House of Dawn in need of assistance

Princess Barkley said she was only 15 years old when she discovered she was pregnant. She had no where to go and no one to turn to for help.

The 18-year-old said her mother was in jail, and she wasn't going to school. Eventually, she said, the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services took her in and referred her to House of Dawn, Inc., a Jonesboro non-profit organization that provides teenage mothers, and their children, with a stable and loving home.

Dawn Murray, founder and CEO of House of Dawn, said the organization assists teen mothers, who are at risk of homelessness, as well as, sexual, physical and psycho-emotional abuse.

"I don't know where I would be, and what I would be doing with out House of Dawn," said Barkley, who will receive her High School diploma in December.

Murray said the non-profit organization is in need of donations to continue its programs, which assist young mothers in various areas, including helping them complete their education, teaching them how to develop their parenting skills, and become more-productive citizens.

"Currently, our funding is being cut, and we are looking for additional funding," said Murray. Agencies and organizations that donate to the non-profit group, such as the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, the Georgia Department of Human Resources, and the Atlanta Women's Foundation, have reduced their contributions, due to the troublesome economic times, said Murray.

"So far, we have lost 15 percent [in monetary donations], and more cuts may be coming," said the founder.

She said the non-profit organization has a goal of collecting at least $25,000 in monetary donations from the local community the end of the year.

Though individuals interested in donating can call House of Dawn, at (770) 477-2385, they will have other opportunities at the organization's fund-raising events, such as the "Annual Wine Tasting Charity" event in July, said Murray.

These donations are crucial to keeping the grroup's "Second Chance Home" and "Transitional Living" programs alive and kicking, she said.

The funds will assist in supporting different areas, such as child care and health care.

The Second Chance Home program is geared toward teen mothers, 13 to 18, said Murray. These young ladies live at the House of Dawn facility under the adult supervision of trained staff, she added. There are currently five teenagers in this program.

Once the girls are part of the program, they are obligated to complete their high school education, and are provided with child care, Murray explained. The program also provides other assistance, including parenting education, employment skills and physical and mental health services, she said.

During the school year, the young mothers do not work, so they can concentrate on their education, said Murray, and they find employment during the summer.

"The purpose of House of Dawn is for them to learn how to parent their children, live independently, become productive citizens and to prevent separation of child and mother," said Murray.

She said if a pregnant teenager is under the auspices of the Department of Family and Children Services, there is a chance that the mother and bawill be placed in separate homes.

The Transitional Living Program, Murray said, is in its third year. It is for mothers, ages 18 to 21. There are also five mothers participating in this program, she said.

The mothers are required to work, and are placed in fully furnished apartments, she said. They also have the assistance of a life-coach, who is accessible at all times.

"This is a program where you have to be deemed homeless," she explained.

The teenage mothers are required to meet goals, such as completing a general educational development (GED) certificate, or pursuing post-secondary education, purchasing a vehicle and completing parenting- and life-skills classes, she said.

Participating mothers in both programs are referred the Department of Family and Children Services, or are homeless, said Murray.

Recently, House of Dawn held a "Concepts in Beauty—Part I" event for the teenage mothers in the Second Chance Home program, said Peggy Brooks, spokeswoman for the House of Dawn, Inc. She said the event taught the girls good skin-and body-care practices, and was supported businesses, such as the Seko Company, Affordable Screen Printing, and Ambience Beauty Salon, said Brooks.

"It [House of Dawn] will motivate you to change," said teen mom, Barkley. "You will have no other choice when you come here."