Coming in September: The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit

Re-Entry Summit LogoTexas has the largest prison populations in the United States. In 2014, 12,214 of those incarcerated were women, and of those women, 8,550 served a previous sentence. Ex-offenders face a multitude of legal and social barriers that inhibit them from successfully re-entering society. A study by the Legal Action Center found that Texas has over 32 different laws restricting released prisoners, ranging from employment policies to limitations on public assistance. These barriers increase the likelihood of relapse and recidivism among individuals with criminal records. One in five women released in Harris County will receive insufficient support in overcoming these barriers.

Women reentering society face additional challenges that are often overlooked including a lack of job skills, need for family housing, and difficulty finding employers offering positions conducive to childcare responsibilities. These challenges combined with a lack of resources and support put women with criminal records at higher risk of homelessness, mental illness, and addiction than their male counterparts.

This obvious need is why The Women’s Home will be hosting an all day summit to show community leaders the faces of those struggling with reentry. The Re:Entry summit, funded in part by Houston Bar Foundation, will take place September 30th United Way Houston. Partnering with local organizations, the summit will address issues including housing, job skills, the children our incarceration system leaves behind and research supported alternatives to the traditional prison system.

The summit will have education panels featuring local experts and policy makers who are advocating for fair and accessible resources for those with criminal histories. This portion of the summit will focus on educating service providers, community leaders, and local businesses about the challenges women previously incarcerated face when reentering society.

“We see these struggles everyday with many of the clients we serve, and we hope this summit serves as a way to address the problems, while directly helping the women who will be attending,” Marcia Tapp, Director of Resource Development for The Women’s Home said.

2015 WholeLife Luncheon

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2015 Laura Sampson Community Award Honorees from Left to Right:

Dr. Sippi Khurana, Elaine Turner, Alden Clark and the Reverend Michael Gott, Jindi Vincent (former President ofThe Women’s Energy Network)

Late on the sunny morning of Friday June 5, 280 guests gathered at the Houstonian Hotel for our 2015 WholeLife Luncheon featuring author Carine McCandless. Emceed by The Women’s Home Advisory Board Member and Great Day Houston Host Deborah Duncan, the luncheon began with thanks to sponsors before recognizing our 2015 Laura Sampson Community Award Honorees.  Recognized for their philanthropic dedication to their communities, our 2015 honorees were Dr. Sippi KhuranaElaine TurnerAlden Clark and the Reverend Michael Gott and The Women’s Energy Network. The Women’s Home Executive Director Paula Paust then announced our 2015 WholeLife® Award Winner, Bryson Blair. The WholeLife Award goes to a graduate of The Women’s Home Treatment and Transitional Housing program who has flourished in her life and recovery. Bryson’s perseverance, bravery and honesty embody what it means to live a whole life.

Carine McCandless took the podium for the final portion of the luncheon, where she told the story of her brother, Chris McCandless also known as Alexander Supertramp, who was first made famous by Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild. Carine explained how the longer she spoke about her brother’s story at engagements and schools, where her candid honesty with students regularly led one in the crowd to come privately to her for help, the more she felt compelled to come forth with the whole story. This led to the writing of her memoir, The Wild Truth, which details how a childhood marked by domestic violence both emotional and physical, deeply shaped both her and Chris’s lives.

Carine explained that while her brother was drawn more and more to the wilderness for refuge from their family struggles, she found herself driven to the city and involved in relationships that mirrored the violence of her family home. When faced with these difficult situations, Carine invoked the image of two roads, one clear, straight and smooth, but somehow unsettling, the other winding and potholed, but with signs of promise for the journey ahead. Carine committed to the harder more rewarding path at each turn in her life and found success.

Carine’s story shows the same determination and indomitable spirit she recognizes in her brother. Time and again she found the strength to leave toxic relationships and the commitment to go through school, to run her own business, and begin a family she never expected to have.

Guests of the luncheon each received a signed copy of Carine’s memoir, The Wild Truth and had the opportunity to speak with Carine and have their book personalized after the program. Guests also bid on silent auction items provided by presenting sponsor Morton Auctioneers & Appraisers, 2015 honoree and bronze sponsor Elaine Turner, and fashion boutique Lucho. Attendees raised over $85,000 that will go towards helping women like Bryson build whole lives.

Donate to The Women’s Home and reNew Your Wardrobe!

reNew Collage

Tickets for our 6th annual reNew & reDo Fashion Show and Shopping Event are now on sale! With our biggest shopping event of the year on the horizon we are calling all Houston’s most fashionable men and women to clean out their couture closets for the cause.

Months before the show, we begin gathering the high fashion and designer clothing, shoes, handbags, and accessories for men and women from brands including Gucci, Prada, Dior, Chanel, and Michael Kors that will grace the racks and the runway in August. Couture comes from personal closets as well as boutique donations gathered from our friends and neighbors in the community.

If you have gently used designer styles in your closet that are looking for a new life, please contribute to making this year’s reNew & reDo bigger and better than ever by donating them to The Cottage Shop. Have an organization you’re a part of that’s interested in holding a clothing drive? Contact Chau Nguyen atcnguyen@thewomenshome.org or 713-328-1950.

Spirituality: The Search Continues

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Residents continue their spiritual journey with The Search Continues

Readers may remember we began our spiritual program The Courage To Search in the summer of 2014. The Courage to Search, which was featured in our Fall 2014 newsletter, is a seven week program residents of our Treatment and Transitional program can participate in after their first 90 days at The Women’s Home. The program begins with a Meaning System Interview (MSI), developed by The Women’s Home collaborator and Vice President of the Institute for Spirituality and Health, Stuart Nelson, and his mentor, Dr. Ann Taves, which helps residents map their spiritual belief system at the start of the course and is done again midway through to mark their progress. The MSI is designed to allow open exploration for all belief systems, whether an individual is a devout member of a particular religion, a nondenominational theist, or a strict atheist. The course engages participants in exploring what spirituality is for them, how they see not only themselves but others on a deeper level.

The Courage to Search program has received such positive feedback from residents that The Home is developing a continuation of the program called The Search Continues. The Search Continues will pair residents who’ve completed The Courage to Search with their own trained spiritual companion to help them further their individual journey. Stuart Nelson is working with staff to develop The Search Continues with the help of community volunteer Mary Gracely, an ordained interfaith minister who first heard about The Women’s Home when she was invited to deliver the invocation at our Women of Substance afternoon tea. Exploring opportunities to become involved Mary was invited to become a part of the trained volunteer team that organizes and develops our spiritual program.

When Mary sat in on one of the Courage to Search sessions she was “absolutely blown away by everyone in attendance.” Mary who became an interfaith minister through the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary spent two years studying the practices of many faiths including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. She enjoys working with people who are seeking spiritual growth and helping them reconnect with the divine part of themselves. “We trip up in our humanness, but I think when we return to that divine remembrance we live life in a more joyful way…The payoff is absolutely grand.”

Staff members along with Mary and Stuart will meet with residents who’ve completed The Courage to Search to hear their feedback and what they are seeking from The Search Continues in order to develop the best program for their needs. For more information contact The Women’s Home Development Manager, Debra Richmond at drichmond@thewomenshome.org or 713-328-1950.