Sponsors’ women’s program has not only hired a new director, but it is also about to get a third house specifically designed for women with children. Sponsors aims at reducing recidivism by providing services to help men and women transition back into the community from jail and prison.
Running since December 1993, Sponsors’ women’s program currently consists of two houses offering 21 beds and varied services to women with criminal histories. They are part of the 11 buildings on five sites that make up all Sponsors programs. This new program, “Reuniting in a Supportive Environment,” is the first of its kind in Oregon.
“What we do is a small investment in their success,” says Paul Solomon, Sponsors executive director. Among other things, Sponsors provides employment services, education services and mentoring.
Molly Buchanan spent three months in the women’s program. She describes the experience as amazing. “I have a huge gratitude towards the program,” she says. “Without them, I’m not sure I would have made it.”
After only three weeks in the women’s program she found a job at a local café. Now she lives outside of the Sponsors house in her own apartment. “The staff there is extremely supportive and encouraging,” she says.
Kelley Story, who joined as women’s program director in May, is bringing more than 20 years of experience to Sponsors. She is responsible for the daily operations of the house, and part of her job is to go through applications, organize meetings every week and facilitate job interviews for the women in the house.
She explains that women have different needs than men and very specific ones: Some of them have children or are fighting for custody.
The new house will be specifically designed for parenting, with five additional rooms for women with one or two children. This will be the first program in Oregon designed especially for the needs of women with children with a focus on educational programs.
“When we’re helping women, it’s not only to transition back to the community, but also to be good parents to their kids,” Solomon says. Studies from Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology have shown a link between having a convicted parent and criminal or antisocial behavior in teenagers.
With 90 percent of the money raised, the construction of the house will start shortly. The groundbreaking ceremony takes place on Aug. 1. Solomon expects the house to be ready before the end of the year, a nice present for Sponsors’ 40th anniversary.