By Ruth Fields
Photos by Gina Turner
By the time she was 16, Billie Beasley was on her own, having left behind a large, dysfunctional family. She found work at a nursing home, but when she was 17, she became pregnant and lost her job. “I was so naïve,” she says. “I thought that I got fired because I couldn’t lift anymore, but it was because I was unmarried and I was pregnant.” Billie had no way to support herself, but didn’t want to return home to an abusive father. A friend of a friend needed someone to care for her terminally-ill mother, so Billie accepted the live-in position for $40 a week.
“She was so mean to me,” Billie says. “I remember crying myself to sleep most nights.” Determined to provide for her baby, Billie saved her earnings in a corner of a drawer, and was proud when she had saved over $300.
Billie met her future husband Bob when she was six months pregnant. Although they recently celebrated their 39thanniversary, Billie acknowledges the first few years of their marriage were unhappy. By the time she was 21, Billie had three children and had become a heavy drinker. “I was coming from a desperate situation,” she says. “I had a lot of things I was trying to push down emotionally.” One night, crippled by guilt, Billie reached out to God. “On my knees on my bathroom floor, I received God’s grace and mercy,” she says.
“Just like me”
Billie has always empathized with young women who believe pregnancy is an insurmountable problem. “There are so many girls out there just like me,” she says. She volunteered at Pregnancy Assistance Center North (PACN) for three years, and was a paid staff member for 15 years. In addition, she and Bob became foster parents, even fostering pregnant teenagers. During this time, she often wondered how her life could have been different. “Had I found a maternity home that was Christ-centered, I could have gone through some healing and missed some of those hard times, and my kids would have missed those hard times,” she says.
Billie knows that many young, single women lack support when they become pregnant. With insecure finances and inadequate education, they sometimes lose hope. “They don’t have the building blocks it takes to be a parent and to run a household or the knowledge it takes to be financially stable,” Billie says—a situation that sometimes leads to homelessness. Many women have been abandoned by their babies’ fathers; some have toxic family situations. Some do not have families at all. “Some have aged out of foster care. They don’t have moms. They don’t have family support,” she says. She has observed many single pregnant women try to find quick solutions to their problems by jumping into disastrous relationships. Although her own marriage survived a troubled start, Billie knows most are not so fortunate. And for many women, abortion seems like the only option. “We are telling them to choose life,” she says, “but we are not helping them choose life.”
Over the years, Billie learned maternity homes are a rarity, and often thought about starting one. When Hurricane Harvey’s inundating rains flooded the only maternity home in Montgomery County and caused its closure, Billie took action. In 2019, as her plan took shape, she began to tell friends and acquaintances. “People said, ‘You have been saying that for years,’” she says. “I didn’t realize I had told that many people.”
Billie wanted to help young, pregnant women through a 501(c)(3) organization funded by churches, grants and donations. She wanted to give women a homey place to stay during their pregnancies and their first few months of motherhood, envisioning an organization that could equip them through parenting classes, Bible study, and counseling to help them find educational resources and jobs. “We want to help women become good, confident, godly mothers,” Billie says. “Our strongest desire for them is that they would know they are valuable and God loves them.”
As Billie began putting her plan in motion, she put a lot of thought into naming the new maternity home. Her daughter, who has experience writing grants, warned Billie a name should clearly identify the organization. She suggested “Montgomery County Maternity Home,” but Billie thought that sounded like a government institution. Instead, she was inspired to name her organization Journey Home. “These girls are on a journey,” she says. “They are journeying to find their home.” Journey Home’s mission is “to be a nurturing home for both mother and child, offering love, accountability, and support along their journey.”
As part of this journey, young women participate in a program designed to help them become independent, with secure jobs, childcare, housing and transportation. Each participant is required to take parenting classes and to pursue education, employment, volunteer work, or a combination of activities. Furthermore, women are expected to save 70 percent of their earnings to help provide a secure future for themselves and their babies. Each woman is assigned a mentor to help her design a plan for education and suitable employment, and Journey Home has five senior mentors with specialties in education, finances, housing, employment and state benefits. The organization also facilitates medical care through a local obstetrician who has agreed to take on every guest as a new Medicaid patient.
In addition to providing no-cost housing to young women who are pregnant with their first child, Journey Home welcomes pregnant women who already have one toddler. Because children are guests, the organization can’t house women who are dependent on drugs, who are mentally ill, or who have committed violent crimes. Journey Home, however, can point such women to drug rehabilitation programs or other suitable homes. “We have resources,” Billie says. “I never just tell someone ‘no.’ We generally take the mom from 18 to 26 who really has a desire in her heart to stand on her own two feet, to be self-supporting and independent—the mom who wants to learn how to parent and wants to have a secure place for her children to live. They recognize what they are doing isn’t working and they need help.”
Although Billie does not judge women who have chosen abortion, she is always pleased when Journey Home is able to help a pregnant woman choose life, whether to parent or to allow another family to adopt. “We love to welcome women who choose adoption,” Billie says. “When a woman goes through nine months of pregnancy to place that child in someone else’s arms, she’s a hero.”
As the Postcards team was preparing this story for publication, Journey Home was experiencing a major setback. The historic winter storm of 2021 caused frozen pipes and extensive water damage in the organization’s rental house. “It was not deemed safe for us to move back in,” Billie says. She is grateful West Conroe Baptist Church was able to arrange temporary housing for the women currently in Journey Home’s program, but the organization needs a permanent home. She hopes funds can be raised to purchase a house that will allow growth. “Our vision is to be the maternity home the community trusts to recommend when the need arises,” she says.
Meanwhile, Journey Home has housed 11 women since January 2020, as well as some newborns and toddlers. (Billie says nearly half of those women have spent time in foster care.) Once they are on their own, graduates often come back to visit. “They call it a sisterhood,” Billie says. As the founder, director and former house mother of Journey Home, Billie’s phone buzzes often with calls and messages from donors, prospective guests, and partner organizations. She also hears from former guests. “They stay in touch,” Billie says. One recent text message thanked her and said, “You love hard.”
For more information, visit journeyhometx.org or follow Journey Home Tx. on Facebook.
When a need arises.
o be the maternity home the community trusts to recommend when a need arises.