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New house opens to aid female ex-offenders in Franklin County

Written by Ashley Books/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Dec 1, 2016 7:45 PM
Transformatio_Center_chambersburg.jpg

The new facility offers 10 beds to female ex-offenders transitioning from life in prison back into the community. (Photo: Ashley Books, Public Opinion)

(Chambersburg) -- A new house is opening for women transitioning from life in prison or jail back into the community - and it couldn't come at a better time.

Proverbs 31, which sits right off one of Chambersburg's main roads at 527 Lincoln Way East, opened Wednesday. The house aims to give female ex-offenders a place to stay while giving them tools and resources to assist with their transition. The program was created by the 360 Transformation Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping ex-offenders with re-entry.

In addition to being one of the first of its kind in Franklin County to focus on female ex-offenders, the house is opening during a time in which the female population at the Franklin County Jail continues to rise.

However, Don Houser, CEO and founder of the center, said the house was not created, specifically, because of the female population increase at the jail. He said the transformation center has always had a section dedicated to women's empowerment, and that the organization was given the opportunity to create Proverbs 31 about three months ago.

"We had began moving toward Proverbs 31 house, opportunity arose and the opportunity came at such a time that the need in the community was overwhelming," Houser said. "So, it was like the perfect storm."

Houser said the organization chose to call the house Proverbs 31, because it is a chapter in the Bible about empowering women into leadership roles and "strong roles of self-worth and value."

The house, which can accommodate up to 10 people, was put together in about two-and-a-half weeks, with a majority of the donations coming from Habitat for Humanity. Currently, four women are expected to move in. Houser said the program is accepting women who are coming from the state and county levels but is not placing women who have committed a sex offense or a violent offense.

Along with providing housing, Proverbs 31 will help women with work placement, transportation to and from work and handling money through a financial program that will teach them how to budget and manage accounts using digital tools. House of Grace, a religious support group for women, will also help get them into programming to learn how to sew and cook.

The program will be funded through a mandatory $500/month rent. Each resident's rent payment includes transportation, meals and utilities

In order to be accepted, women must first complete an intake form and interview with the 360 Transformation Center. Once it is established the applicant is a good fit for the program, she must fill out an application to rent a room.

While living in the house, women will also go through a six-phase treatment program, which will help them get connected and use the resources available to them.

"If the women come here, and they are prepared to do what it takes, it's ... going to be real difficult for them to fail, because we have the resources in place," Houser said. "All they have to do is utilize them."

Although he says Proverbs 31 could be unique to the community because it is geared toward female ex-offenders, Houser believes "there will be other women agencies and organizations that will begin to rise up afterwards."

"I definitely think that Proverbs 31 is a solution, is a part of a solution," he said. "It's not the solution, because it's going to take more than just this to help, but I do believe that we're a small piece of the puzzle to help out."

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