In the spring of 2002 a small group of women, who were interested in the use of a vacant building in downtown Nashville, began meeting to discuss and pray about ways to use this building to serve the less fortunate. A community survey of over thirty government and private agencies revealed that one of the largest unmet needs in Middle Tennessee was in the area of transitional housing and services for women ex-offenders.
What a place!� An artful stone backdrop in the Freedom Recovery Community courtyard welcomes tenants to their new temporary home.
The program called The Next Door (thenextdoor.org/) was the plan devised to address the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of women coming from incarceration. The Next Door, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving women in crisis, equipping them for lives of wholeness and hope.
As they grew, it because obvious there was a need for another facility. On June 27, 2007, a grand opening of a new facility, the Freedom Recovery Center, was held with the public and local government, corporations, foundations, and individual donors who funded the rehab of existing apartments into a new housing facility for women and their children as they transition from crisis to productive citizenship. This innovative recovery support program will offer permanent housing and focus on family reunification by providing family counseling, parenting and child development classes, after school and summer activities, and more.
A typical unit provides safety, security and a decent living environment.
Next Door Chief Executive Officer, Linda Leathers and her Staff were in receipt of kudos from the many partners that made the plan a reality. In fact, John P. Walters, Director of the White House Office for National Drug Control Policy, joined Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and the many partners, including HUD-Nashville, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and others to celebrate the opening of the much needed facility.
HUD's role in the funding was based on a proven program that assists agencies to fight chronic homelessness. In 2006, HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development approved a two-year Supportive Housing Program grant of over $376 thousand for Next Door working with the Nashville Continuum of Care. Continuums of Care are one of the outlets that participating community and faith-based organizations use to alleviate homelessness in their communities.
What are they? A continuum of care system is designed to address the critical problem of homelessness through a coordinated community-based process of identifying needs and building a system to address those needs. The approach is predicated on the understanding that homelessness is not caused merely by a lack of shelter, but involves a variety of underlying, unmet needs - physical, economic, and social.
"This transitional housing will make a difference in the quality of life for these women and their children. Thank you for inviting us to be a part of this celebration," said Nashville Field Office Director, Bill Dirl. Most of the credit goes to the HUD Community Planning and Development Office located in the Knoxville Field Office and to the Nashville Continuum of Care - led by the Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) (www.nashville.gov/mdha/) and other partners.
Just ask Next Door Case Manager, Ramie Siler, and her daughter if these programs work. She'll definitely say yes, as these programs have allowed her to gain more education; stabilize her life, and secure a better future for her and her family. Helping others to grab hold of a way of life that is self-supportive is the goal of The Next Door. Helping others get that stability is what helps citizens to lead productive lives. After all, family values are not based on rhetoric, but by "walking the walk." The Freedom Recovery Community will offer these women the chance to walk the walk and thereby help others to do the same.