The work we do here at The Women’s Home would not be possible without the amazing support of dedicated volunteers in the Houston Community. Volunteers provide support through all aspects of our operations, from helping our special events run smoothly and keeping merchandise moving at The Cottage Shop, to providing job training classes and hosting events for our residents.
On Saturday November 7th the Omega Gamma Zeta (OGZ) Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. Sorority volunteered at The Cottage Shop helping process incoming donations and prepare merchandise for the shop floor. Back in May, OGZ asked a member of our staff to speak at their annual Parade of Salads Luncheon, which focused on the importance of mental health awareness in the community. OGZ has been supporting the Houston community through volunteer work since their founding in August 1990. The Women’s Home is grateful to have OGZ volunteer with us and their help is always welcome.
On Tuesday October 27th our residents’ final awards banquet of the year was hosted by a group of volunteers from the National Charity League-Heart of Texas Chapter—a mother-daughter volunteer organization that first helped out The Home back in March.Organizer Jenny Finch and other representatives from NCL decorated the room with beautiful fresh pumpkins carved into flower vases and warm fall centerpieces for the ceremony. NCL also stocked the dessert table with delicious cakes and cookies, and provided door prizes for the evening along with gifts for our graduating residents. Our quarterly awards banquets are important occasions where residents’ hard efforts are acknowledged and celebrated, and we thank NCL for making this impactful evening all the more beautiful. We’re excited to have NCL return in December to decorate our residential facilities and life learning center for the season.
Witnessing the struggles that our residents with criminal records face as they work towards a second chance inspired us to develop and host the Re:Entry Summit this past September. The public’s lack of awareness of the lasting impact criminal records have on individuals makes it difficult for The Women’s Home, and organizations like us, to gain support from our communities for clients confronting this uphill battle. Additionally, many of those leaving the criminal justice system often aren’t informed about the resources available to them upon reentering society.
Three graduates of our treatment and transitional housing program agreed to be panelists in the Re:Entry Summit for exactly these reasons. Tina Carr, Natasha Jones and Anna Rabe all know the value of second chances, and the Re:Entry Summit gave them the opportunity to talk about the impact that a new chance can have while putting a personal face on the issues of reentry. Though their stories are different, all three received their second chance when STAR Court, a diversion court program, offered them the opportunity to come to The Women’s Home as a part of the judicial process. STAR Court offers those facing nonviolent drug convictions the opportunity to enter a treatment program and work to regain their sobriety and independence. Participants that meet STAR Court requirements by the end of their program then have their criminal records expunged, enabling them to move forward with a fresh start.
Tina came to The Women’s Home after many encounters with the criminal justice system. “I felt like I was just a number,” she told the summit attendees. “I was called a habitual and was punished rather than provided treatment, which is what I needed.” STAR Court and The Women’s Home served as Tina’s introduction to recovery and life skills, which she embraced whole-heartedly. Today she works for The Harris Center for Mental Health, where she is a certified peer specialist in the Harris County Jail’s Mental Health Unit. “I never imagined that life could be so good. All of my liabilities have been turned into assets,” she says. Tina leads by example, helping those who are struggling the way she once was to believe that recovery is achievable for everyone. “People need a hand up,” she says. “And if we give this to them, we show them that things they did do not define who they are. We give them hope, and therefore they have hope in themselves and share this hope with others.”
Natasha told her story as part of a panel about the narratives of women in prison, but summit attendees had received a preview of her experience via this pre-recorded video that morning.
Natasha participated in the summit in the hope that her “experience and knowledge could help others understand how hard it is for women to get homes and work” after leaving the criminal justice system. Natasha had heard of The Women’s Home and wanted to participate in our program, but it was STAR Court that finally helped her be ready for The Home. “The Women’s Home gave me the support and tools I needed to live a fuller life,” she says. Today, Natasha is a happily married homeowner whose children are again a part of her life. Working as an apartment manager for a complex with a leasing policy that is forgiving to those with criminal histories, Natasha is happy to give others a second chance as well. She provides to her tenants a list of employers with inclusive hiring policies, so any residents seeking better opportunities know what’s available to them.
