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Groups plan shelter to offer pregnancy options

By: Erin Gallup-Main, Journal Staff Writer
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By the end of April, non-profit leaders and several Christian resource centers plan to open a home for homeless mothers in the foothills. Murray Lewis, president and co-founder of Love Them Both Ministries in Sacramento, has partnered with New Life Pregnancy Center in Auburn and Living Well Medical Clinic in Grass Valley to collect furnishings for the five-bedroom home, which can house up to six pregnant women or single mothers at a time. "The driving heart force for this is, there are women that are making what we think is a terrible choice (abortion) because they don't have the resources," Lewis said. "We think they don't have a fair choice without the service." He said his non-profit agency received a discount on the rent of the Alta home. He said members of the nearby Sierra First Baptist Church plan to help mothers at the shelter. Although many furnishings and appliances have been donated through contacts at the New Life Pregnancy Center, Lewis said the organization is looking for a house mother. The person who fills the paid position will run and supervise the facility. The plan is to offer the service free to those with no resources and for $300 a month for women receiving compensation from services such as disability or welfare. The women will most likely stay six or more months. The anticipated monthly operating budget of $3,500 will be supplied by churches and individual donations. During their stay women can receive education, job training and possible job placement. Weekly Bible study classes will be offered, but not required at the Christian-run facility. Lewis would not disclose the shelter's address to protect the women who might stay at the home. He said those under the age of 18 are harder to serve legally, and therefore they have the greatest need for services. Although the shelter will initially be available for any age group, he said he hopes to open separate facilities for teens and adults in the future. "None of the homes take single parents under 18," Lewis said. "There are more services for those over 18. And one (shelter) in Sacramento can take 12 women at a time, but the waiting list has anywhere from a half-a-dozen or more women on it. We don't have enough facilities to solve every need." He said he hopes to supplement shelters with "shepherding homes," in which screened community members invite pregnant women into their homes. Lewis said several Sacramento and foothill Christian agencies and churches united to help open the shelter for women most at risk of getting an abortion because of a lack of services. Barbara Schauer, executive director of the New Life Pregnancy Center, said most of the women who visit her Auburn office for free pregnancy tests are teenagers or college students who are worried they might be pregnant. She said the center serves about a dozen homeless pregnant women a year. The center also offers counseling, clothing, diapers and community referrals for more services. Schauer has also provided parenting classes to many Auburn-area residents ranging in economic status. She said the center's services are completely confidential and free. Schauer also taught her daughter-in-law, Kari Schauer, parenting skills when she was pregnant with her first child. Kari Schauer said the classes are useful because the weeks that follow a child's birth are trying for a new mother learning to breastfeed in the midst of sleep deprivation. Barbara Schauer said that is why she and Lewis want to aid new mothers with an added problem ? shelter. "This will be great because in the past I've had to scrounge around to get some help," Barbara Schauer said Thursday. Arla Gibson, executive director of Placer Extends A Caring Environment (PEACE) for Families, said opening a shelter for the needy group is admirable, but may be a challenge in this tight financial time. She said PEACE for Families houses single parents escaping domestic violence, but youngsters under 18 must be emancipated to receive housing through her organization. "There are some legal issues with minors in shelters that we just don't have the authority to manage," Gibson said. "It's definitely a service that's needed. I hope they work with the other agencies around. There's a lot of other services in the community that can help."