'God has a plan': After suffering significant damage from burst pipes, Gianna House calls on community to 'pour out their love'
EASTPOINTE — In the early hours of Dec. 26, Joella Bush, executive director at Gianna House, received a call from a fire alarm company: several areas of the building had been compromised by water.
Bush ascertained there was no fire. However, as residents slept, water was coming out of the walls and ceilings. The staffer on duty said “there was water everywhere.”
When Bush arrived at Gianna House, a residential home to help teenagers in crisis pregnancies, she was met by the Eastpointe Fire Department.
“There were hundreds of gallons of water that were pouring into our building, and upon further inspection, the fire department found that our fire suppression system had burst,” Bush explained to Detroit Catholic.
As the firefighters escorted Bush through the building, she realized the entire south side of the residence had been damaged by water.
In the days leading up to Christmas, cold fronts and extreme weather swept across the United States with serious consequences, and Gianna House was not spared.
“There were pipes that were shredded; there were pipes that had up to six inches missing from the center; pipes that had broken completely off and were on the floor,” Bush said. “There was indeed water coming from the ceilings, from the walls, from the light fixtures, from the vents The pipes burst on the third floor, and the water went all the way down to the basement. By the time it was over, there was almost a foot of water that had gathered in the basement.”
Gianna House, located in the old convent on St. Veronica Parish’s campus, provides housing and other services for women at risk who are homeless and pregnant. At the time the pipes burst, there were three mothers and three babies living in residence.
“These young ladies have endured unthinkable trauma in their lives as children and young adults, anything from human trafficking to foster care to sexual abuse, incest,” Bush said. “Perhaps they were disenfranchised from society because they got pregnant out of wedlock, or they were shunned and forced to leave their home because they were pregnant and wouldn’t have an abortion. There are a number of reasons why our services are important, but the main reason is that embrace those young ladies who have experienced those traumas, we embrace them, we love on them, we give them a home, and we give them hope.”
As the water poured in, Bush said the three mothers wrapped their babies in warm blankets and clothes and ran outside.
“While it is not comfortable, it still beats being out in the streets, but it has been an adjustment for the mothers,” Bush said. “They have been our real heroes, our real champs.”
Initially, Bush didn’t think they would be able to bring the mothers and babies back into the house — the power had been shut off, and the women had lost a portion of their living areas. Every floor on the south side of the building had experienced some damage.
As Bush began looking into hotel options, the power did return, and the women were allowed to move back in. However, the damage has created serious living limitations.
The amount of water is “astronomical,” Bush said, and as things dry up, the damage becomes more and more apparent.
Currently, the kitchen is inoperable and is a safety hazard. The residents no longer have access to the dining room and living room, and the main residential bathroom is inoperable, Bush said.
In addition to the residential program, Gianna House has a community outreach program that services mothers and families with children of all ages. Moms regularly come to Gianna House to pick up formula, diapers, blankets, cribs, and other baby supplies. However, those donated supplies were all stored in the basement, which was heavily impacted by the water.
“We had thousands of dollars of donations in the basement from Pampers, car seats, pack and plays, formulas, baby clothes. … anything that you can think of,” Bush said. “When the fire department walked me through the building, I was mostly in shock. But it wasn’t until they took me down to the basement and I saw all of the donations that I felt devastated.”
Repairs have not started, Bush said. Currently, the building is still drying out, and multiple machines are running day in and day out, including blowers, dehumidifiers, and heaters. The main concern is getting things dry and avoiding black mold, Bush said. However, the real repairs will have to start soon, and they will not be cheap.
“It is going to take money,” Bush said. “There are many people asking what they can do, and people want to come in and volunteer, to donate items to replace what was lost. However, right now, we need money. We need the gifts of anyone who like to give monetarily.”
There is currently no room for physical donations, Bush said.
In addition to the cost of repairs, Bush said she is expecting much higher water and electricity bills for the past few weeks. Monetary donations could also defray the cost of a new HVAC system, which would open the home up to three additional mothers and babies. Currently, the building can support four moms and four babies.
“In another 30 days from now, we will still be here trying to provide services to these girls,” Bush said. “We are still going to need the assistance of our community to help push us forward.”
Many of the families Gianna House serves are just trying to get by, and Bush doesn’t know what they would do without the program. Bush, who once was a teenage mother herself, wishes Gianna House had existed when she was pregnant with her oldest child; there are a lot of pregnancy centers, but Gianna House is unique, she said.
“We are one of very few that provide specialty services to young women who are homeless and pregnant,” Bush said. “It is one thing to be homeless; it is another thing to be pregnant and homeless, and then it is even deeper to be homeless with an infant not having anywhere to go.”
Despite the long road ahead, Bush remains hopeful.
“I serve an almighty God, and I know that He doesn’t make any mistakes,” Bush said. “While this appears to be an awful situation, I know that God is going to stand in the hearts of our community, and for that, our community is going to pour out love and stretch out their love to us and help us.”
God will not abandon his children, Bush said, especially the most vulnerable.
“I do believe that we are going to be better off," Bush said. "I believe that God has a plan and that He will continue to order our steps, and he will prayerfully stand in the hearts of our community."
How to help
Monetary donations to Gianna House can be made at their website or via a check payable to Gianna House, 21357 Redmond, Eastpointe, MI 48021.
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