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Nonprofit aims to get homeless women off of the streets
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Register Staff Writer
Sunday, September 02, 2007
A fledgling nonprofit agency that’s dedicated to helping women turn their lives around is gaining ground in combating the problem of homelessness in Napa. The group is called New Life Outreach and is a Christian-based, halfway house that provides a home for women, ages 18 and older, who want to break the cycle of homelessness.

According to a survey conducted in January by Community Action Napa Valley, a local social services agency, 125 of the 342 homeless people in Napa are women.
Before entering a drug rehabilitation program at Napa State Hospital nine months ago and coming to live at New Life Outreach, Jamie Jackson’s life was dramatically different.

The 28-year-old woman, who recently celebrated a birthday, was hooked on drugs and alcohol and spent three years roaming downtown Napa with fellow homeless people.

“I felt like I was in a hole,” she said. “The whole time, I was praying (to get out of it), even when I was high.”

Then one day, high on drugs and babbling to her friends that she wanted to enter rehab she said, it appears that her prayers were answered. A friend basically dragged her into his van, took her to the hospital and enrolled her in a 90-day drug rehabilitation program, Jackson said.

“Every day (at rehab) I would get clear-minded,” she said.

About a week before graduating from the program, Jackson said that she had nowhere to go to but back to the streets. It was then that a fax came to Jackson’s counselor telling of New Life Outreach.

“I found out it was faith-based and I could talk about God and how much I love him,” she said.

That was three months ago and ever since Jackson has held a steady job and is on her way to re-establishing a career as a certified nursing assistant, she said. But perhaps more importantly New Life Outreach has provided a safe haven while Jackson steers clear of drugs and alcohol.

Program founder and chief executive officer Nonita Mendez said that individuals like Jackson is the reason why she started the program. The idea to open New Life Outreach came to Mendez 10 years ago, when she was in the process of recovering from a drug addiction of her own she said.

With the help of her church and what she said amounted to her faith in God, Mendez was able to kick her addiction and eventually became a foster parent.

Although she was never homeless herself, Mendez said she would often see foster children become homeless after being emancipated or aging out of the foster care system. She said she originally started New Life Outreach in hopes of helping young women, ages 18-24, beat homelessness but changed her goal when she started receiving calls from homeless woman who were a bit older.

“It goes back to my background as a Christian, this is something that God put in my heart,” she said.

Karen Gurnari, 45, was one such woman who helped sway Mendez into expanding the age of New Life Outreach’s residents. Gurnari had long overcome her drug addiction before coming to New Life Outreach, but she struggled to maintain a steady residence for herself, a 6-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son. She would often pay for hotel rooms, pitch a tent at Skyline Park or stay at different friends’ homes to get her children out of the elements.

“A friend of mine had told me that they heard of this place,” she said.

With the help of friends and family members to watch over her children — New Life Outreach does not allow children — Gurnari went to live at the halfway house and later managed to find a home that she could afford.

“It completely changed my life,” she said. “I learned how to trust, how to be a better parent and how to like myself better.”

Although Gurnari said at first she struggled with the rules of the house — among them no drugs or alcohol, a 10 p.m. curfew, residents must pay 20 percent of their income or must actively be searching for a job, and must attend church every Sunday — she learned to live with them.

The four bedroom, three bathroom home on the 2000 block of Redwood Road features spacious accommodations for its residents. It also features a large patio area that’s punctuated by a pool and a garden that grows fresh tomatoes, lettuce and squash. The home can accommodate up to six residents.

Foothill Christian Fellowship funds New Life Outreach Mendez said, but money is still needed for some necessities including clothing and computers.

A Hawaiian luau fundraising event is planned on Sept. 22, at 2055 Redwood Road, from 5-10 p.m., $40 a ticket. For more information contact Mendez at 592 4085.
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3 comment(s)

New Life wrote on Sep 3, 2007 6:54 PM:

" Thank you for your input...We also would like to share that at New Life our services include, home economics,job preperation, fincancial classes,12-step recovery (celebrate recovery) classes, foundations class and case management.God has done amazing things in the lives of the residents at New Life . You may google us on the web to get more info about our program. "

Napa girl wrote on Sep 3, 2007 9:51 AM:

" Again a wonderful story..I helped my best friend out over 2 years ago, addiction took over her life and she was ready to get out of jail and change but had no where to go. Clean and sober houses had waiting lists and she had burned her bridges. I took her in not knowing if this was it for her or not.I gave her the chance and I am so glad that I did. I am proud to say she has been clean and sober for over 2 years and is doing wonderful. I honestly think that if she had no where to go she wouldve been right back into the drugs and going place to place. I would suggest that New Life Outreach maybe reach out to the women who are in jail, or woman's recovery, AA or NA meetings, Child Protective Services office,the Hope center and Alternatives, atleast leave business cards there so they could call on their own time. "

Demo Cracy wrote on Sep 2, 2007 1:59 PM:

" This is a wonderful story of how one person took it upon herself to help women who went astray for a while and have found the courage to live life on life's terms. We all can help this group with a donation as these women strive to become good citizens again. "

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