by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Nativity House can save a homeless woman’s life. Nativity Village can transform her future.
What separates the two? The awareness and resources needed to help more than the four young mothers the ministry can currently house.
But help is on the way.
Programs like this are difficult to come by. There are only two maternity homes in the Greater Kansas City area; both programs only accept teenage women.
Unfortunately, this leaves out a large segment of soon-to-be mothers in need.
That’s why Barbara Belcher founded Nativity House.
The name fits the mission that guides the program. A maternity home for pregnant, homeless women ages 18 and up, this humble residence is designed not only to provide mothers and their babies a place to stay, but also to build them up as “daughters of God,” said Belcher.
“If you think about Pope Francis’ focus on the family while he was here, this really is at the core, at the base, of his message. Because we’re trying to help these women build strong families, and they’re doing it alone right now,” she said.
Nativity House has received more than 90 calls since it opened in May 2014. But the residence contains only four bedrooms, and the women who live there are encouraged to stay until their child turns one.
“I want to be able to have the women with us long enough, because it takes a long time to heal from the wounds they bring to us,” said Belcher. “They don’t just come to us pregnant with no other problems.
For Belcher, turning women away is heartbreaking.
Because of this, “Nativity Village is our dream,” she said.
To realize her dream, Belcher is working to make transitional housing available to the mothers after their time in the house is up.
Her vision is “apartments where [the mothers and their babies] can move into and rent, of course at a very, very under-market rate. And they’d still be part of our program — from a transitional standpoint — until the child is four,” said Belcher.
Her vision doesn’t end there.
“We also want to put an early childhood education center [in the village] because our mothers need day care. . . . And, of course, we want to have a chapel there because we want to help them grow in faith and understand that God is there with them through thick and through thin.”
Belcher visualizes a pet shelter as well, “for those mothers that are homeless but have a little pet that they can’t abandon, because they’ve been abandoned, and they can’t leave the pet behind.”
To make this dream a reality, Belcher launched a new campaign called 2,000 Strong for Babies.
The campaign’s purpose is to secure funding for the program’s basic operations and to eventually transform the house into a village.
Nativity House is looking for 2,000 families willing to give $8.33 a month, or $100 a year.
“If you want to give more than that, by all means you’re welcome to do so,” said Belcher. “But we thought, let’s reach out and let more people have the opportunity to help us, because the little widow that gives me $10 out of her Social Security has as much meaning to me as a wealthy person that gives me $20,000.”
The program kicked off its campaign with a fundraiser on Oct. 12 at Boulevard Brewing Company. The fundraiser, which drew some 75 families, was organized by Maria Sanchez-Chastain, who has been volunteering at Nativity House since June.
Sanchez-Chastain is the chairperson of the alumni at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Kansas City, Missouri. When her hours were cut back, she knew she needed to find somewhere to spend her excess time.
“I had dreamed of this little village,” said Sanchez- Chastain. “I didn’t know where it was or what it was for; I just knew there was a little village involved.”
Then Sanchez-Chastain met Belcher. A chance happening, Belcher told Sanchez- Chastain about her dream to build a village for homeless mothers.
Sanchez-Chastain happened to have fundraising experience and the connections necessary to create a successful event.
“This is where I’m supposed to be, and I believe that Nativity Village will get built,” she said.
It appears God’s plan for this program is very clear.
“We really need to lift [these women] up, as a family and as the body of Christ,” said Belcher. “This is one way to do it. And to help them become strong and grow physically and emotionally and spiritually, so they are able to walk out of Nativity House with a career, not a job. So they can move forward, and raise holy families of their own as they move forward.
“What we’re trying to do is live out Christ’s message.”
For more information about Nativity House, contact Belcher at (913) 220-6869 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.