Safe haven: House for at-risk pregnant women back open in Cuyahoga County

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio – A safe haven house has returned to Cuyahoga County and is now moving in new women.

For five years the Maggie’s Place Zechariah House in Parma was a safe haven for pregnant women who had nowhere to go. They came to the house looking for help, safety, a roof over their head and confidence that they could be successful as mothers and women.

In 2016, the Zechariah House closed it’s location in Parma because it could not afford to repair the house it had been using. The house is now back open in Garfield Heights and moving in new women.

Women can move into the house at any time during their pregnancy and they can stay there up to nine months after their baby is born.

“Some might be living on the street for the last two years and they find out they’re pregnant and they don’t think it’s the best situation for them,” explains Maggie’s Place Regional Director in Ohio, Erin Hathaway.

The house provides not just a home, but numerous services from parenting instruction, counseling, and physical necessities like food and clothing.

“Programs such as financial literacy or mentoring programs, anything that they would need, parenting classes,” Hathaway said.

The house fills a major need in the Cleveland area. In 2017, Cleveland had an infant mortality rate of 13.3, which is more than double the national average.

“Having children is hard when you have a roof over your head, and you have food on the table, and you have family and friends that are there to support you,” explained Zechariah House board member Melanie Whiting.

Daphine Bell is a mom who came to the Zechariah House when she was homeless and pregnant.

“They were my backbone, they were the support that I needed, that I did not have. And upon being pregnant, I’ve always had goals and it’s like a debt that just never goes away in the back of my mind,” Bell said.

With the help of the volunteers at the Zechariah House, Bell learned how to nurture her new baby, breast feed, become a parent and apply to college. In December she will graduate and is already looking for a job as a health service administrator.

“Maggie’s Place, the Zechariah House, has given me the confidence to move forward, to achieve your goals, whether it be short term, long term,” Bell said.

“I didn’t want my child to look at me and not see any accomplishments the way society would look at it,” she continued.

Women have to go through an interview before moving into the Zechariah House. They also have to be clean and sober for a specific amount of time, and seeking drug counseling if substance abuse is one of their struggles.

Rachel Valentine-Ward is another success story of the Zechariah House. She was pregnant and did not have family support or a place to go.

“I had no idea what I was doing and I had no idea what I was going to do with this little tiny person once he came,” she said. Valentine-Ward says the counseling services and overall love and support was what she needed as a pregnant woman and new mom.

She explained what it was like walking through the door after giving birth to her son.

“[It was] everything I always pictured as a new mom, and I knew at that point, I was like, we’re home, and I even looked down at him I was like, Noah were home,” she said.

Valentine-Ward is now married and living happily. Her son Noah was born with special needs and she says the support she got in his first few months of life from the house was crucial.

“Maggie's Place happened to be my resource, and it was the best resource I could have ever had,” she said.

Like many of the moms, Valentine-Ward continued to come back to the house for counseling and job and education resources after she moved out.

Maggie’s Place also operates several houses in Arizona. It is a non-profit and runs completely on private funding. They are always in need of donations and are looking for cleaning supplies, baby wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, new car seats and pack n’ plays with a changing table.

The house also teaches women how to take public transportation if they are able to. They are currently looking for a new van, which is vital to helping women get to doctor’s appointments when they cannot take the bus.

Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can call them at 440-886-2620. You can also find them on Facebook.