‘It’s like a sisterhood’

Mercy Hospice

PHOTOS BY EMILY SCOTT
Featured: Janet Adams’ nails were painted by 
another resident at Mercy Hospice, a recovery home for homeless women and their children. Adams lives there with her granddaughter Amarih. Above: Janet Adams, 57, and her granddaughter Amarih, 10, live at Mercy Hospice on 13th Street near Pine in Center City.

Mercy Hospice is the only recovery home in the city for homeless women and their children.

At Mercy Hospice, Janet Adams’ fingernails draw attention. They are painted light blue and pink, with small stick-on gems and sparkles.

Adams currently lives at Mercy Hospice, the only multi-support recovery home in Philadelphia for homeless women and their children. Some of the women live in the facility with their children, and some are seeking custody.

Another woman living in the recovery home painted Adams’ nails during their free time together. Adams — a blonde, soft-spoken, 57-year-old grandmother — said the nail artwork shows the resilience of women in recovery.

“We are the smartest people I think to walk this earth,” she said. “I really think that, because we know what it’s like to be down in the gutter and we know what it’s like to pull ourselves up.”

Adams has been in recovery for nine months and lived at Mercy Hospice for more than 60 days. She lives there with her 10-year-old granddaughter, Amarih. Amarih’s mother — Adams’ daughter — passed away in 2009, and Adams is working on getting independent housing for them when she leaves the recovery home.

“Recovery when you’re a mom is a lot different when you’re in recovery and a single because most of the time these women are learning how to parent without the crutch of their substance use.”                                         – Kate Baumgardner, Mercy Hospice program director

The house on 13th Street near Pine can hold 31 women — 24 who are single and seven with kids — at a time. The women can stay in the recovery home for up to 90 days.

Most of the people who live in Mercy either come from prisons or drug treatment, said Kate Baumgardner, Mercy Hospice’s program director.

Baumgardner said she believes Mercy Hospice is a “stepping stone” to long-term recovery.

“They have lost everything because of their disease,” Baumgardner said. “They are so isolated because of all the maladaptive behaviors that went on in their addiction. We work with them here so they know they are so much more than their addiction.”

In the 2013-14 fiscal year, Mercy Hospice had 112 women discharged with an average stay length of 90 days. 48 percent of the individuals went on to independent housing.

At the time of intake, 71 percent of the women had no income, but that number decreased to 58 percent upon discharge.

Mental health and trauma treatment is also crucial within the recovery home because many of the women have dual-diagnoses, Baumgardner said. On Monday nights, Mercy Hospice hosts a support group for mothers. There is also a residence community meeting twice a week and a drug and alcohol education session offered weekly.

The women also attend an outpatient program, which is a treatment service that patients are often referred to after a medical assessment. Baumgardner added that sometimes women will find employment or enroll in classes during their time at Mercy.

The facility is planning to offer parenting education classes and a trauma support group.

“Recovery when you’re a mom is a lot different when you’re in recovery and a single because most of the time these women are learning how to parent without the crutch of their substance use,” said Baumgardner.

Every woman at Mercy Hospice are provided with case managers, who help the residents acquire legal resources, like identification cards and housing packets. Baumgardner said she believes no one’s recovery is the same, which is why it’s important to have case managers who can individualize each treatment.

“I think at the root of it all, they need to have their self esteem built back up,” Baumgardner said. “They need to be strengthened as women.”

“We are the smartest people I think to walk this earth. I really think that, because we know what it’s like to be down in the gutter and we know what it’s like to pull ourselves up.”            – Janet Adams, Mercy Hospice resident
Stephanie Caraballo started living at Mercy Hospice nearly a month ago. It’s her first time living in a recovery home after she checked herself into Gaudenzia — a treatment and recovery center with locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware — in February.

She said when she walked through the doors at Mercy Hospice, she felt an abundance of love.

“It helped a lot for me to believe I was going to make it, and just the fact that somebody else has faith in me like they do here, because I don’t find that in the streets,” Caraballo said.

After she leaves Mercy Hospice, Caraballo, 35, hopes to gain custody of her children again and eventually become a journalist.

When the women approach the end of their 90 days at Mercy, most should have their housing packet filled out with the assistance of their case manager. If they don’t receive independent housing, they often move into an unfunded recovery house.

Baumgardner also said that Mercy’s biggest issue is lack of time with the women. In the future, she hopes to help them leave Mercy Hospice with more tangible life skills, like cooking.

“You can do that on a dime, something practical they will leave here with,” she said. “Not just connecting them to sponsors, we do all of that, I’m talking life stuff that will keep them in recovery.”

After Adams leaves the recovery home, she wants to work on taking care of her physical health and eventually go back to school to become a peer recovery specialist, so she can give back to a community that saved her, she said.

“I have been to a lot of places in recovery, but the ones that I’ve been to this time around, everyone of them was great,” Adams said. “I love these ladies here and we are all going to stay in touch. It’s like a sisterhood.”

About the author

Emily Scott

Emily Scott is a junior journalism major and history minor at Temple University. She works as the Features Editor of The Temple News, editing and covering people, places and things around campus and the city. Feel free to contact Emily at tuf39703@temple.edu.

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