It’s paradoxical, but true: People most aware of their own needs are often the most willing to give thanks for conditions others take for granted or even resent.
And so, as Americans ponder blessings much of the world can scarcely comprehend, 11 women living in a deceptively grand south-side home are grateful for food, shelter and other basics – and for the chance of a better future that those things represent.
“I needed foundation and direction in my life, and they do a tremendous job here,” said Mickey, a self-confessed 57-year-old crack addict who checked herself into the Redemption House Ministries at 2720 Fairfield Ave. in an effort to get clean and sober.
Never heard of Redemption House? Not surprising, since it won’t officially exist until a grand reopening later this month. But the fact that the former Wings of Hope Prison Ministry still functions, and that Mickey and the others are able to find refuge there, may itself be a minor holiday miracle.
“(Founder) Linda Kluczinske left, and the place kind of fell apart. There was just one resident, and it was going to close. They needed to address a lot of things,” said Tomra “Tomi” Cardin, who since being hired as executive director in August has supervised painting, donation of new furnishings and other improvements to much of the home’s interior, strengthened fund-raising efforts, and used her contacts in the criminal justice system and elsewhere to fill the transitional shelter to near-capacity.
The renaming has more to do with legal threats from a similarly named organization in Missouri than with a change in focus, but the new identity is appropriate nevertheless because the “redemption” of people struggling with substance abuse, homelessness or legal problems is the whole point.
Founded by Kluczinske in 1997, most women stay between six months and one year and pay rent of $50 per week if they can. The addicted receive counseling, the unemployed receive job training and all are expected to do chores around the 108-year-old brick mansion, which retains much of its original woodwork and fixtures.
“I’ve tried it on my own. It doesn’t work,” said 40-year-old Marisa, who was placed at Redemption House by the courts after a drug-related conviction. Although she hopes Redemption House will help her avoid a relapse, she also hopes for something else of at least equal importance: a reconnection to the faith that once helped her resist self-destructive temptations.
With a background that includes prison ministry, work with Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County and Faith-Based Mentoring Ministries, which seeks employment for people recently released from prison, has seen first-hand how faith and the spiritual support of others can help restore fragile and even broken lives. That’s why the Redemption House offers optional Bible study and other religious components, including job counseling through Faith-Based Mentoring.
Good intentions don’t pay the bills, of course. A staff of seven is needed to operate the shelter 24 hours every day, seven days a week, and Redemption House is still thousands of dollars per month short of meeting its needs, Cardin said.
But just as the house’s residents are encouraged to believe in a higher power and a better future, Cardin said she, too, has faith things will continue to improve. As the budget allows, additional counselors and caseworkers will be hired and two more rooms renovated – creating space for another six residents.
And that, in turn, would give Allen Superior Judge Wendy Davis another reason for gratitude.
“Our drug problem is skyrocketing,” said Davis, who has sent several non-violent offenders to Redemption House so they can get help rather than jail time. “So many people aren’t a threat (to society); they’re addicts and need help. And we just don’t have a lot of in-patient treatment centers.
“I can’t put them back on the street or they’ll be back into the activities that got them into my court to begin with. Redemption House is a safe place and they do good work.”
And after several months there, many of the women remain on probation while they continue their search for the kind of redemption that will keep them out of trouble for the rest of their lives and beyond. Not all will make it, but some will.
And each of those mundane day-to-day victories will represent another reason to give thanks – even if some who have never known hardship fail to understand what all the rejoicing is about.