Anna spoke on a panel about the value of diversion court programs like STAR Court. “I wanted to give some insight into my experience with diversion court,” she says, “and to help paint a picture of the type of person they can help.” She came to The Home when STAR Court gave her the choice: either go through the traditional system or follow their guidelines alongside the structure The Women’s Home provided. “My court program gave me suggestions and held me accountable for [my own] job search,” she says. “The Women’s Home gave me support, therapy, job training, and helped me believe in myself and that I could recreate my life and be the person I set out to be years ago.” Today she is happy and healthy, with loving friends who appreciate who she is. Anna works as an employment professional, connecting those in need with important job opportunities. She adds, “Helping them put food on the table for their families is the best feeling in the world.”
The Women’s Home is grateful for the courage and honesty these three graduates from our program showed by standing up and speaking out at our Re:Entry Summit. By sharing their stories, they put a face to the often unseen and pervasive struggles that those reentering society encounter. They showed everyone attending the summit the value of a second chance.
Being connected to the community you live in fosters an important sense of belonging. At our supportive housing facility, Jane Cizik Garden Place (JCGP), events and activities provided by staff and volunteers give residents the chance to socialize. Every month, JCGP hosts at least three events for residents, including the much-loved Ladies’ Night organized by Terrace United Methodist Church, a potluck organized by residents, and an event organized by staff based on resident interest or feedback. These events as well as any others that occur throughout the month are all shared with residents via the monthly newsletter JCGP Sr. Case Manager Ashley Stratton and Case Manager Nena Chima compose and place on residents’ doors at the start of each month.
The newsletter not only covers the events at Jane Cizik Garden Place, but includes resident birthdays for the month and events around the city that are free or low cost. The newsletters also include healthy recipes, a literature spotlight, and a headline story that lines up with national events like Alcohol Awareness month. Resident feedback also plays a role in the featured coverage in the newsletter. For example, a resident came to staff interested in learning ways she could improve her overall wellness, and the following newsletter’s theme was optimum health.
Residents also play an important role in bringing events their neighbors can benefit from to JCGP’s campus. A few months ago, a resident was interested in participating in
, a program that helps eligible employed individuals and families with a flawed or no credit history secure and pay off a loan for a car. Ways to Work requires participants go through a one-time orientation before they provide one on one consultation services to secure a loan and support services. The interested resident asked Ways to Work to host the orientation at Jane Cizik Garden Place, allowing her and nine other residents to participate.
Another resident brought nutrition classes to JCGP when she heard her doctor’s office was offering them in the community. Other events that residents initiated have been a community-wide garage sale, and next month the opportunity for free haircuts. Knowing their suggestions effect the events and calendar each month, and hearing positive feedback from their neighbors, ensures that residents feel like they have a positive impact on their community.
The events that residents most appreciate most are ones that provide enrichment and skills they can apply in their lives. Popular classes include a financial boot camp put on by Easter Seals that teaches residents important budgeting, credit, and financial literacy skills. On a different track on Friday, October 16th a make-up artist came and gave residents styling and beauty advice. Events on site at Jane Cizik Garden Place allow all residents, even those with limited time, money or mobility, the opportunity to connect and feel a part of their residential community. One of the newer residents told case managers that the events at JCGP make her feel like “she belongs and that she’s involved.”
Exxon Mobil Impact day was Tuesday October 20, 2015 and 40 volunteers from ExxonMobil’s Fuels, Lubes, Corporate Global Services Company (FLCG) Procurement Team took over The Cottage Shop to give the store a boost inside and out! The Shop was closed for the day as volunteers rolled up their sleeves and gave the walls a fresh coat of paint, including our fitting rooms and their doors, installed 31 new shelves for our shoe displays, and laid gravel beside our bushes along Westheimer.
Volunteers were also busy down in the basement, helping us sort through the major treasure trove of clothing, shoes, jewelry and other accessories generously donated by a boutique. Their help processing all this merchandise was integral to getting the new goods out on the floor for our shoppers to enjoy!
This day of giving back is a part of Exxon Mobil’s Impact Day, formerly called Day of Caring, with United Way. With over 10,500 volunteers this year, Impact Day projects through United Way give corporations the opportunity to give back and support the needs of local nonprofits. ExxonMobil’s FLCG Team Procurement Associate Spencer Hutchings said they selected The Women’s Home as beneficiaries “based on the upstanding work The Home does and the values that it holds.”
The Women’s Home is grateful to ExxonMobil’s FLCG Procurement Team for their hard work and enthusiasm!
