Homelessness is a serious problem in Madison and throughout Wisconsin.
70 to 90 pregnant women are homeless each year in Madison alone, according to a 2016 report commissioned by the Wisconsin State Journal.
Pregnant women who are homeless face particular challenges. They are less likely to receive prenatal care or prenatal vitamins. They are unlikely to breastfeed and more likely to smoke. They are also more likely to be underweight or have high rates of obesity. Their infants have lower birth weights, longer hospital stays and are more likely to need neonatal intensive care.
Two abortions take place in Dane County every day. Poverty and a lack of resources are cited as the main reasons a woman feels abortion is her only option.
The Elizabeth House addresses these issues for pregnant women who lack safe housing.
We help pregnant women develop skills to break the cycle of poverty and chronic homelessness. This support impacts generations to come.
The need for The Elizabeth House continues to grow. Every month we receive three or four calls or emails from women interested in applying to be a part of The Elizabeth House. Additionally, local service agencies regularly refer pregnant women to us. And we offer The Elizabeth House as an option, when needed, to pregnant women we see in our medical clinic.
The Elizabeth House offers a new start for pregnant women ready to make a change in their lives. We provide food, clothing, shelter and so much more. We help each mom be ready to become self-sufficient and independent when she graduates from The Elizabeth House. While at The Elizabeth House, she does not need to focus on where her next meal is coming from. Instead, she can focus on making a new start and learning new skills. She can prepare for independence.
When she and her child move into their own apartment, they are starting to live a new life. A new life that will make a difference in their family for years and generations to come.
Yet, a persistent question remains. How successful are the women who graduate from The Elizabeth House in sustaining their new way of life?
Ministry to people who are homeless is hard. It’s even harder when those being served have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction. Or when they have incessantly had people tell them that they’ll never amount to anything. Or perhaps never known a safe home.
Change is difficult — especially with so many compounding challenges that have always been a part of life. (See this Homeless Heartbreak feature from World Magazine. This feature addresses some challenges of helping people who live on the streets in L.A. receive lasting help.)
Many graduates of The Elizabeth House have experienced major life change. They start off well. Unfortunately, sometimes they fall back into old patterns later on.
This is a part of ministry that is painful to recognize. But, when this happens, we pray for them. And we always welcome them back to share a meal and conversation. They are always welcome to talk with “Miss Evonne” or other staff of The Elizabeth House. And they experience the love of Christ.
Many of our graduates do experience lasting change because they have received the love and hope of Jesus Christ and are choosing to follow Him. They have finished school and learned job skills. They have learned new and healthy ways to parent their children. They have proudly moved into their apartments with secure employment and affordable childcare.
The Elizabeth House offers a second chance to pregnant women who have no place to turn – and for whom a second chance seems impossible.
Erica* needed a second chance. Our staff were reluctant to accept Erica into The Elizabeth House. Erica had a problematic background that made her success in the program questionable. But staff at The Elizabeth House listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and made an exception for Erica. Erica moved into The Elizabeth House. And Erica blossomed and flourished.
With the staff and volunteers of The Elizabeth House walking alongside her, Erica began to “rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.” Isaiah 61:4.
Erica stuck with the program and turned her life around. She became one of the best residents. Erica recently secured her own apartment and she and her child are doing great! Erica’s story is a cause for rejoicing. We celebrate the work God has done in her life – and the work he continues to do.
The Elizabeth House has many stories of transformational, lasting change. For each of these we are most grateful. We are also thankful to each person who makes The Elizabeth House possible for pregnant women who need an option – and a second chance. And we trust God for every woman who has ever called The Elizabeth House home.