“We see them every day:” Churches, community centers are now sanctuaries for new moms

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MILWAUKEE -- A group of 10 churches or community centers across Milwaukee have turned into sanctuaries for new moms. Through their support, the city hopes to lower the infant mortality rate. Milwaukee's is one of the highest in the nation.

Milwaukee's House of Peace

Milwaukee's House of Peace

Milwaukee's House of Peace is one of the city's first Strong Baby Sanctuaries. There is a food pantry, a clothing service and now House of Peace staff is trained through Columbia St. Mary's to give new moms parenting support.

"We see them every day. We see the stress they go through," said Gerri Sheets-Howard with Capuchin Community Services.

The Strong Baby Sanctuary program supports the mayor's goal to reduce the city's infant mortality rate by 10% by 2017.

Close to 100 Milwaukee babies die before their first birthdays -- most due to prematurity complications or unsafe sleep habits.

"I think a lot of people don't realize that, particularly when it comes to pregnancies and infant mortality, that life conditions really play a major role in determining or having an impact on infant morality," said Mayor Tom Barrett.

deandra-2Sanctuaries aim to alleviate the stress a mom may face.

"They're coming for clothing, they're coming for spiritual support, sometimes facing eviction," said Sheets-Howard.

Inside the food pantry at House of Peace, they have specific resources for new parents. For example, they provide infant formula and baby food for moms who may not know where their next meal is coming from for their child.

There are now 10, but eventually 50 sanctuaries will open across the city, with one purpose...

"We're going to walk that journey with these mothers, so that these babies are healthy," said Sheets-Howard.

This Sunday, October 11th, Mayor Barrett and the faith community will take part in the annual "Strong Baby Sabbath," raising awareness about infant death in Milwaukee.

Some Strong Baby Sanctuaries have started their own program. Others are trained to help refer families to existing community resources for support.

Strong Baby Sanctuary

Strong Baby Sanctuary

Below is a list of churches that are Strong Baby Sanctuaries:

  • Ascension Fellowship Church: 5700 W. Greentree Road, Milwaukee
  • Bradford Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church: 4260 N. Teutonia Avenue, Milwaukee
  • Canaan Baptist Church: 2975 N. 11th Street
  • Ebenezer Church of God in Christ: 3132 N. MLK Drive, Milwaukee
  • Hephatha Lutheran Church: 1720 W. Locust, Milwaukee
  • Holy Cathedral Church of God in Christ: 2677 N. 40th Street, Milwaukee
  • Capuchin Community Services-House of Peace: 1702 W. Walnut Street, Milwaukee
  • True Love Missionary Baptist Church: 210 W. Keefe Avenue, Milwaukee
  • Unity Gospel House of Prayer Apostolic Church: 1747 N. 12th Street, Milwaukee
  • Village Ministry Inc. : 2614 W. Center Street, Milwaukee