30 years of Grandma’s House
2022 marks 30 years of caring for pregnant and parenting youth. Grandma’s House became a part of J Bar J in 2017, but had a long history helping young mothers. The story of Grandma’s House is intertwined with that of its former Director, Woody Medieros, and our current Director, Eliza Wilson.
Woody first became focused on the needs of teen mothers when her own daughter became pregnant at sixteen. She began looking for resources in the community and found that there were not many available to pregnant teens. She also found that there were others teens that needed support, including two who were homeless. “So, it’s kind of my nature, I opened my door and we had two pregnant moms come live with us, one was 14 and one was 17. They had beautiful baby boys during that time,” she told us.
The awareness began to build around the need for services for these youth and a core group of people began reaching out to teen mothers, many of whom were couch surfing. The group decided our community needed a home for these youth so began fundraising and looking for a house. Woody began volunteering at Grandma’s House as soon as it opened.
Reflecting back, Woody said, “It’s been such an honor to be here through all these years. I had the privilege of rocking every baby at Grandma’s House.” At the time of her retirement in 2020, the shelter had served over 270 moms with their babies. “We did not turn anyone away. We learned the most important needs were getting these kids back in school where they could fulfill their education and learning parenting skills so they could become successful parents.”
Eliza Wilson, Director for Runaway and Homeless Youth, which includes Grandma’s House, has a long history with both J Bar J and Grandma’s House. Eliza told us about her childhood and youth, “I remember being homeless for the first time at around five years old. Throughout my early adolescence and teenage years, my family struggled with finding housing off and on. The last time that I lived with my family was when we were living in a trailer in the Walmart parking lot, then at a shelter for families.”
Eliza left home at 16 and was soon connected with our Living Options for Teens (LOFT) program at Cascade Youth & Family Center, and found it to be very supportive. “I think it was the first time that an adult had asked me what I would like to do, if I would like to get a GED or if I’d like to go back to school. I chose to go back to school and would end up living at the LOFT for about three years until I finished high school, started college, and moved out on my own.”
About seven months after leaving, Eliza became pregnant. She returned to the LOFT, because they were her family and support. Later in her pregnancy, she moved to Grandma’s House where she found resources specifically for pregnant teens and young mothers, including childbirth education and parenting classes.
She arrived scared and worried about what her future held, what her daughter’s future would be like. “Seeing that other moms are here going through the same thing, and that the staff were there to really guide us and show us love and support, that had a huge impact on my life. Really, for the first time in my life, I saw what power women had when they worked together and supported each other.”
Now Eliza is one of those women as she leads Grandma’s House into the future. Thanks to our donors and supporters we are celebrating thirty years of people coming together to support pregnant teens and young mothers. Together we are helping them build the foundation, learn the skills, and create a support network they will need in their lives beyond Grandma’s House.