Ananda arrived at The Haven of Grace in March. She’d been through a rough time and needed a space to regroup.
Ananda is expecting her third child — a boy — in September. She has two other boys, twins who will turn 5 in August.
“I put myself in a bad position, where I needed to just start over, and I needed a little help and guidance,” she said. “This place really offered everything I needed help with.”
Her plans include obtaining her GED and eventually getting her own place. “I just want to be happy,” she said. “I want to have my own everything, where I won’t have to ask for help — I won’t have to ask, ‘Hey can I stay at your house a couple of days?’ I don’t want to have to ask anyone for anything. I don’t want to look back. I just want to look forward.”
For more than three decades, The Haven of Grace has been a special community for unhoused pregnant mothers. Founded as an outreach ministry of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Ladue in 1988, the organization is located in the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis, providing immediate and long-term support for women in an effort to break the cycle of homelessness, poor health, dependency and child and adult abuse.
The Haven of Grace recently received a grant from the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund, established by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson in 2009 to support expectant parents, as well as parents who recently have given birth. The Haven of Grace also is a recognized maternity home that receives funding from Missouri’s Alternatives to Abortion program and participates in the state’s maternity home tax credit program.
Mothers receive up to 13 years of support through three major components: The Haven, a shelter program which houses pregnant mothers 18 years and older, up to one year after delivery; The Quad, transitional apartments where moms and their children stay for up to two years with supports in place; and an aftercare program, which follows moms for up to 10 years, helping them to maintain progress toward individual goals and secure stable housing. Programming includes case management and on-site therapy, a life skills curriculum covering seven core areas, and GED coaching and continuing educational support.
When it was founded, The Haven of Grace chose Old North in part because of the high rate of homelessness and high percentage of low birth weights, specifically in the 63106 zip code. Referrals come
mostly from the St. Louis metropolitan area, through United Way 2-1-1, Internet searches, as well as doctors and case managers.
“What they were seeing at that time was a turning point,” said executive director Kimberly Brown. “Somebody was visionary enough to see that when things start to turn, it has to make a full rotation.”
Thirteen percent of babies in St. Louis City are born at a low birth weight (defined as less than five and a half pounds), based on the most recent data published in 2020 by Vision for Children at Risk. In contrast, 100% of babies born to moms living at The Haven of Grace have a healthy birth weight, with the average birth weight six and a half pounds, Brown noted.
Beyond healthy birth outlooks, the support of the community helps moms stay on track toward their goals, including completing an education, and finding employment and stable housing, Brown said.
“You can’t think and process something when you’re out on the street trying to figure out where am I gonna stay? What am I gonna eat?” she said. “Rarely do any of them have someone say to them, ‘You know what? You can do great things.’”
Shortly after she came on as executive director in 2018, Brown met a young mother who was attending a local community college. One day, she stopped at Brown’s office, asking if she would proofread a paper for school. Brown took it home. “I started to feel bad because it had all of this red ink, and then I thought, ‘Nope, this is why she came to me.’” A few days later, the mom came back to Brown and told her she’d gotten an A on the paper.
Now she’s studying biotechnology at an area university. “It’s simply because she had somewhere to come and do her homework,” Brown said. “She had someone to watch her baby while she studied. She needed somewhere to pull her thoughts together.”
>> Tax credit programs
The state of Missouri offers tax credits for individuals who donate to participating maternity homes such as The Haven of Grace, or pregnancy resource centers. There currently are 74 recognized pregnancy resource centers and 19 maternity homes statewide. To learn more about the tax credit program for pregnancy resource centers, see dss.mo.gov/dfas/taxcredit/pregnancy.htm; and for maternity homes, dss.mo.gov/dfas/taxcredit/maternity.htm
Alternatives to abortion funding
The Haven of Grace also is among a long list of organizations that receive funding from the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program. The program provides assistance so that women will carry their unborn child to term instead of having an abortion. Missouri lawmakers recently allocated $6.46 million for the upcoming fiscal year. To learn more about the program and participating agencies, see dss.mo.gov/fsd/a2a/.
>> Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund
The Haven of Grace recently received a grant from the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund. Established by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson in 2009, the fund relieves the burdens of expectant parents and parents who have recently given birth under difficult circumstances. The fund is administered by the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate.
Contributions to the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund may be made at www.bit.ly/2Q5thI4. Checks should be made payable to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund, Respect Life Apostolate, Mail Stop 340012, P.O. Box 953745, St. Louis, MO 63195-3745.