You are on page 1of 3

Forging Ahead With Life’s Tests, One Day at a Time - New York Times

12/8/09 1:21 PM

Welcome to TimesPeople
Get Started

TimesPeople Lets You Share and Discover the Best of 1:21 PM Recommend My Account Welcome, hootsiemama Log Out Help










Forging Ahead With Life’s Tests, One Day at a Time

More Articles in Giving »

Health Update
A weekly dose of health news on medical conditions, fitness and nutrition. See Sample
Change E-mail Address | Privacy Policy

Darcy Padilla for The New York Times

STRETCH A yoga class at the Homeless Prenatal Program, a nonprofit resource center in San Francisco. By LAURA NOVAK Published: November 12, 2007

San Francisco
Enlarge This Image


SHE is 40 and pregnant for the first E-MAIL time. One morning in late September SEND TO PHONE she took a yoga class wearing shorts PRINT and a bright pink T-shirt with the SINGLE PAGE words Miss Congeniality emblazoned SHARE across the front. After an hour of posing and stretching, the woman tossed back her blond ponytail, grabbed some yogurt and fruit and Darcy Padilla for The New York Times Two women in the class take a break. joined 20 other women in various stages of pregnancy for a prenatal education class. As part of the group discussion, she shared her problems with sleeplessness, heartburn and soreness. Then, evoking much laughter, she said, “But all in all, I’m stoked!” Her euphoria may be difficult to comprehend. The woman is homeless, subsisting on $342 a month in government checks and battling what she calls a “garbage can” of drug addictions that include methamphetamine, marijuana and crack cocaine.


1. Nicholas D. Kristof: Cancer From the Kitchen? 2. Millions in U.S. Drink Dirty Water, Records Show 3. Married (Happily) With Issues 4. Religion Journal: Yes, Miky, There Are Rabbis in Montana 5. As Hawaii’s Seas Roil, Surfers Await the Big One 6. Dark Side of a Natural Gas Boom 7. Mind: Postpartum Depression Strikes Fathers, Too 8. Vinyl Records and Turntables Are Gaining Sales 9. Well: Firm Body, No Workout Required? 10. Picking (Up) Winners Without Placing a Bet
Go to Complete List »

Page 1 of 3

Forging Ahead With Life’s Tests, One Day at a Time - New York Times

12/8/09 1:21 PM

But she has made a soft landing at one of San Francisco’s best-kept secrets: the Homeless Prenatal Program, a nonprofit center created 19 years ago that could help turn her and her baby’s lives around. The Homeless Prenatal Program has evolved from its original mission of helping destitute women give birth to and then keep healthy babies to become a resource dedicated to stabilizing entire families. It offers what this particular woman excitedly described here as “a plethora of services” for mental health, housing and substance abuse problems. It combines those with an array of alternative health approaches not usually available to the poor, like yoga, massage and chiropractic treatments. “People call me a reckless optimist, and you have to be to do this kind of work,” said Martha Ryan, founder and executive director of the Homeless Prenatal Program. “But I see enough success. I see people really able to turn their lives around, and I see their children be able to move forward and have a different life.” The program sees 3,000 people a year, 91 percent of them women. Twenty people arrive each day for an intake session, referred by other agencies or through word on the street. Sixty percent of the clients are homeless, and the most pressing problem, Ms. Ryan said, is finding safe, affordable housing, especially for women who are at risk of losing their children to Child Protective Services. But Ms. Ryan said the real common denominator was poverty and abuse as a child. More shocking than the sheer numbers, she added, was that the cycle keeps going. Children of women she treated 18 years ago are now clients, pregnant or with children and living in poverty like their mothers. Half of the 53 staff members have been homeless, abused or drug addicted themselves. As part of turning their lives around, they trained as community health workers in a 12month program that teaches office and outreach skills. Some find permanent work at the center. Others move on to nonprofit groups. Here, working out of offices decorated with family pictures and their children’s drawings, the women speak a shared language with those whose lives have hit bottom. “There’s a sense that people who don’t have lots of money or don’t have certain requirements can’t take care of their children — but that’s just not the case,” said Laure McElroy, a community health worker whose son was born two months after she finished a methadone program. “I have hope for everyone who comes through the door, because I know as a parent you have to make things work. You just have to.” One morning, Ms. McElroy started a file for a 41-year-old drug-addicted homeless woman who is pregnant with her second child. Five years ago, her newborn son had been put into foster care and later adopted, and she was terrified the authorities would take this baby, too. Ms. McElroy gently guided her through the forms and arranged for a follow-up visit with a case manager to sort out housing, health and welfare issues. But the woman didn’t return for the appointment. When someone from the program called, looking for her at the mental health clinic where she receives two medicines for depression, her case manager said she had not come back recently for the medication.
1 2


Sign in to Recommend

More Articles in Giving »

Page 2 of 3

Forging Ahead With Life’s Tests, One Day at a Time - New York Times

12/8/09 1:21 PM

The Times & the Bay Area - now at 50% off when you subscribe for the convenience of home delivery.

Ads by Google SF New Condos For Sale
Newest Boutique Condos in San Francisco. Become a VIP Today.

what's this?

Cord Blood Banking Leader
Learn the Benefits of Banking Your Baby’s Cord Blood. Free Info Here

See What a Job Can Do
REDF (founded by George R. Roberts) creates employment and hope.

Tips To find reference information about the words used in this article, double-click on any word, phrase or name. A new window will open with a dictionary definition or encyclopedia entry. Past Coverage Forging Ahead With Life's Tests, One Day at a Time (November 12, 2007) Bush Plan to Fight Infant Deaths Would Use Money Going to Poor (February 7, 1991) Two Worlds of Washington: Turmoil and Growth (July 12, 1990) RUNAWAY YOUTHS OFTEN HOMELESS (January 24, 1988) Related Searches Pregnancy and Obstetrics Homeless Persons Philanthropy Drug Abuse and Traffic


Room for Debate: The Food Stamp Economy

See the New Look of T Magazine
Home World U.S.

Well: Firm Body, No Workout Required?
N.Y. / Region Business

As more people receive aid, should the rules be aimed at promoting better nutrition?

Still Counting the Ways to Infiltrate Daily Lives

For Volleyball Coach, the Streak Is Beside the Point
Opinion Arts Style First Look

Op-Ed: Coverage Without Borders
Travel Help Jobs Real Estate

Ken Auletta depicts Google as a behemoth that can be both naïve and arrogant in its dealings with the world.



Health Search

Sports Corrections

Automobiles Site Map

Back to Top

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Privacy Policy


Contact Us

Work for Us

Page 3 of 3