The Center for Hope in Mesa still looks exactly like what it isn’t going to be.
Concrete walls and floors devoid of paint or carpet give an almost prison-like feel to the nearly complete center for pregnant, drug-addicted women and their babies.
But construction crews and volunteers such as Joanne McDowell of Mesa are making it more hospitable for the families that will start arriving in November.
"We want it to really reflect an attitude of a home," McDowell said. "It’s not an institution, it’s a home, which is something some of these people may not have had."
The center near downtown Mesa will be dedicated Thursday at a dinner honoring the public and private agencies that have pitched in over the last five years to make it a reality.
Community Bridges, formerly known as the East Valley Addiction Council, will be operating the first-of-its-kind — in terms of serving this specialized segment of the population — facility, said Community Bridges CEO Frank Scarpati.
The complex will have offices and classrooms in front, three eight-family cottages in back and two small playgrounds. "It’s taking 24 families and making sure that they can make it," Scarpati said.
Scarpati said the center’s three caseworkers will coordinate with other social service agencies to bring women in as early in their pregnancies as possible, particularly seeking those dealing with domestic violence or other emotional issues which may have led them to turn to drugs or alcohol.
"It’s giving the mothers an opportunity to deal with her issues, and also having really good prenatal care," he said.
Along with detoxification, the moms can get counseling, take high school and college-level classes, and learn how to cook and do laundry.
While many of the services are there for the women, the children are the center’s reason for being, Scarpati said.
"Everybody talks about substance abuse, substance abuse, substance abuse, but that’s really not what it’s about," he said. "It’s about helping the babies."