Victoria opens first homeless shelter for women (w/video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 11, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated April 11, 2014 at 11:12 p.m.
Her eyes light up as she walks in the room, a perfect square with two twin beds and a dresser on one side.
To the right of the room, Pam Johnson's bedsheets are pulled tight, and she giggles as she points to her daughter Tru's multicolored comforter.
"We still have to get me a comforter," she said. "But it's really nice here. I feel like a little kid in a candy store."
For about 20 years, Johnson has floated from couches to floors to homes for women - all the while struggling with a crack cocaine addiction - but this time, she feels confident her life of homelessness may soon come to an end.
Johnson and Tru are new residents of House of Dreams, Victoria's first faith-based homeless shelter for women and children.
On Sunday, the 3,600-square-foot home opened to the public, making room for up to 20 residents.
"We opened a few days early because there was a family living in their car," and the mother risked losing her children to Child Protective Services, said Theresa Klacman, founder of Restoration House Ministries and House of Dreams.
Klacman is also a member of the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, which helped her forge the vision of a homeless shelter for women with skills training for when they exit the home.
Partnering with Faith Family Church, Klacman said the home is not about putting a Band-Aid on Victoria's area homeless problem. It's about using Christian principles of transformation that will be useful in the real world.
"Here, they are going to get parenting and financial classes, Bible studies, wellness exams from DeTar Hospital and job readiness training," she said.
Mark Longoria, Faith Family's outreach pastor, said his aim is to support the home and eventually see House of Dreams be a stepping stone to reducing homelessness in the long term.
"It's in my heart to meet real needs. I love doing programs like Toys for Tots and giving things away, but this home is going one step further and really helping people be changed," Longoria said. "We don't want to just minister to their needs but also to their potential. And we believe every person can achieve success and get free from poverty and live a blessed life."
Many of the residents, Klacman said, are homeless for various reasons. And unlike Restoration House, where the female residents may be struggling with addiction or other abuse, the women of House of Dreams are more likely to be struggling with social, generational homelessness.
"It's too early to tell what their stories are yet," she said. "I do believe many of them have the poverty mindset, and we want to change their mindset ... and let them know that Jesus Christ can transform their minds."
The home is still in need of twin beds, dressers, bookshelves, a dining room table and a van to transport the women. But it will also be accepting regular donations of sheets, toiletries and food, Longoria said.
Johnson, who has kicked her addiction to crack, said she's been sober for more than two years.
Knowing she will be a recipient of job and life skills, she's confident when she leaves House of Dreams that she may be on her way to achieving her own dreams.
"It's always been a dream to have a home of my own; it's just never come true," Johnson said. "My dream house is a white house with a picket fence. ... For the first time in my life, I believe I'll have it one day."
Clarification: House of Dreams is a faith-based facility that solely focuses on assisting homeless women and children. An article that ran on Page A1 on Saturday was unclear about other area programs that also provide assistance to the homeless:
Mid-Coast Family Services is a nonprofit that works to eliminate family violence, homelessness and substance abuse. One of its programs, The Women’s Crisis Center, is a residential home assisting men, women and children who are victims of family violence, sexual assault and homelessness.
Restoration House Ministries is a faith-based rehabilitation home for women dealing with addiction, abuse or other personal issues.
Perpetual Help Home is faith-based permanent, supported housing program helping women and children in hardship circumstances, such as being recently released from prison, substance abuse problems, homelessness or domestic violence.
Salvation Army is a faith-based shelter for the homeless, transients, residents and disaster victims.
House of Dreams is a faith-based residential home for homeless women and children.