE.