This is the first in a series “Indy Mom Strong”, profiling mothers who have overcome obstacles and struggles in the midst of motherhood. Share your Strong Mom story with the hashtag #indymomstrong.
A first time mom. A newborn baby. This tiny being for whom you are now responsible and there is no instruction manual. Do you remember feeling overwhelmed? Sleep deprived, emotional, stressed? Now imagine you are sixteen, homeless, and carrying the emotional baggage of a traumatic past. This is the life for some young women in our city. Society’s image of modern motherhood is a stark contrast to the reality that exists in our very own community – young mothers and mothers-to-be without a permanent home, floating from couch to couch of friends, wondering where their next meal will come from, without pre-natal care, or any semblance of support. These moms are likely to drop out of school, ultimately relying on government assistance, and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. But one organization is on a mission to break that cycle.
Meet Project Home Indy. As noted on their website, “our program aims to break the cycle of poverty by providing support to young mothers, and by helping them develop the skills to live independently.” Over ten years ago, four Indy volunteers saw a need and they sought to do something about it. After many years of planning and development, Project Home Indy (PHI) opened its doors in the fall of 2011. PHI can house up to 5 mothers at any given time, either pregnant or parenting one child under three years of age. Since its inception, PHI has housed and served 27 families. To this day, 10 families are enrolled in the newly revamped alumnae program, which provides continued guidance and mentoring in a collaborative manner, so as to honor the mother’s autonomy while also working together to ensure continued success upon graduation from PHI. The main tenets of the program are life skills, healthcare, and education. I recently spoke with Lakshmi Hasanadka, Executive Director of PHI, who states education is paramount to the success of the program. Often times, teen mothers are forced to drop out of school because of lack of child care. Without a diploma, they forfeit the likelihood of obtaining a job above minimum wage. All mothers at PHI are required to attend school, and pursuing post-secondary education is highly encouraged. Pre/post-natal and pediatric care is arranged, as well as therapy – individual, group, and family if necessary. The mothers often come from devastating backgrounds, and in order for them to move forward and care for their new child, these past issues must be addressed so they can build a new foundation. And thus…a new life.
While most teenagers biggest worries consist of challenging classes, navigating friendships, and finding their place in the world, these teen moms are literally trying to survive, coupled with the monumental responsibility of caring for a child. It’s overwhelming to think about. I was 30 years old when I had my first child. Often there are days as a parent when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m still learning so much about myself. I cannot imagine trying to do motherhood at half my age. Luckily and thankfully, I have support and parenting role models whom I can turn to for advice, venting, or relief if I need a break. For pregnant homeless teens, that support is nonexistent. Not only is PHI filling this void for these young moms, they are providing a starting point to change the course for the family’s generations that follow. They are creating a new truth. And that is life-giving, life-sustaining, and above all else, life-changing.
Project Home Indy is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and relies upon the generosity of donors and volunteers. If you would like to learn more about how you can help, please click here.