GREEN TOWNSHIP- A new local ministry is renovating a dilapidated assisted living home to provide Christ-centered transitional housing for women.
Debbie's House, located in the former Serenity House on Youngstown-Salem Road north of Salem, will serve as a short-term (six to 24 months) non-profit, faith-based housing program geared toward helping women establish a strong relationship with God during their transition to a successful independence.
"The only way to everlasting change is through Jesus Christ," said Janet Stone, program director. "Our program here will emphasize Christ as the center of their life."
Having conducted a Bible study program for women at the Columbiana County Jail for three years prior to starting Debbie's House, Stone said the program will include independent work with a case manager for such activities as job searching or earning GEDs during the day. In the evenings, the residents as a group will attend community support meetings such as rehabilitation programs and church services.
In addition to transitional housing, the program will include mentoring and fellowship, Biblical instruction and networking with local organizations for job training, financial counseling, addiction recovery, life skills, spiritual growth, relationship issues and educational programs.
"They need a place to come to do their healing, get an education for a vocation, receive help as they move on with their lives," Stone explained. "What we want to do is provide a stable environment for them [to do that]."
According to Stone, Debbie's House will be providing the housing and support program while securing more in depth recovery services from other community agencies. Residents will be able to develop life skills and education to obtain employment, she said.
"It's a crucial factor in whether they are successful," she noted.
The home, scheduled to open within the next 30 days, has been a long-term project for Stone.
Born and raised in the area, Stone moved with her family to California while she was in high school. After raising her own daughter, she moved back to the area seven years ago. She said God had given her the vision for Debbie's House in the late 1980s when she housed a young woman named Debbie who had just been released from prison, battling AIDS and struggling to maintain a new found faith in Christ. After watching her mature into a woman of God, becoming a living example of His redemptive powers, Stone said she felt compelled to help others in the same situation.
Her work with the female prisoners from the area showed her a need for a transitional housing program, she said.
"I'd see women who grow close to Christ while in prison, then they are discharged and go back to their old homes, the bad environments, often without the means for a supportive environment," she said. "They lack money for a home, for transportation, for education, away from all of that."
Stone purchased the home, sitting empty for several years, last September. With the help of local churches, she has been renovating the distressed property since, installing new electrical and plumbing systems, insulation and dry wall. The facility will house seven women and one live-in resident manager when it opens and is permitted up to 16 residents.
The home will be staffed by volunteers and supported by donations. Volunteers are needed for transportation, Bible study, companionship and life skills. Donations, monetary and otherwise, are also being accepted. For information contact Debbie's House at 234-567-1292 or visit the Ladies of Debbie's House on Facebook.
Kevin Howell can be reached at email@example.com