Emma Maternity House has been providing shelter and assistance to homeless pregnant women since 1992. Until recently, the Resident Director for Emma House had been living with these women for 5 years. She has big dreams for them as they seek to live sustainable, healthy, and goal-oriented lives. Here’s her dream:
A couple years into my job I became aware that although Emma House was providing short-term housing and support for pregnant women, our clients needed far more than we could provide. We were seeing women with complex challenges such as mental health issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, incomplete education, and minimum wage work experience—or sometimes no work experience. Many of our clients presented childhood histories of foster care, group homes and street survival. Most of them came from a background of unhealthy or even dangerous relationships. While the women resided with us, we offered care, support, programming, and life skill development.
We worked hard to connect them to the resources that fit their individual needs and challenges. Once they left the maternity home with their infants, the women were not thriving, and many were barely surviving. Though volunteers and staff made great efforts to stay connected and provide support, after leaving, many of the women entered into extremely unhealthy and dangerous relationships, experienced child apprehensions, depression, and a return to addictions. Some of the women were returning to Emma House pregnant again after having their previous child apprehended. They were caught in a cycle that needed to be broken and I felt as though we were barely putting a Band-Aid on their potentially fatal wound. What about their children? What chance would they have? Their needs and experiences far exceeded our volunteer base. So, with the high level of need around us, I began to dream.
I dream of a facility where a pregnant woman can receive long-term care, assistance, life skills training, parenting education, and counselling. I envision these women having access to these resources alongside the help that their individual challenges required. This should be a facility that operates as a partnership with agencies and organizations experienced in working with this client demographic. It should be a place where women can set their life goals and, with help, work toward their own dreams of becoming as independent and as holistically healthy as possible.
Long-term housing and support for our clients is necessary, but Emma house is small, and the only private space the women and their babies have is their own bedroom and one bathroom shared by all three residents. Despite our lack of space, the housing crisis in Calgary has forced Emma House into providing long-term housing. This has created numerous problems, as you might imagine. Moving, crawling, walking toddlers living in a small communal home, compounded by the individual challenges and issues that their mothers are struggling with. However, It has been well over a year since we have had a resident receive subsidized housing.
Many of our clients need long-term assistance. What will happen to them? We have a resident now with a baby who will be a year old in April. There is no housing solution for this young mother who will need live-in home support, mental health assistance, counseling, and help with child care long term. But, we can continue to dream. The complexity of the clients requires partnerships in order to come close to meeting their needs. We have begun a partnership with Bridge of Hope—an organization that will help us to offer housing opportunities, mentoring, and life skills programming for some of our clients who qualify for the program. But many of our clients will still not be a fit. That is why I am thankful for our partnership with the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre. They continue to offer programs, resources, and counselling for our clients as we dream of what we can do together in the future to offer more to these vulnerable young women. Without these partnerships, our work would not be possible.
Contact us to find out more about Emma Maternity House.