Happy Mothering at Alpha House

Tonja Brickhouse and mother Mary Holmes-Graves
Decades ago an unwed, pregnant teen was sent out of the state to have her child and then forced to give the baby up for adoption. Upon her return home, the childless mother "Cried and cried. She was unable to get over it," said Tonja Brickhouse, vice president of the 
Alpha House's Board of Directors. 

Tampa's Alpha House was started in 1981 to provide "safe housing, education and counseling, parenting and life skills training, vocational assistance, and spiritual support to pregnant or parenting women," according to its website. 

Brickhouse was speaking at their annual fundraiser, the New Lives Breakfast, held Friday morning. 400 hundred community members gathered in support.  
Executive Director Pat Langford with donor Machelle Maner 
Though the Alpha House is celebrating its 30th anniversary, Executive Director Pat Langford said the organization is still working on becoming a household name. "We're the only licensed maternal home in Hillsborough County," she said. "We're not a shelter, but a program." 

The Alpha House takes in homeless pregnant women and mothers, including girls under 18 in foster care who often have their children taken away from them and placed into another foster home. "We're the support, guidance and structure missing from their lives," said Langford. 

Brickhouse, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and current public servant, said the teen's aunt felt her deep sorrow and went against the wishes of her parents to support her. She successfully helped her niece get the child back before the adoption process was finalized. That teen was Brickhouse's mother. 

Alpha's first E.D. Sister Rosalie Hennessey

In 2010, Alpha House took in 110 women but had to turn away 100 more, because, according to Langford, "Some weren't interested in being helped. Some are on the waiting list." 

Currently the Alpha House provides safe housing and services for 39 women and their children. 
Loren Craig, a victim of domestic violence, is one of them. She's lived at the Alpha House for a year and a half with her son Reid, and shared their story during the New Lives Breakfast. 

Unable to support herself during and after her pregnancy, she left for good when her partner's abuse didn't stop. "I became homeless in 15 seconds," Craig said. 

Craig recently graduated from an administrative assistance program at Brewster Tech, and is working and saving for her own apartment. 

To learn more, visit their semimonthly Lunch & Learn sessions, or visit their website to find other ways you can help

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