Halfway house in need
An extended stay in a North Charleston halfway house helped Nellie Gash escape the temptations of the street and rebuild a life ravaged by crack cocaine and prison.
Women work to break the cycle with help from Magdalene House, published 07/20/08
At 44, Gash is sober, employed and enrolled in Trident Technical College. She hopes to get a place of her own soon and move out of Magdalene House, a nonprofit that helps women try to break the cycle of addiction and incarceration.
Gash credits Magdalene House with saving her life. But as she prepares to graduate from the program, she wonders if the same helping hand will be around to lift others from their cycles of despair.
After two years in operation, Magdalene House is almost out of money and struggling to keep its doors open.
Donations have dried up in the sour economy, leaving the program with just enough cash to survive for another couple of months, said the Rev. Marilyn Powell, who led the effort to found Magdalene House of Charleston.
"We're really hurting and we're faced with closing, which we simply cannot do," Powell said.
"We have three wonderful women there who are working full-time, two of whom are also going to school. We just can't let these women down."
Modeled after a successful program in Nashville, Tenn., the Leeds Avenue home opened in June 2007 as a ministry of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.
The program takes women from the streets or prisons and helps them get back on the road to normalcy over a two-year period. During that time, the women live in the modest ranch house, which sleeps four.
The home is funded entirely through donations, and Magdalene House has accepted no state or federal dollars.
Powell estimated that the home needs $2,000 a month to operate on a bare-bones budget.
Magdalene House recently laid off its director to save money, and volunteers have been pitching in to help the residents get to appointments, jobs and school. One of the women now has a car and is helping to ferry her housemates around, but the program has no money to pay for her gas, Powell said.
At the same time, the home has developed a leaky roof and recently had to be treated, at considerable expense, for a bed-bug infestation, Powell said.
She has donated some of her own money to keep the program going, but it's not enough, she said.
Gash said she and other residents have been chipping in cash for rent as well, though the program was intended to be rent-free. "We need to do whatever we can to make ends meet," she said. "There needs to be a place for ladies to come."
Cynthia Arrowood, 43, was a middle-class mother of two from Spartanburg before an addiction to painkillers drove her to deal drugs and pass counterfeit checks.
She ended up at Magdalene House after she was released from prison last year and has stayed clean and sober. Arrowood is supposed to remain at the home until April 2010.
"This is a wonderful program, and I don't know what I will do if it closes down," she said. "I really and truly don't want to go back to where I was."
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or email@example.com.