Human Services and Foundations and Youth Development and Gifts and Housing and Philanthropy

Women's Fund backs home for teen girls

The story behind the gift:

February 2, 2009

A group of volunteers who hope to open a home for pregnant teens will soon hire an executive director, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Women's Fund of Central Indiana.

Project HOME Indy has been in the works since 2003, when founder Kristen Schunk Moreland heard a National Public Radio story about a residence for homeless, pregnant teens in New Jersey. Moreland had been leading a Girl Scout troop for several years, and she said the homeless girls' trials and tribulations struck a chord. "I realized how hard it was for them."

Moreland, a former division director at the state Department of Family and Social Services, began researching options for pregnant teens in Indianapolis. At the time there was only one residence, and it has since closed. Talking with social service providers, Moreland became convinced that there were still pregnant teens in need of a home.

After five years of research, training, and finding a house, Moreland and the rest of the Project HOME board of directors will soon hire an executive director. Women's Fund of Central Indiana gave the group $25,000, its first grant from a foundation. "The Women's Fund grant definitely makes us more of a legitimate organization in the community's eyes," Moreland said.

With an executive director in place, Project HOME hopes to bring in the rest of the money needed to rehab a house on 32nd Street and begin serving girls this fall. Trinity Episcopal Church is leasing the house to Project HOME for a nominal sum, and neighborhood groups Historic Meridian Park and Mapleton-Fall Creek have written letters in support of the project, board member Cindy Collier said.

Project HOME also has an informal relationship with Wishard Memorial Hospital. Collier said the pregnant teens in need of a home are often bouncing from friend to friend, or are in foster care. "We know from talking to hospitals and agencies, there are many more than we could serve."

Project HOME plans to accommodate as many as eight teens, who may also have young children, for as long as two years while helping them finish school or train for jobs.

Women's Fund Director Jennifer Pope Baker said the foundation does not often take the risk of giving a startup organization its first grant, but she said the people leading Project HOME were impressive. She noted that the board of directors has been meeting twice a month since 2004.

"They've done their homework. They've left no stone unturned," Pope Baker said. "If this works well, it's going to make a tremendous difference for girls and their babies."
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