By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The Hannah Center opened June 1993 in Marshfield as a refuge and home for pregnant women that could no longer stay in their home environments.
Since that time it has expanded its scope to provide a home for all women in crisis. Hannah Center now helps women from a wide range of backgrounds, including the homeless, those who have recently finished rehab programs, and single mothers. It can house up to four women at a time.
Hannah Center is a clearing house as well as a residential home, holding and distributing a wide range of items for children ranging from a winter coat to pants, car seats, and much more. The items are free and distributed to people by “perceived need.”
Aimee Tippen, president of Hannah Center’s Board of Directors, said that defining who needs help and can be served by the Hannah Center is a relatively straight forward process.
“If a woman is calling and asking for help, then she’s in crisis,” Tippen said.
Tippen added that if the Hannah Center is not an appropriate fit for the needs of a particular woman in crisis, they will work with other organizations in the area to find housing and shelter for the woman. Hannah Center works closely with Shirley’s House of Hope in Marshfield, which shelters women impacted by domestic violence, and the Frederic Ozanam Transitional Shelter for the homeless.
To be eligible for housing at Hannah Center, women must meet certain specifications set by the staff.
“The crisis that we can meet is if they’re ready to set short- and long-term goals. So it takes about one to two weeks to actually get in,” Tippen said. “(Residents) have to determine those short- and long-term goals, and then you have to be working on them while you’re there.”
Goals for residents of Hannah Center might include arranging appropriate daycare for their children, finding a job, saving money, or working on personal issues. There is no fee to reside at Hannah Center, but once residents secure a job there is a minimal rent that they must pay.
“Usually it averages less than $100 a month,” Tippen said. “But it gets them paying a check at the beginning of the month.”
Hannah Center residents have access to a life coach, group counseling, and a library, and volunteers come in to teach classes on budget planning, résumé writing, mock interviews, cooking, and parenting skills. Tippen said Hannah Center also works to connect women with other resources in the community to help them transition to life once they leave the program.
The average resident stay at Hannah Center is five to six months, but for pregnant women it is generally at least a year.
Hannah Center receives no federal or state funding and is entirely sustained by donations from individuals and organizations in the community. Tippen said there is an inherent value to not receiving government funding.
“The creators really felt that if you’re going to have a home like this, it says something to the women that are there. The women know that they’re supported by the community. This isn’t a handout from the government. Your local community supports you. They want you to be here.”
However, Tippen said that because Hannah Center is not government-funded, it is a constant challenge to raise money.
“We’re diligently seeking new revenues, but I would say that’s probably our biggest challenge,” Tippen said.
Tippen added that she has enjoyed the authentic nature of her work with Hannah Center and that it allows women in crisis a place where they can be themselves.
“I enjoy that it’s real,” Tippen said. “It’s a home. So it’s real. It’s not pretty. It’s not, ‘Put your best on.’ These women are in crisis, and they get to have a home,” Tippen said.
For more information on Hannah Center, visit hannahcenter.com.