‘You can’t just throw people away’ This home helps pregnant homeless women
Around three years ago, Caitlin Dodie was in a 90-day rehab program. Upon the program’s completion, she moved into transitional housing, but found herself with nowhere to go long-term.
Seven months pregnant and newly sober, she was referred to Bishop Gallegos Maternity home through her transitional housing program and was given a place to live and a second chance.
Bishop Gallegos Maternity Home is a nonprofit, nondenominational women’s home, with a purpose of helping homeless mothers find long-term shelter, beat drug and alcohol addiction, learn life skills and offer pre- and post-natal care, according to the home’s Executive Director Lenore Mullarkey.
“I didn’t have my license, I had tickets I had to pay off,” Dodie said. “I have a 19-year-old and 14-year-old who I raised drunk or high and I didn’t know what to do with my newborn son, especially being sober. And the staff here just really walked me through it. They were so supportive.”
The home is inviting and feels family-like:. Groups of women hold babbling babies while rambunctious toddlers dash to the kitchen upon smelling french toast and eggs on the stove. Nurses and counselors come in on a rotating schedule to help women learn healthy life skills and coping mechanisms, and groups of women and children gather around to listen.
The home has accepted roughly 1,000 women since it was founded in 1992. Upon arrival, women are given welcome bags — special care packages that provide residents with personal hygiene products and other new mom necessities.
Beyond the necessities, though, Bishop Gallegos likes to provide women with objects that may bring them comfort, like lotion and a hair brush.
“Receiving that gift lets them know that it’s a welcoming place,” said Paulette Wyllie, who is training to be executive director. “It does something psychologically for the women who come here.”
Bishop Gallegos is a maternity home, unlike most others in the Sacramento area. There are no restrictions for mothers to enter, other than having enough space and the mother’s willingness to be sober while living there. Other maternity homes in the area often require women to be a certain age or show proof of completing rehab before entering.
The home currently houses 15 mothers, 19 children and several infants, and costs roughly $780 a day to run. The home wants to buy Christmas presents for all residents this season in order to brighten up their holidays and needs the community’s help.
Dodie now works and lives at Bishop Gallegos full-time. She’s on staff and spends her days driving women to doctors appointments, helping residents learn how to cook and clean, assisting with household chores and offering aide around the home.
“I used to wake up feeling, I mean, I felt horrible; I was ashamed, I lost my kids to drugs, I was just really disappointed in myself and just, just shameful,” she said. “And now I get to wake up today with my two kids, proud of myself. I’m so proud to work here.”
Needed: Welcome bags for residents and Christmas gifts for residents and kids