Christopher Bell was in his twenties and living in Times Square when he heard something that sounded like the voice of God.
Bell had been working with homeless and runaway kids in New York City, when he encountered pregnant women with young children who had no homes. At the time, Bell said there were no long-term programs that were ministering to pregnant women with other children.
“I thought there was a need to have longer-term housing for mothers and babies, but I didn’t know what to do,” Bell told CNA.
“I was close to Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and I complained to him, ‘Why doesn’t somebody do something to help these young mothers and children?’”
Fr. Groeschel, founder of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, told Bell that he would help him start the ministry that would eventually become Good Counsel Homes. Hearing those words from Fr. Groeschel “sounded almost like the voice of God and it was a great encouragement,” Bell recalled.
Good Counsel Homes was founded soon after in 1985 with the goal of helping women with children get off the streets and find stability through work or education.
“As soon as we opened on March 10, 1985, we were getting calls from women who were pregnant and women who were pregnant with other born children... So we responded to the need and took in the mothers,” Bell said.
Since 1985, Good Counsel Homes has aided more than 7,000 women at their residence homes and have expanded to four additional houses in New York and New Jersey.
During their time at Good Counsel Homes, the women in residence are offered finance, health, relationship and life-skills classes, as well as information about child growth and development. The average stay for a mother and her children at Good Counsel Homes is about 13 months, which allows them enough time to establish a job or some kind of stable independence.
Bell still remembers the first woman who came to Good Counsel Homes. She had a small son, but said that he was not her first child. She previously had an abortion when she was in high school, having been told that her nine-week-old baby in utero was a “blob of bloody tissue.”
After this experience, Bell found that about half of the women who came through Good Counsel Homes had been involved in an abortion. He decided to start an extension ministry of Good Counsel Homes called Lumina, to help individuals who had been affected by an abortion.
“Lumina is not only for the women of Good Counsel to learn about post-abortion healing, but also for women and men and siblings around the country to be educated and to find groups and healing and hope,” Bell said, adding “we want all of those involved in abortion to know that God can forgive you.”
Bell has experienced countless other difficult situations in which the women at Good Counsel Homes have been victims of rape or incest. He also recalled a woman who had been advised by her doctor to abort because her unborn child could potentially be born with defects.
“It's horribly unfortunate and really incomprehensible to me that doctors in these kinds of situations only offer pregnant women a termination,” he reflected.
“We know that even if the child is only going to live a few moments, it’s healthier physically, and it’s healthier psychologically, and certainly it’s healthier spiritually for the mother to give birth to her child - to let nature and to allow God to have his way.”
Over the years, there have almost been 1,000 births from the women who have resided at Good Counsel Homes. They have also been instrumental in opening additional maternity homes in eight other states across the country. However, Bell says this “is not enough.”
“We are now looking to open or merge with other maternity homes,” Bell stated, saying they will accept women of all statuses, regardless of poor mental health or addictive behaviors.
“We want to take women in and try to help them make those next big steps. And we’d like to see other homes like ours open throughout the country.”
The Good Counsel Homes hotline is (800)-723-8331.