Nonprofit aims to get homeless women off of the streets
By CARLOS VILLATORO
Register Staff Writer
Sunday, September 02, 2007
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.
to a survey conducted in January by Community Action Napa Valley, a
local social services agency, 125 of the 342 homeless people in Napa
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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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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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