Good Counsel, New York area homes and programs for mothers and babies, continues to provide “a safe harbor” for homeless pregnant and parenting women. With Covid-19 guidelines in place to protect the women and children, the doors remain “very much open,” administrators say.
Good Counsel operates four New York area homes on Staten Island, in the South Bronx, in Rockland County, and in Burlington County, N.J. All four will remain open.
Good Counsel has helped to open 11 similar homes in nine states, and continues to offer guidance and other assistance for people interested in opening maternity homes based on the Good Counsel model.
“We will not shut out women in need during this most critical time,” Sandra Jones, Good Counsel’s CEO, said in a statement last week. “As people are staying home, as they should, tensions will heat up. For those who are unemployed, depression and anxiety will rise. Domestic violence will escalate the longer this goes on.
“Good Counsel will respond with immediate help for women who need us.”
Christopher Bell, co-founder and president of the charity, said Good Counsel is committed to assisting any woman who is pregnant and in need. The first Good Counsel Home opened 35 years ago, in Hoboken, N.J., because there was no place for a homeless mother and child “to find a bridge from the streets or couch hopping, to a stable, more secure life,” Bell told CNY.
“There is help today; even in the epicenter of the crisis, our home for pregnant and young parenting women is still open and accepting them,” Bell said in an interview last week. “We don’t want any woman at any time to have an abortion. We are available 24/7.”
Bell said Good Counsel staff and clients have been coping well amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Wonderfully so, most everybody is staying calm and staying put,” he said. “We are grateful to the staff who are heroically continuing to do their job, which is really a mission. And the women are managing to keep busy like everybody else—trying to get to know each other better, and having movie nights and game nights, and doing extra cleaning…We aren’t having volunteers come in now because of the crisis situation.”
He explained, “We do have some mothers who are working as home health aides, and working in the food industry; so they are still going out to do their job. And while they do their job, we are still providing free daycare.” Good Counsel’s most pressing need is financial support from donors. “We had to cancel two major fund-raising events because of the Covid-19 crisis,” Bell said.
Administrators said that the women staying in Good Counsel Homes will find a safe and secure learning environment. Women who come in homeless, pregnant, without a high school diploma will receive help returning to school and finding a job. Any mother, whether she has other children, whether she’s struggling with addiction or mental health issues, and regardless of where she is from, will receive assistance.
Mothers typically stay in the program for up to a year to reap the maximum benefits of Good Counsel’s Life Skills Program. Staff and volunteers teach these program courses, which focus on nutrition, spirituality, health and chastity, social skills, computer education and more. Assistance is given in parenting, job skills, career placement and personal budgeting.
Bell said Good Counsel’s mission to serve homeless single pregnant women and their children has continued since 1985, reaching thousands of mothers and babies. The other co-founder was the late Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., a noted preacher and psychologist who was among the founders of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
Good Counsel has served more than 7,800 mothers and children, providing more than 758,400 nights of shelter, according to figures provided by the charity.
Good Counsel’s national helpline is operating 24/7. Last year, more than 4,000 calls and online requests for help came from pregnant moms and families. More than 40,000 people have been assisted through the helpline since it began in April 1996. Good Counsel networks with other maternity homes throughout the United States.