LAPORTE — Not even a fire could stop the effort to open a faith-based home designed to help females released from prison overcome their addictions and become productive residents.
Worthy Women Recovery Home at 1001 Maple Ave. accepted its first resident May 14 and during a recent ribbon cutting much gratitude was expressed to the many financial contributors and volunteers who made it all possible.
"Thank you for adding value not only to us, but to LaPorte County with all of the help and the money and the resources and the love and the prayers that you've given to us," said Sonshine Troche, the director of the 4,800-square-foot brick structure with a capacity to house 14 women.
Presently, just one woman lives there, but the goal is to have four women by the end of summer and eight residents before the end of the year then keep adding more until reaching full occupancy.
The idea of starting slow is to allow women to get used to their new surroundings and raise additional funds to hire more staff.
"You can't just stick them in here and expect them to do what you want them to. Otherwise, it would be utter chaos," said Troche, who's following a faith-based program similar to one she already runs in the LaPorte County Jail to help female offenders.
Troche is living at the home to ensure a staff member is there around the clock.
There's also one part-time employee to relieve Troche when she has to leave and fulfill her obligations in the jail.
For the first 30 days, Troche said the women are not allowed to leave the home unless they go with her to church or some other place.
The reason is to prevent a relapse during a period when users are most susceptible, but later they must get a job and pay rent along with any other fees mandated by the court as part of their sentencing.
Women will stay anywhere from six months to two years depending on need.
There will be a strong emphasis on things like accepting responsibility, furthering their education, the value of hard work as opposed to stealing and illustrating what their lives can be like by letting go of bad experiences from their past.
The house was acquired in 2011 then completely gutted and rebuilt under a $600,000 budget made possible by monetary donations and fundraisers.
Costs were kept down with donated materials and more than 500 volunteers.
The accidental fire on the night before Thanksgiving last year started in the kitchen on the main level where damage was heaviest.
Funds from an insurance claim along with additional donations of labor and materials helped expedite the repairs.
Troche said the women will come from the LaPorte County Jail along with the Indiana Women's Prison, the Madison Correctional Facility and the Rockville Prison.
All must be residents of LaPorte County and fill out an application prior to their release that expresses a desire to be in the home.
No children will be living at the home because the women going there have already lost parental rights due to their incarceration.
"They say they love their children and I'm sure they do, but they are children themselves who are trying to learn to grow up and be responsible. Once they earn the right to have visits from the children, they're more than welcome to do that, but they can't do that right away," Troche said.