ALPHA House -
“I would not be the woman I am today without the loving kindness of ALPHA House” ~ Jasmine
At 16, Jasmine knew addiction. She understood abuse. She endured neglect. Those were the tools that were modeled for her at her foster care home for as long as she remembered; it was all she knew. And then, at 17, aging out of the foster care system and pregnant, the odds were stacked against her and her unborn child. The one constant she could count on most of the time was a simple roof over her head, and now that disappeared too. Now Jasmine could add yet another title to her existence, homeless.
Were it not for a simple call for help that brought Jasmine to ALPHA House of Pinellas County, the outcome of her story would most likely have become a statistic instead of inspiration.
The ALPHA House Residential Program offers a safe and educational environment for new moms and their babies. Their goal is to provide life lessons that can transform a family of two from a displaced situation to a world of self-sufficiency. The residential program promotes each woman’s commitment to herself and her child. Each resident mother receives skills training, including Therapeutic Counseling, Expert Case Management, Life Skills Education, Vocational Education and Peer Education Training. According to ALPHA House’s Mission Statement, The mission of ALPHA House is fulfilled when a mother has the education, job skills, parenting skills, self-esteem, and spiritual foundation to be self-sufficient, raise her child, and contribute to the community.
I met Erin McEntegart, MSW, who is the Life Skills Program Manager at ALPHA House to talk about their nutrition program. The Life Skills program is grant funded, and has been funded through the last year, which is great news for the women and children at ALPHA. Erin is a hands-on manager, teaching the residents about nutrition (including the special dietary considerations for pregnant women). Additionally, Erin works side by side with her clients with weekly meal planning, budgeting healthy food, shopping, and meal preparation. The program as been so successful that Erin has started a small organic garden with the help and guidance of the St. Pete Eco Village, located a few blocks away near downtown St. Petersburg. There is no shortage of helping hands to tend to their new on-site garden. Erin beams when she talks about using greens from the garden for community meals at ALPHA. When I asked Erin to describe the Life Skills program in one sentence she looked me straight in the eyes as she stated the goal of the program is to give these women the skills to become successful parents and community members, helping to break the cycle of homelessness. That sentiment is echoed throughout ALPHA House through and through. They invest heavily in their clients, emotionally, educationally, and financially within the residential program.
Today, Jasmine has other titles that she can be proud of. Mother, High School Graduate at age 17, and Graduate of the University of South Florida as a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Jasmine would say that the ALPHA House “has contributed to laying a sound moral foundation for me that I am ever so thankful for.” Personally, I would say that the sound moral foundation was always there, and ALPHA House is there to make sure that it grows.
ALPHA House of Pinellas County, INC. is the only residential maternity program in Pinellas County, and a registered 501(c)3 in the City of Saint Petersburg. They are also the only Transitional Housing Program in Pinellas County serving ages 14-41 with up to 18-24 months in the program. I encourage you to learn more about ALPHA House by visiting http://alphahousepinellas.org/ and learn how to contribute or volunteer.