Homeless pregnant women find refuge at Brehon House
BOOTS FOR BABIES
By Cedrell Mitchell
The crowd was obviously captivated by Jalesa Dennis’ story of survival during her pregnancy as a teenage mother.
“I was 19, freshly graduated from high school and I had recently lost my mother to a diabetic stroke,” said Dennis, seemingly overcome by a case of nerves.
Dennis shared her story recently at the Brehon House, where she was the keynote speaker for the agency’s annual Boots for Babies fund-raiser.
Dennis’ case of being unprepared for pregnancy is one of hundreds that turn to the House each year. After being referred to the Brehon House during a session with her counselor, she spent eight months at the temporary home.
“I came in nervous not knowing what to expect but they have such a caring staff and they welcomed me with opened arms,” said Dennis. “Everyone there was so helpful (that) it felt more like a family having the other women there who could relate to my story.”
The Brehon House is the only maternity home in the Big Bend area for homeless pregnant women. It also provides other services to residents of Leon and Gadsden counties, including Project SAFE.
While mothers-to-be wait to give birth, staff at the Brehon House assists in making arrangements for them to transition into their own home, said Jackie Malone, executive director of Brehon Family Services.
The Boots for Babies fund-raising event featured an auction on items that varied in value such as a $1,500 newborn black dog to a less expensive hand-made button.
Money raised helps to provide services for victims of child abuse, neglect prevention and healthy childbirth delivery. The agency serves up to 1,500 people in Gadsden, Taylor, Madison and Leon counties.
Dennis knows firsthand how the fundraiser helps the mothers at Brehon.
“I gained parenting courses from them, financial resources as well as permanent housing,” said Dennis. “(I paid) absolutely nothing and I thank them for that because they were so patient and so many women do not have that opportunity to have that period of time to get on their feet and secure a future for their children.” “They opened so many doors for me and I am so grateful for that.”