Stories of Hope & Change

Lighting the Way

Help for homeless pregnant girls and women

When you’re 16 or 18 years old, alone, homeless, and pregnant, it’s hard to believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But in Chicago there is. It’s called Bright Endeavors, a candle-making operation.

But before that, there’s New Moms.

Founded in 1983, New Moms is a comprehensive array of services designed for moms struggling to find housing, get jobs, feed their children, and secure a healthy future. The organization serves up to 150 women at any one time, 63 percent of whom come from homes where their mothers were teen parents. In Danielle’s case, both of her parents had been incarcerated; she ran away from her foster home and was soon pregnant and living on the street. Olivia describes her situation this way, “I was at a real low point in my life. Just became homeless, I was unemployed and then I found out I was pregnant.” She worried she’d be alone for the birth. At New Moms, she found a doula, parenting classes, a home, and a sisterhood.

New Moms emphasizes the possibilities in life. “For example, we show them what good parenting looks like,” explains Jenna Hania, director of development and communications. “We build confidence and skills,” says Hania. The wraparound services include housing, family support, and job training, which is where Bright Endeavors comes in. The new moms get classroom job training and a hands-on internship at the candle company, which sells its soy candles through Whole Foods Market and small boutiques. Each candle is signed by its maker. Profits support New Moms.

Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of New Moms is the way it touches two generations deeply and simultaneously. Olivia says of her daughter, now two, “She will benefit because I benefitted from being at New Moms… she will get to reap the fruits of that experience.”

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