LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home celebrates 100 babies born to once homeless pregnant women

LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home (LifeHouse), a program of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri (CCSOMO), is celebrating the birth of 100 babies to its formerly homeless clients.

Fifteen of these babies were born during the current pandemic and all were born free of drug dependence and the need for long-term Neonatal Intensive Care, a savings to the community of $100,000 per infant, or $10 million.

LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home is a 24/7 transitional residential housing program for highly vulnerable homeless pregnant women ages 18 and above and their infants and children under the age of five. Women may stay at LifeHouse for up to a year after delivery while working toward self-sufficiency.

Mothers and their children may enter into the LifeHouse AfterCare program which provides two years of continued case management and resource access for residents after they move into their own homes.

At LifeHouse, residents receive a rare opportunity for a bright future, and for some, a first opportunity to build a life. LifeHouse resident Joanna explains: “I never would have, in a million years, imagined that I would become a fully functioning member of society. It’s awesome.”

CCSOMO Director of Special Projects Michele Marsh, formerly Director of LifeHouse from 2014 through 2020, describes LifeHouse’s role as a life-saving and invaluable community asset: “At LifeHouse, we help some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They are homeless pregnant women with no place to go, who need a safe place and the skills and services to move out of poverty and become self-sufficient. The women all have traumatic histories and over 80 percent have a history of substance abuse. Sadly, too, many are survivors of human trafficking.”

LifeHouse opened its doors December 27, 2013, at its current location on the grounds of a converted Springfield monastery.

CCSOMO Executive Director Maura Taylor highlights LifeHouse’s essential service to homeless pregnant women: “After seven years of operation, LifeHouse and the AfterCare program stand out as the only providers of comprehensive case management and services to this underserved population.” Taylor adds: “The success of LifeHouse in Springfield led to our current initiative, building LifeHouse Cape Girardeau. We break ground this summer and anticipate opening in late 2022.” LifeHouse Cape Girardeau will be built on donated land. Marsh is lead project manager.

LifeHouse is led today by Director of Maternal and Family Programs Cindi Kopel, who with her staff, embraces the vital work and need of women who seek their help.

“At LifeHouse, the staff take decreasing homelessness very seriously.” Kopel says. “Since opening around Christmas of 2013, through the end of 2020, 151 women have successfully graduated from the LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home program.”

Kopel notes, however, that not all women who inquire about the program actually enroll: “In the same period, LifeHouse staff assisted another 833 women with finding shelter and other services.” Of these women who chose another path, Kopel says: “Just because this program may not be right for them, does not mean we turn them away. Our case managers work to find these women shelter and resources. That’s what we do. We are always reaching out, providing hope, and changing lives.”