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“We are here for the women who have no one”

Addicted to drugs, homeless, on parole… and pregnant. Teigan knew she needed help.

“I was doing a lot of drugs when I found out I was pregnant, so I had to detox,” she explains. “It’s very scary when you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“I was couch surfing, I really had nowhere to go. I stayed with friends for a month or two at a time… It was just stressful enough.

Teigan didn’t just struggle with the lack of support she received in the nine months leading up to her baby’s arrival. She was also aware of the challenge during this period of establishing herself as fit for motherhood.

During a drug rehabilitation program she attended, Teigan was referred to house of hope, a pregnancy support clinic in Western Sydney. Run by Christians and dependent on volunteers and donations, Hope House helps underprivileged women throughout their pregnancies.

Hope House helped Teigan with all her practical needs.

“Anything I needed I knew I could call them and they would do their best to help me.” –Teigan

“My prenatal appointments, every single one of them…they took me away,” Teigan says. “I couldn’t have reached them otherwise.

“They practically helped me get all the furniture in my house, everything I needed, I knew I could call them and they would do their best to help me.”

These practical actions are just one way Hope House has filled Teigan’s lack of support. Emotional, relational and spiritual support is offered to their clients, many of whom – like Teigan – have no other support structures.

Although the path to motherhood and stability has not been easy, Teigan says the arrival of her daughter Bobbi in August 2020 has changed her outlook on life. She credits Hope House with being critical to her ability to survive her pregnancy and childbirth: “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Teigan isn’t alone in the struggles she’s faced as an expected mother. Indeed, Hope House founder Ashlie Stevenson faced a similar lack of support decades ago.

“I was alone in an apartment building and it suddenly occurred to me that my children were all dead and within my reach.” –Ashlie Stevenson

As a heroin addict, prostitute, survivor of domestic violence and homeless in the 1970s, Ashlie was devastated when she found out she was pregnant. For her, this discovery led to the abortion. Thrice.

“No one ever told me about the possible long-term ramifications: that there could be guilt, there could be sadness, there could be loss,” she recalls.

“I remember one day when I was alone in an apartment building and it suddenly occurred to me that my children were all dead and within my reach. I just had terrible regret that these children are no longer near me now, that I cannot speak to them; they or they [would have been] adults.”

When she was 44 and feeling deeply broken in her soul, Ashlie first heard the life-changing message of love, life and forgiveness in Jesus. It was an offer of restoration to her damaged self that she wanted to accept – couldn’t keep to herself.

Immediately, she began to share the good news among the underprivileged communities of which she was a part. This led her to set up Hope House in 2019, convinced that the pregnancy support deficit she faced persisted in society.

“The reason I started Hope House is…to let them know the whole truth and then let them make an informed decision,” she explains.

“Whatever the decision of the women who come to us [to do], we will support them.

That doesn’t happen very often in our culture, even today.

“There is very little help in Australia for pregnant women at risk.” – Nadia Rysko

Although Hope House is still in its infancy, helping even one woman is worth it for Ashlie.

“[Our clients] were so grateful to have been supported, so that they could keep their children. So if we can support them through a change in circumstances, they are only too happy to have made this decision to raise their children.

Former nurse and midwife Nadia Rysko is instrumental in Hope House. After hearing Ashlie’s story, Nadia offered her property – which includes a practical-sized former church hall – to serve as the headquarters of Hope House.

“There is very little support in Australia for at-risk women who are pregnant… there is a void and I think more pregnancy support centers are needed to step in and help these women,” says Nadia.

Nadia and her daughter have also been involved in supporting Teigan and other clients during their pregnancy. Many hours were spent traveling to and from appointments, procuring furniture and necessities, and being available as emotional support.

“We are there for the women who have no one. We step in, lift them, support them, encourage them and comfort them, until they are strong enough to stand and run.

“She’s a happy daughter – and I’m a happy mother too.” -Catherine

One of those women is Catherine, a Ugandan refugee who arrived in Australia in 2019. While pregnant in 2020, Catherine and her husband Godfrey turned to Hope House for help with essential baby supplies and groceries.

“I had left work… It was going to be difficult for my husband to support me and the baby,” she said.

Struggling to secure a visa and therefore government payments, Catherine and Godfrey were grateful for the baskets of food and clothing Hope House provided free of charge.

“They welcomed us, we shared stories, everything they gave us was really good.”

Their daughter Abigail was born in March last year and although the couple are doing well, Hope House continues to support them with food baskets and relationship support.

“She’s a happy daughter – and I’m a happy mother too.”

* Originally published as podcast at newsworthy.org