Sojourner House is trying to help an underserved population survive — mothers and their children.By Briana Smith

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Drug overdose deaths spiked in Allegheny County last year, and overdoses continue to take countless lives.

But Sojourner House is trying to help an underserved population survive — mothers and their children.

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“About six years ago, I was just broken,” said Heather Spencer, in-take assessment specialist at Sojourner House and former client. “My life was in shambles due to a drug addiction. I was eight months pregnant. I lost my son to the system.”

Spencer had reached her lowest point, and with no real direction in life, she turned to the house.

“I went to the women and children’s shelter in Shadyside and stayed there until Sojourner House called,” said Spencer. “I was so happy they called.”

It was the call that saved her life. She spent two and a half years in the MOMS Supportive Housing Program.

During that time, she got her kids back, became a mentor and participated in programs at a community college.

“In all areas of life, it helped,” said Spencer. “It empowered me and knew that I’m more than my addiction.”

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Executive Director De’netta Benjamin-Miller said they treat about 60 mothers each year. Mothers can stay three to six months and bring two children under 12 years old. They also get their own apartment.

“That’s essential because we provide reunification care, and that means rebonding any relationships that may have been torn due to substance use with the children,” said Benjamin-Miller. “So we provide a safe place for them to heal.”

And survive the drug epidemic. Allegheny County had 690 reported overdose deaths in 2020, up from 571 the year before.

There are 168 so far this year, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“It’s a comprehensive program where they receive treatment, case management, day care services. And most importantly, we accept women who are receiving medication assistant therapy,” Benjamin-Miller said.

It also provides hope for mothers like Spencer. She now works at the house, empowering others.

“I love to share my story,” said Spencer. “And that’s one of the things I say. It’s a matter of surrendering, but this program definitely saved my life.”

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Reminding them that every journey starts with one step.