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A New Start 

Women and Children's Center aids women in need

This week, The Shepherd's House—a faith-based men's homeless shelter—launched a program designed to help homeless women recover from addiction and abuse at its newly opened Women and Children's Center. The new center will house five women who will participate in a three-month program that provides classes, counseling, and a caseworker to assist them depending on their needs.

Gloria Hall has worked with homeless women and shelter programs for 25 years. She's worked with similar populations of women before spending nine years in Seattle and working at a shelter in Tacoma and most recently in Portland.

"It's really fun to see them come in and relax and just get into a new way of living so after the three months, they can decide if they want to stay for the year (long) program," Hall says.

The Women and Children's Center is currently using a conditional permit and Hall says they are waiting for the approval for 10 women to live in the new center. The optional yearlong program includes both education and rehabilitation components, and also assists women with skills necessary to help them find jobs and housing. Seeing women complete the program—which is divided into semesters—is one of the reasons Hall loves her job.

"Every four months we celebrate what they've accomplished, and I have found that to be so good for the women because they have been told so often: you're dumb, you're stupid, you'll never amount to anything, you need me, you can't do this alone," she says. "When they find out that they can and everybody is clapping for them (as their accomplishments are read)—it's just amazing the transformation that can happen and they want to stay for the next semester."

A typical day for women at the center begins at 9 am with a daily community meeting. Each day, two classes are held before and after lunch and there are also counseling and case management appointments.

"The counselors also teach the classes about drug and alcohol issues and domestic violence issues. Most women—about 90 percent—have both issues that are homeless," Hall says. Every program is individualized and depends on the needs of the women seeking help. "We've found over the long run that it's really good to address both of those issues to help them stay clean and sober and safe after they leave our year program."

The new center is not an emergency shelter, but Hall notes that women who are in need of a place to stay during the day with meals and access to showers can find those services at the Shepherd's House.

Women interested in the programs offered at the new center can call to find out if there are any available spots. They are screened by phone and if accepted, they come in for a full intake with a case manager.

"Today was the kickoff day for our program, so until today we've been bringing people in, getting the house furnished, getting all those things," Hall says.

It's the culmination of a yearlong fundraising process.

"We have a $50,000 matching fund that was set up for us recently that (has been) matched, plus like $7,000. So it's $107,000 that we got," she says.

Hall adds that two churches have also stepped in and raised $17,000 each to help pay for the cost of the new center. The rent is approximately $2,500 per month and the salaries of the two staff members are also costs that are required to run the center.

People in the Bend community also donated enough furniture to fill the new home. Hall says she has a dedicated support system of women who wanted to assist with the women's center so they got together and sent out an email blast.

"We let them know all of our needs and in over two weeks time, they completely furnished the house," she says. "They brought in a lot of used furniture, but in good shape, and then we registered at Bed Bath & Beyond for kitchen and dining room stuff."

Hall says after receiving everything down to the last appliance, she realized they didn't have any food and then started receiving food donations.

"We are well stocked right now on food," she says. "It's been great to see how the community loves us and supports what we are doing—they just really care."

Hall has seen many women and shelters succeed. She kept track of the women at the Seattle mission and says 92 percent of those women maintained housing and haven't had any substance abuse issues two years after completing the program. She says she's been drawn to help homeless women and women experiencing domestic violence, drug, and alcohol issues.

"I remember sitting in Arizona at a mission and thinking, you know, we need to have people that are older and maybe they have retired, that are willing to go wherever God leads us," she recalls.

Before moving to Bend to help start the women's center, Hall and her husband were moving back to her home state of Texas, but Hall says someone in the community voluntarily paid her salary in order for her to stay to help start the center.

"It's just fun to see lives changes and that's what we do. We get to do that every day," she says.

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