Single mothers in North Bay elect to live in welfare-subsidized apartments rather than Columbus House, a residence operated by the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

Columbus House closed recently due to a lack of clientele, Martin Martinello, chairman of the Columbus board of directors, told The Interim.

Refusing to live by the rules laid down by Columbus House, the majority of unmarried mothers in the North Bay area – some as young as 16 – go on welfare and  move into an apartment provided for them.

“The boyfriend often moves into the apartment…and the single mother may have other children,” said Mr. Martinello.  “They often take great satisfaction in flouting authority.  Then they find out that they’re tied down and they can’t get the education they want and this situation leads them into more difficulties.  Then the baby that was the doll becomes a troublesome infant.

“When the mother or her boyfriend has to get up in the middle of the night to look after the baby, well that’s a different story. Relationships often break up because -the parents are immature; the teen-age mother is left on her own to try and raise the child (or children) on welfare which, needless to say, is inadequate.”

Columbus House, a joint project of the Pentecostal and Catholic Churches, was able to accommodate from four to six girls at one time with the government supplying financial support according to the number of residents.  Without any residents, financial support ended.

Today, an unmarried girl has to go to Rosalie Hall or some similar home in the Toronto area if she elects not to get an apartment, or if it is felt that she is too young to be on her own.

“Giving government help in the form of welfare to provide them with their own apartments is counter-productive,” said Mr. Martinello.  “We’re delighted that the girls are having their babies as opposed to aborting them…But I feel that encouraging them to keep their children instead of placing them for adoption is not the best way to go.  It is certainly not in the best interests of the child.”

Network

Birthright centres in northern Ontario have a network of homes, said Kathie Garahan, a former teacher.  These will take in single mothers when the family or relatives are not supportive and the girl chooses to have her baby.

Toronto’s Rosalie Hall provides spiritual counseling, peer companionship, privacy, education and pre-natal care.  The Catholic Charities-funded centre also teaches domestic skills and provides day care.

Strong peer pressure at Rosalie Hall influences most single mothers to keep their babies.