Mary's Home of the Treasure Coast: A beacon of hope for homeless pregnant women

Ashley Harrison went from resident to employee of safe place for moms
Posted at 10:34 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 08:46:00-04

STUART, Fla. — Mother's Day is Sunday and there will be a celebration at Mary's Home in Stuart.

Mary's Home of the Treasure Coast is where homeless pregnant women come to get the loving, support they need and the tools and resources to help them get back on their feet and provide for their child.

Ashley Harrison found Mary's Home at a very difficult time in her life. She had just ended an abusive relationship, was dealing with an addiction and then found out she was pregnant.

"I was scared to death," Harrison said. " I'm about to have a baby and I don't have a place to sleep, and now what? I don't have clothes for him, nothing. I had nothing. And I walked in here and received everything I needed for my baby. That was the biggest blessing to feel like he was going to be OK, to know he was OK."

Harrison's mother took in her first child, daughter Harper, so Harrison could focus on her sobriety.

"So I went into treatment for 120 days and while I was there everyone said, 'Mary's Home. Mary's Home,'" Harrison said. "It was scary but I knew I had to do something, so I came to Mary's Home."

Opened in 2010, Mary's Home of the Treasure Coast provides residential and non-residential services for homeless pregnant women in need of a supportive environment and stable housing. Tracy Hernandez is the executive director.

"We are setting them up for success," Hernandez said. "Whether it's securing employment, having a certain amount in savings, connecting them to resources for affordable housing, transportation, day care, we help them on their journey to self-sufficiency and independence through our support services."

Tracy Hernandez, executive director of Mary's Place
Tracy Hernandez is the executive director of Mary's Place.

Four women live in the home currently. They are tasked with household responsibilities and other requirements in order to reside there. They can stay for one year and then, with help, will transition to life on their own.

For Harrison, the time at Mary's Home allowed her to heal.

"From the beginning, when I walked in, I just felt peace -- a peaceful feeling -- and once I got here I started healing," she said. "My family started healing. It was nice. It was good."

So thankful for all that was given to her, Harrison has returned to work at Mary's Home as an administrative assistant. She said it's nice to be on the other side and to have the opportunity to give the women in the home the support they need. It's support that Harrison is grateful to have received.

Ashley Harrison, resident turned employee of Mary's Home
Ashley Harrison was once a resident of Mary's Home. Now she's an administrative assistant there.

"She's our real-life success story and we have many," Hernandez said. "We have served 176 moms through our residential program. Eighty-six babies have been born to women here at Mary's Home and Ashley is just one of many, but her story is different because she pays it forward by working here and helping those who are now on their own journey that she knows very well."

After graduating from their time at Mary's Home, the moms enter the women-in-transition program, which provides for additional financial resources through a rent subsidy or assistance with other needs (i.e. education or transportation). This additional support is available for a year or two after moving out of the residential program and helps them transition into self-sufficiency, dramatically increasing their ability to create a successful future for themselves and their babies.

Harrison has this advice for moms-to-be who are homeless and hopeless.

"Ask for help. It's OK to ask for help," she said. "It doesn't mean you're less than."

For more information on Mary's Home or to become a donor or volunteer, click here.