Pregnant and alone, 27 year old Tendai found herself homeless and sleeping on Hollywood Boulevard. Her story, republished courtesy of Kindness and Hope, shows how one person having an idea and galvanising a team of people to help make it happen can have a life-changing impact.
Originally from East London, Tendai had fled Britain after receiving threatening letters and calls for two years.
“The police were aware of it, but things got worse when I became pregnant, so I fled the country,” she explains.
Things, however, didn’t improve upon landing on American soil.
“Upon arriving in Los Angeles, I ended up homeless and sleeping on Hollywood Boulevard. It was on the 7th day whilst sititng at a local McDonald’s, wondering what the next step could be, I got the Elizabeth House number from 211. I had spoken to various shelters that would not take pregnant girls and women,” she says.
Elizabeth House, which is based in Pasadena and has a motto of “Where Love Embraces Life”, is committed to ending the cycle of homelessness and abuse in women and children through comprehensive case management, counseling, educational classes, prenatal care, and resources throughout pregnancy and beyond.
The non-profit was founded by Debora J. Unruh, an ordained pastor and who has extensive early childhood education training and certification.
“I was in the hospital about to give birth to my son,” explains Unruh. “In another room I heard the cries of a woman about to lose her newborn because of her homelessness and drug addiction. I asked to be disconnected from my IV and went into the woman’s room to comfort her. This was the moment that propelled me and the rest of the task force to focus all attention on providing shelter to homeless, pregnant women in need of comprehensive care and support.”
In the years since its inception, Elizabeth House, has successfully done just that — to date, the organization has helped 312 women and 442 children, providing them with shelter and family-focused support for pregnant women and their children in a nurturing atmosphere.
For Tendai, it changed her life. She has been at Elizabeth House since September and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Tino, which she describes as a “magical” moment.
“When I made my way to the U.S, and before coming to the house, I honestly was petrified to be alone during labor and delivery,” she says. “It’s such a blessing that this program provides mentors and birthing coaches. I had my mentor (and now godmother to my daughter) Kate, and our birthing coach, Jessica. They literally were with me every moment of the three days I was in labor and delivery. It’s still hard to believe that people who barely knew you, who didn’t want anything at all from you, could step into your life in such a way.”
Tendai credits Elizabeth House with helping her put her life back together.
“The classes are run by professional doctors in therapy, professionals in childcare, attachment and bonding classes by counsellors, money/budget classes with Financial Advisers, and health care classes by registered nurses, have all been the core foundation into the education of motherhood,” she says. “Saving the best for last, the Elizabeth House staff, mentors and volunteers continue to walk alongside us, stepping in with prayer as well as physical resources. The schedule and savings requirements have helped me to become a lot more responsible with my time, and with any resources available to me.”
And, she is eternally grateful for their continual support.
“Tino and I have no biological family here. I didn’t have any friends out here. I don’t know where my baby and I would be if we didn’t have Elizabeth House to lean on, and now I have them be a sturdy, God-fearing and obedient, shoulder to lean on,” she says.
Click here to read more about Tendai and Elizabeth House.