MONROE — Jessica Cornist was 26, the mother of a 2-year-old son and pregnant with a baby girl.
She was living on the streets in Lockland, the place where she was born and raised. She was dirty and another example of the dangers of drug addiction. She didn’t know of a safe place to seek help so her aunt, a social worker, drove her to several facilities that provided care for expecting women.
After three or four tours of facilities, Cornist ended up at the doorsteps of Home for Life, a ministry that began in 2003 under the guidance of Pastor Darlene Bishop-Driscoll from Solid Rock Church.
“It’s the most beautiful place,” Cornist said when asked to describe the home. “I was living on the streets, I was dirty and I didn’t deserve a place like that. It felt like I was about to heal in luxury.”
That was 14 years ago, and Cornist, 40, who lives in West Chester, has three children, 16, 14 and 3, has been married for five years and has her mortician’s license.
Without the assistance and guidance she received in 2008, Cornist hates to think where she’d be today.
“Dead or in jail,” she said quietly. “I feel like jail would have been a savior for the way I was going.”
Much like Cornist’s life trajectory, Home for Life has changed over the years. It started as a home for pregnant teens, switched to providing housing and counseling to women 18 and older who were addicted to drugs or pregnant, and now it’s back to its core: Helping pregnant women navigate life-affirming decisions.
The center, located just south of the church, has reopened, though right now there are no pregnant women, no crying babies. The two-story building that’s decorated like something in a travel magazine is eerily quiet. All the beds are made. The floors and carpet are swept. The kitchen is immaculate.
It’s just a big house waiting for its guests.
Beth Ward, a former director of the Community Pregnancy Center in Middletown, is the interim director of the Home for Life, a position she held previously. The center has beds for 24 women, and offers a variety of programs and services, including housing during pregnancy and aftercare, life skills preparedness, independent living classes, parenting, adoption support and faith-based, Christ-centered care, she said.
There are bedrooms, bathrooms, a dining room, a chapel, a library and a play room.
The women are allowed to enter the home once they’re pregnant and stay until their baby is 1 year old. All babies are delivered at nearby hospitals, Ward said.
All services are free. “That’s a gift we want to give to them,” Ward said. “We want to show that we truly care about your life.”
This is the perfect time to reopen the home as the country debates Roe vs. Wade, Ward said.
“You will see this as the second phase of pro-life services,” Ward said. “We don’t believe an abortion is part of the decisions. We want to say, ‘yes we are helping women who choose life for their baby.’ That’s what we’re supposed to be as a community of Christians. The church has got to be a voice.”
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian Jenkins plans to extend the order temporarily blocking the state’s six-week abortion ban past the initial 14-day deadline. He has set an Oct. 7 hearing for attorneys to explain whether he should grant a preliminary injunction, which could indefinitely block state law banning doctors from performing abortions after cardiac activity is detected.
Eventually, Ward said, when the ban is lifted, pregnant women will start arriving at the center.
“This is the quiet before the greater need shows up,” she said.
Ward has spent 30 years in the pro-life community. She would trade those three decades if her life’s work saves one baby, changes the future of one mother.
“I never have apologized for providing information to women and families,” she said.
The seeds of the Home for Life were planted when Bishop-Driscoll’s mother was pregnant. Doctors told her she’d die if she kept carrying Darlene.
Her mother said an abortion wasn’t an option.
“If I die, I die,” she said. “I won’t kill this baby.”
Now the house that bears her daughter’s name carries the same goal.
HOW TO CONTACT
WHAT: Home for Life
WHERE: P.O. Box 31, Monroe, Ohio 45050
CONTACT: (513) 423-5433 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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