BROOKSVILLE — Where's a pregnant woman or single mother of an infant to go if she's homeless? Kicked out of her home? Destitute?
As of this week, she can find refuge at the Little House, a transitional home sponsored by Turning Point Nazarene Church.
It's an endeavor to give homeless single mothers a safe haven to live and where they will learn life skills to build strong families. And the house for three on Ingram Road, just north of the Hernando County Fairgrounds, is only the first, said Angela Welch, a member of the steering committee.
"We'll have three girls and a housemother to start. We'll be looking at other buildings once that is established," Welch said.
The overall concept has been established under the name of Life Center, registered as a charitable organization.
"We're just now raising funds to open," Welch said recently.
Organizing and strategizing, under way for 10 years, has resulted in a business plan developed by SCORE. There is an educational curriculum for residents ranging from practical skills to childhood development and money management, and an outreach that has drawn input from the Hernando Youth Initiative, A New Generation, Grace World Outreach Church, Habitat for Humanity of Hernando County, the Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition and others.
In a sort of run-up to devising a curriculum, the group staged an ethnic cooking class and a pie-baking workshop, conducted a workshop on divorce care for kids and launched a teen parenting class at Hernando High School.
Habitat for Humanity, instrumental in making Little House a reality, delivered volunteers and building skills to refurbish a small structure on the property of Turning Point Church. The facility now includes three bedrooms, a bathroom and a front room encompassing a kitchen-dining space and a sitting area, Welch said.
The length of stay for residents will depend on when a woman comes in — for instance, while pregnant or with an infant or young child — but will be limited to three years, the steering committee decided. The budget has been set at $400 a month per resident, with all of the money provided through donations.
"We're still pretty much hammering out the details," Welch said, noting the cost includes non-food items for the woman and her baby, classes and programs — "help needed until they are ready to make their own living." The latter may include job training.
"We're working on procedures for the first residents," Welch said.
A New Generation, a 13-year-old Hernando County pregnancy and family resource center that provides services for women with unintentional or unplanned pregnancies, is screening and will recommend the first residents, who must be 18 years of age or older.
Cheryl Bennett, A New Generation's youth development coordinator, the need for Life Center and the Little House.
"We are seeing more of a need, an increasing need, for a place for girls to go," Bennett said. "We don't have anywhere to send pregnant teens."
Bennett was quick to point out, "They are definitely not high-schoolers. The perception is definitely skewed. The increase in pregnancies is (among) females out of high school. The majority (of our clients are) about 18, 25, 27."
Statistics from the state Health Department back that up. Among some 3,000 births from 2009 to 2011 in Hernando County, 602 were to unwed mothers ages 20 through 54 while 160 were to mothers ages 15 through 19.
Also, Bennett said that with the recent difficult economy, an increasing number of pregnant women have been financially stressed. Again, Health Department statistics confirm that notion: Of the some 3,000 births, 1,014 were covered by Medicaid.
While A New Generation bills itself as a "life affirming ministry" and provides sex abstinence education in schools, Life Center calls itself a "Christian-based organization … not going to promote abortion, but not going to be anti-abortion, not in any shape or form a political organization," according to Welch.
The Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting Thursday at the Little House, 19390 Ingram Road.
The Life Center's history notes of the day, "Exactly 10 years ago we were told God would build us a house! It took us a long time to let Him. We finally got out of His way."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.