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Giving women a new start

November 24, 2018 GMT

Deb Burton has a stack of 14 applications from women who’d like a bed at The Rose Home in Fort Wayne.

Trouble is, she has only 10 beds at the exuberantly painted Victorian-era house on Wayne Trace.

And at the moment, all are full.

The Rose Home is one of many area nonprofit groups included in The Journal Gazette’s annual holiday charity giving list. The alphabetical listing of charities and their needs began Friday and continues today.

Burton is executive director of the Christian transitional housing program for women dedicated to recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol. She says the opioid epidemic has kept the program busy to bursting.

“It started probably about four years ago,” she said of the higher number of women seeking out the program because of addiction to opioid painkiller pills or their cousins, morphine and heroin.

More and more, instead of women seeking help on their own, “We get referrals through the criminal justice system : the court system, drug court, probation, counselors,” Burton said.

“Sometimes women come to us straight from jail or from prison. Sometimes they have been in other facilities and have gotten kicked out, or there is a divorce and they become homeless.

“Sometimes, community doctors refer them to us and sometimes they (still) self-refer,” Burton continued. “We just get people from a wide variety of life situations.”

Women commit to living sober in the house for six months, Burton said. They must find work and pay $140 a week in rent.

But house managers try to provide all the material goods needed by the women, such as groceries, laundry soap, undergarments, bedding, towels and shampoo, she said.

The program’s homes : a second Rose Home is located in Syracuse : also go through the amount of paper towels, tissues, toilet paper and cleaning supplies needed by any place “with a dozen adults living under the same roof,” Burton said.

Some women come into the program with virtually nothing, she added.

About one-third of the home’s budget comes from the women, and two-thirds comes from foundation grants and donations, said Barb Kaminskas of Fort Wayne, board member and a former executive director.

She said several local Christian foundations support the program through grants.

The largest grant comes from the Catholic-oriented Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation, and the Vincent and Lois Tippmann Foundation owns the building, she said.

The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, the St. Joseph Community Foundation, St. Mary’s Heritage Fund, the Charles W. Kuhne Foundation and the McMillen Foundation Inc. also support the program.

The home also benefits from government funding that comes through the court system as it stresses treatment for addiction as an alternative to incarceration, Kaminskas said.

Clients “have (to pay) drug court costs, so for them to have this other assistance is really nice. They tend to be digging themselves out of a pretty deep hole,” she said.

The home runs on basic Christian principles, Burton said.

But the religious components of the program are voluntary, she added.

“We honor all faiths here : no one is turned away because of their religious beliefs or lack of them. If they don’t choose to participate, we hope we can guide them into whatever they feel comfortable with,” Burton explained.

But many residents find support and companionship through the home’s Bible studies, addiction courses and meetings, and family-style dinners, Burton said.

Women “work outside (the program), and when they get home from work, they cook,” she said.

“That’s part of learning how to be a human again.”