There are some remarkable success stories coming out of the Women’s Residential Center. The well-researched curriculum used at this 40-bed facility has been making real changes in women’s lives.
The residential program typically lasts for six months and provides structure, stability, safety and new tools for creating lifestyle changes. More importantly, it helps uncover the vital sense of self-worth and purpose inherent in all of us. But, if you want real evidence of the positive impact these programs are having, you need look no further than Shanna’s story.
Shanna was abandoned by her mother when she was only 15 months old. Her father did the best he could to raise her, but with a series of stepmothers and step siblings, Shanna’s life became a confusing patchwork of family identities that robbed her of a sense of who she was.
At age twenty-one she married a man who had grown up in one foster home after another. When he started using heroin, Shanna tried, but failed to rescue him and ended up being pulled into the addiction herself.
Five years of drug use resulted in four arrests, probation violations, five detox programs, and two different drug treatment centers. Nothing seemed to help Shanna find solid ground.
Then in July 1999, with her husband incarcerated and their three children in foster homes, Shanna found herself homeless, pregnant, using drugs intravenously and once again back in jail. She was in the highest risk category and was a prime candidate for referral into Volunteers of America Oregon Women’s Residential Center program.
She stayed in jail for two weeks waiting for a bed at the center to become available–and for a whole new chapter of her life to start unfolding.
“I was terrified when I first checked into the center,” Shanna recalled, “I didn’t know anyone, I was out of contact with my husband and children, I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I arrived underweight and malnourished, and feeling pretty hopeless.” she said, “Then I started eating right, exercising, learning new ways to see my life and other people, finding incredible support, and I started feeling better about myself.”
The daily schedule at the center is tightly organized from early morning to night with meaningful support groups, re-education programs, exercise, assigned chores, counseling and training. It was virtually Shanna’s first experience with purposeful day-to-day structure.
In many instances, women are given the opportunity to get job training and paid work experience both in and away from the center. Their kitchen program, for example, trains women in meal planning and preparation. They not only provide meals for the women’s center, but also cater local events and provide school lunches for educational facilities in Portland.
Shanna graduated from the center and spent 14 months in transitional housing and now lives in a tidy little home in a quiet family-oriented neighborhood. Shanna has remained clean and sober and is a proud alumna of the Women’s Residential Center.