On the sunny Saturday of September 19th, The Women’s Home Cottage Shop joined 39 other vendors of vintage and antique goods for the Houston Vintage Festival. Hosted in the spacious and repurposed air hangar of the 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Hobby Airport, the festival brought together lovers of vintage goods, fashion and beauty with pop up vendors, a retro beauty contest and eats from local food trucks. The Cottage Shop was connected to Festival organizers by friend of The Home and Ms. Houston Vintage Judge, Tina Zulu, owner of Zulu Creative. The Festival’s organizers,Dawn Bell, Diana Candida, Maria Martinez, and Mitch Cohen generously donated a booth space to The Cottage Shop after hearing about the vital role The Shop plays in supporting our programs through revenue, and providing job training to our residents.
The Cottage Shop team split up to keep our shop open as usual while Cottage Shop Manager Cheri Barton and Cottage Shop Associate Gustavo Vila packed up Shop’s vintage collection of clothing, hats, jewelry and other accessories to sell at the festival. Over the course of the day, The Cottage Shop team met several new customers and reconnected with patrons who hadn’t visited in a while. By all accounts, customers were impressed with how the Shop has grown. By the end of the festival, the pop up vintage boutique gave us great exposure for our mission, the shop’s vintage section and a little added financial support.
We’re thrilled to have been a part of the Houston Vintage Festival’s stylish look back. Thank you again to the organizers Dawn, Diana, Maria and Mitch for inviting us to be a part of the festivities!
Have you been wearing that same little something every holiday party for the last three years? If you’re looking for a change in your holiday style, and a way to give your old clothes new life, donate your gently worn clothing, shoes, and home goods to The Cottage Shop. We are looking for men’s and women’s evening wear, shoes, and handbags to help us stock up for Shop. Taste. Empower. in November! Not looking to retire your special holiday outfit, but gotten the last mile out of that festive light-up sweater? Bring it down to The Cottage Shop to liven up someone else’s holiday festivities. Or if you have that unusual gift from last year’s white elephant exchange that you’ve never found a place for? Re-gift it to us and make someone else’s holiday gift hunt!
Our very first Shop. Taste. Empower. was Sunday, May 3, 2015 at The Cottage Shop and 200 shoppers came to sample delicious eats from Hungry’s, BB’s Roadhouse, and Phoenicia’s, bid on amazing silent auction items and catch great deals on all merchandise at the shop.
The event was such a great hit, we’re doing it again on Sunday, November 15 just in time for holiday shopping, and we need your help to make sure it will be even bigger and better than before! Tres Chic Boutique, owned by mother and daughter team Susan and Elizabeth Hancock, has generously donated over 100 pieces of stunning high fashion clothing which we’ll have on sale that Sunday and we’re looking for other donors to join them in stocking our shelves.
This holiday edition of Shop. Taste. Empower we’ll have sweet bites and warm drinks from Whole Foods, Jody Cakes, Paulie’s, and Greenway Coffee Company. DJ Gracie Chavez will be back again to mix tunes to help shoppers get in the spirit of the season as fashion stylist Dawn Bell and Make-Up Artists and hair stylist Justin Hernandez, and Lydia Lutz offer style and beauty tips to interested attendees. Our Media Sponsor, Houstonia will have special promotional goodies and copies of Houstonia Magazine the day of the event. In addition to holiday styles for men and women in our vintage and evening sections, and our ugly holiday sweaters, we’ll have gift sections to help you find stocking stuffers, white elephant presents, and gifts big and small for all the people in your life.
If you’ve got potential merchandise for Shop. Taste. Empower. collecting dust in your closet or home, shake it off and donate it to The Cottage Shop by Friday November 6, 2015 and help us make this event fabulous and festive!
Then on the day of the event, bring your gently used winter wear for women including coats, hats, gloves, scarves and sweaters as a donation and get a free goody bag full of swag as our gift to you for helping our residents stay warm for winter!
What we’d like to say first and foremost is thank you. Thank you for your continued support of The Women’s Home. Thank you for understanding how important it is to provide resources and a real second chance to women in crisis. Because of you and people like you, many local women are longer on the streets. They are no longer afraid for their life. They are sober and employed and looking at their first real chance at a bright future. Because of you, they are now a productive member of this city.
This year, we ask that you consider becoming a part of our Leadership Circle. This special group of donors provides an annual contribution to The Home, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 and allows our organization to continue providing the vital programs necessary to help rebuild the lives of the Houston area women in our care. This group of major donors assure The Women’s Home of a well-balanced and robust charitable base that will strengthen our ability to serve more women in need. There are few people on this earth who are not touched, in some way, by addiction, mental illness, or abuse. Present or past, immediate family or a friend, a coworker, or spouse. You know someone. Without intervention and support these traumas can lead to homelessness. These issues are multi-layered and they require individualized, multi-layered solutions.
