Pregnancy, whether expected or not, can be overwhelming – its costs, its responsibilities. And for many women experiencing or on the brink of homelessness, motherhood may seem like an adversity. Many organizations in and near the District, however – including pregnancy clinics and maternity homes – are staffed with medical personnel, case workers and volunteers who are eager to turn these anxious situations into welcome realities for homeless mothers-to-be.
The Northwest Center, based in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, provides a number of services “to promote the dignity of women and a respect for all human life,” according to its website. The center provides two primary programs: the Pregnancy Center, described as a community outreach program, and a Maternity Home program.
The latter program offers housing to homelessness-affected mothers and their children as well as parenting and household management skills instruction. The home is nestled amongst brick row houses on a tree-lined street near Columbia Road NW and served six women and six children in 2008.
Anthony Masalonis started volunteering at The Northwest Center “about eight or nine years ago through some series of clicks that I no longer remember,” he said, referring to his discovery of the center online. This particular center shared his personal ideals and happened to be located only a few blocks away from his home. “I found it appealing that this center didn’t just talk about being ‘pro-life,’” Masalonis said. “It truly walked the walk by helping women, babies and families in practical ways, both before and after the babies are born.”
At the center, Masalonis considers himself a “kind of jack-of-all-trades,” but notes that his most rewarding work has been with the center’s Career Connections program.
“[That’s] where we help clients with job and education searches, resume preparation and revision, and short- and long-term career planning,” Masalonis said. “Seeing a client get a job or make progress in their career planning is very satisfying.”
The Northwest Center, like many other D.C. pregnancy centers, cares for its clients beyond pregnancy, helping them achieve self-sufficiency. Its clientele resembles that of other local centers – women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, for instance, serves homeless women as well as “women whose pregnancy puts them at risk of homelessness,” said Executive Director Janet Durig.
The Forestville Pregnancy Center in Marlow Heights, Maryland – located only a few miles outside of the District – hasn’t served any homeless clients before but would be able to, in addition to providing housing referrals.
Maryland’s Rockville Pregnancy Center has served many homeless clients.
“We have a number of shelters near us and they often bring their clients to us for testing or baby clothing,” said Founder and CEO Gail Tierney.
In its assessment of its clients, Rockville Pregnancy Center acknowledges the three options for pregnant women – “parenting, abortion or adoption” – and strives to inform a woman so that she can make as sound a decision as possible. When that decision has been reached, the center is capable of assisting her in many ways.
“We’re different from some pregnancy centers because we’ve been a medical clinic for 11 years,” Tierney explained. “We offer free ultrasounds for pregnant women who are uncertain about what to do about their pregnancy, STD testing and treatment, and cervical cancer screening.”
The center also offers pregnancy testing and counseling, post-abortion counseling, and prenatal and life skills classes, all free of charge. But perhaps one of its most interesting services is the Baby Boutique.
“Clients can have baby clothing and accessories, car seats, strollers, diapers, formula, books, toys, etc. and shop four times a year [at the boutique],” Tierney said. The program benefits approximately 500 families each year.
Rockville Pregnancy Center – much like The Northwest Center and other local groups – depends heavily on volunteers, who comprise 97 percent of its staff. There are always opportunities to become involved with one of these centers, no matter how much time you have to donate.
The Northwest Center
Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center
Rockville Pregnancy Center