By Jeff Theodore, Contributing Writer
REGION – Since its opening in 2005, Visitation House has helped over 300 women in the Worcester area find their footing and move towards stability and security – overcoming homelessness while embarking on single motherhood.
The house was a mission envisioned by the late Ruth Pakaluk, a mother of seven who felt such a home was needed to assist young women with unplanned pregnancies.
Grace Cheffers, Executive Director of Visitation House, said in a recent interview that she thinks Pakaluk, who was a close friend, would be pleased about the evolution of Visitation House today.
“Ruth knew the importance of motherhood and did what she could to give mothers space to assure them that their child mattered, and they as a women mattered, too,” Cheffers said. “The work we’re doing here at Visitation House is continuing Ruth’s legacy.”
That work done at Visitation House requires in-depth collaboration between staff and the residents. Aside from Cheffers, the house employs a House Manager, who oversees intake, a Program Director and a Manager of Operations as well as five others who alternate covering daily shifts.
“Our goal is to help them in the moment but also to change the trajectory of their futures,” Cheffers said. “We strive to change how they see themselves, move past the trauma they’ve experienced, and understand how much their child will need them.”
When applying to live in the Visitation House, a 11,000-square-foot structure with 12 bedrooms, expectant mothers are interviewed and go through a background check. After entering, they gain access to a private furnished bedroom, four communal dinners each week, daytime and evening life skills classes, housing and education support services and ongoing case management.
The 22 life skills classes incorporate the latest research in neuroscience, teaching the women tools to develop habits that will change the way they think.
“ Many of the women have never lived in a home environment where they feel loved and protected,” Cheffers said. “We aim to model that kind of environment so they can pass that along to their children.”
Cheffers estimates that it costs about $108 a day to support each expectant mother’s living expenses at the house, which can provide shelter for up to twelve women at one time. The lion’s share of the house’s operating expenses is covered by individual donors who support the mission of Visitation House.
“I know how to budget and be efficient with resources,” said Cheffers, a trained certified public accountant and a mother of 11. “I pay attention when someone reaches in their pocket to donate because I want to honor that gift and stretch donation dollars.”
For more information about Visitation House, visit https://visitationhouse.org.
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