That’s where The Women’s Home comes in. In the 60 years since its founding, The Home has established itself in Houston as a leader in solutions to the problem of homelessness. We have utilized innovative, evolving and proven intervention to provide the lost women of our city a fighting chance. Our WholeLife® program has received accolades nationally for its efficacy.
Because of your unwavering support, there are now two doors for the journey of recovery. Jane Cizik Garden Place apartment community provides housing that is safe and affordable for graduates of our program and others who desire to live in a sober, supportive environment. In addition, our treatment and transitional residential facility in Montrose continues to be a place of acceptance for those weary women who commit to begin anew.
Talk to Julie Comiskey, Chief Development Officer to make your year end, tax deductible pledge. It is vital to our work, vital to hope in the lives of so many women who need to envision and be able to achieve transformation.
The first full week of October, the 4th through the 10th, is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). Established in 1990 by Congress, this week is dedicated to raising awareness, educating the public, and promoting acceptance of those with mental illness. In the 25 years since its founding, there has been major progress in social attitudes, understanding, and treatment of mental illness and those who live with it, but a need remains for greater research and empathy for the way those with mental illness navigate and view the world.
“For our women who struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, behavioral health treatment is essential to their survival. So often I hear our women say that if it were not for The Women’s Home they would not be alive. We also know that nearly 50% of those in prison have a substance abuse or mental illness disorder. The majority have never been treated for their illness. Having access to treatment is more cost effective and more humane than prison or potentially suicide.” Paula Paust, Executive Director of The Women’s Home.
That need for understanding and adaptability is why The Women’s Home is dedicated to ensuring our behavioral health staff and interns utilize the best research-based practices possible to serve our residents. It is why we are dedicated not only to ensuring our staff receive the best training possible, but that our interns do as well, so when they leave The Home, they will have the skills necessary to serve the community. As a part of following best practices, we provide trauma-informed care to our residents that treats not only their struggles with addiction or mental illness but addresses the underlying history and events that exacerbate and cause these conditions. By helping our clients find and unpack the root causes and triggers of the conditions that effect their daily lives, we give them the best opportunity to develop understanding and healthy tools to minimize stressors, combat their symptoms, and recover from illnesses that have overshadowed many of their lives.
We wrote in our article on National Recovery Month about the importance of collaborations and expert trainings to our programs and that is true for our behavioral health care as well. We strengthen our clinical care through partnership our partnership with Baylor College of Medicine to provide on-site psychiatric care and medication. Our clinical staff and interns are trained in Brené Brown’s The Daring Way™ to help residents learn resilience and overcome their shame. Once construction on our WholeLife® Service Center and housing for women and families is complete, we will be able to expand our behavioral healthcare to include not only women, but their families as well through a partnership with Depelchin Children’s Center. Like all our programs, this new facility will informed by the standards and research provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) program. Coc supports nonprofits’ efforts to end homelessness through rapid rehousing, and access to mainstream support services while minimizing the trauma and effects of dislocation on those facing homelessness.
The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit is almost here! We’ve told you about the impactful speakers from out of state coming September 30th to speak about the lasting impact prison has on women and how limited resources prevents successful re-entry for many. The conference will also feature many accomplished local figures including Texas State Senator John Whitmire, Judge Denise Bradley, Judge Angela Ellis, Judge Vanessa Gilmore and Texas House of Representatives member Senfronia Thompson.
Senator John Whitmire represents the 15th Senatorial District in Texas, which includes North Houston and parts of Harris County. Elected in 1982, Senator Whitmire is the senior most member of the Texas Senate and is the “Dean of the Texas Senate. He serves as the Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and works to bring about needed changes to the adult and juvenile justice systems. He also Chairs the School Discipline Consensus Project, where leaders nationwide work together developing strategies to minimize the over-use of suspension and expulsion in public schools, improve students’ academic outcomes, reduce the referral to the juvenile justice system, and promote safe and productive learning environments. Senator Whitmire will deliver a noontime keynote speech to Summit Attendees.
Judge Denise Bradley currently serves as the Judge of the Texas 262nd Criminal District Court and presides over one of the Harris County Success Through Addiction Recover (STAR) courts. The STAR courts work with non-violent offenders struggling with addiction, giving them in-patient drug treatment, transitional housing and job training in an effort to keep them from returning to the criminal justice system. Judge Bradley also serves on the Specialty Courts Advisory Council. The council evaluates applications for grant funding for the therapeutic courts in Texas. A graduate of South Texas College of Law, before her election to the 262nd Criminal District Court Judge Bradley worked in the Trial Bureau and served as the Chief of the 177th and 185th District Courts. She also worked as the gang prosecutor and was assigned to the Major Offenders Division where she worked closely with the cold case squads of various law enforcement agencies.
Judge Angela Ellis is an associate judge of the 315th District Court. She is juvenile court judge who hears child welfare, juvenile justice cases, and requests for special immigrant juvenile status for undocumented children. She is also involved in the Growing Independence Restoring Lives (GIRLs) Court, a human trafficking treatment court for minors who have been victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. Before becoming an associate judge in 2009, Judge Ellis served as a lawyer after earning her law degree at South Texas College of Law.
Judge Vanessa Gilmore was the youngest sitting federal judge in the nation when she was first sworn in in 1994. The University of Houston Law Center graduate specialized in civil litigation during her 13 tenure with Vickery Killbride, Gillmore and Vickery Law firm. Judge Gillmore has also been widely active in the Houston community, serving on several boards including a term as president of the YWCA of Houston. She was the first African America person to serve on the Texas Department of Commerce Policy Board, which is dedicated to developing job training, increasing business and promoting tourism in Texas. Judge Gilmore is the co- author of “A Boy Named Rocky”, a book for the children of incarcerated parents and is a frequent speaker on issues related to these children and their families. She has worked on initiatives to help these families with access to resources for their children, including the development of a legal clinic at Texas Southern University.
A closing speech will be given by Texas House of Representatives member Senfronia Thompson, who has represented district 141, comprised of northeast Houston and the Humble, area since 1973. A graduate of Texas Southern University, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and University of Houston, Thompson served as the Dean of Women Legislators, and chairs the Women’s Health Caucus. She co-chairs the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking. In her career Rep. Thompson has been an advocate for child support enforcement, legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, and legislation combatting human trafficking.
Attendees on a tour of Jane Cizik Garden Place with Development Director, Marcia Tapp
On Thursday September 17, 2015, representatives from 17 different faith organizations across Houston gathered at Jane Cizik Garden Place to learn about The Women’s Home mission and need for volunteer involvement. The open house attendees included board members Bob Dyer and Lynda Hancock, as well as representatives from Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Martin’s Episcopal, Memorial Drive United Methodist, First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Windsor Village, Terrace United Methodist Church, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Texas Impact, Institute for Spirituality and Health, Mercy Street, Portal Houston, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Compassionate Houston, and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
Churches and faith communities have long been essential to The Women’s Home’s success. The open house was held both to honor congregations’ role in The Women’s Home’s mission, as well as to discuss ways churches and other faith communities could get even more involved. The Women’s Home’s Executive Director, Paula Paust, introduced guests to The Home’s WholeLife® model of care and how the six aspects of wellness inform all of the programs clients receive. Paula went on to introduce attendees to The Women’s Home’s expansion in Spring Branch, where a second 84 unit supportive housing facility for women and families as well as a WholeLife Service Center is being built. Board member Bob Dyer followed Paula and recounted his own personal journey to find a fulfilling opportunity to give back to the community in his retirement. He sought an organization that was cost effective in its operations, showed focus in its mission and impact, and had a need for the skills he possessed. In the end he was caught by surprise when The Women’s Home approached him and it turned out to be the perfect fit.
Chris Hammond, Manager of Volunteer Services, concluded the brief presentation by elaborating on the volunteer needs of The Home, highlighting its spirituality programs, The Courage to Search and The Search Continues, and the need for spiritual companions to provide support and comradery for residents interested in developing their spirituality. Development Director Marcia Tapp then lead a tour of the facilities, highlighting how features like two on-site case managers, a secure campus, on-site fitness facilities, a computer lab, and a meditation labyrinth all incorporate the WholeLife program into life at Jane Cizik.
Thank you to everyone who attended our congregational open house, we’re excited to have these passionate organizations interested in The Women’s Home and look forward to developing new relationships in the future.
If your congregation or faith group was unable to attend the open house, but wants to learn more about getting involved with The Home, please contact us at email@example.com.