A long-term transitional home for women opening next Friday is the first of three planned facilities to give women and families a safe place to get back on the right track.
Merlyn Pittman, founder and director of Chest of Hope, which is establishing the transitional home, said the project had been on the back burner for some time.
“It’s really been a long, long journey but it’s here now,” Pittman said. “We’re ready to operate.”
Chest of Hope is an agency that opened in Tracy in 2011 to provide resources and help to the victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. The organization opened a safe house in 2012 and offers individual and group counseling, life coaching, and help getting legal intervention services.
The new five-bedroom transitional home somewhere in Tracy — Chest of Hope is keeping the address private for now — will house up to 11 women for nine months to a year depending on their individual needs.
“Throughout the years, we’ve found 30 to 45 days doesn’t do a woman justice as far as her becoming self-sufficient and being where she needs to in life, moving on with her and her kids,” Pittman said.
Other shelters in the Tracy area offer shorter stays for women and families. The county Women’s Center-Youth and Family Services runs Serenity House, an emergency shelter at an undisclosed address in Tracy that has a 30-day program for up to 12 women and their children who are escaping domestic violence. The McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter, which is exclusively for homeless families, provides 48- to 72-hour emergency housing referrals and a transitional program of up to three months.
Chest of Hope’s transitional home, on the other hand, is for women living alone. A variety of situations might lead them there — recovering from substance abuse, dealing with homelessness, escaping domestic abuse, simply being down on their luck. Pittman said the women at the house will have to adhere to a program during their stay, and her organization will have agreements with agencies throughout the area to refer women who fit the scope of that program.
“It can range anywhere from knowing how to balance a checkbook, anger management — it’s not a one size fits all,” Pittman said. “When they meet with their case manager, it will be based on their individual need where they’re at and then we will schedule that program around them.”
The home is ready to open and has been fully furnished with the help of community members who have provided everything from furniture to dishes, bed linens and a 60-inch television.
On Wednesday, nearly a week and half before the opening day, Chest of Hope had already had requests to place three women in the transitional house, including calls from Alameda County and as far as Nevada.
“That’s how great the need is, so I am assuming by the time the fifth rolls around, we may be halfway full,” Pittman said.
Chest of Hope also expects to open two homes in Tracy later this year for women and their children escaping domestic violence. Pittman said the first was slated to open at the end of August and the second at the end of September. Each will have three bedrooms and will house two or three families, depending on the number of children, for nine months to a year.
Funding for the transitional house and the two domestic violence shelters has come from a state grant through the California Office of Emergency Services and several fundraisers Chest of Hope organizes throughout the year, including the annual L.O.V.E. run and walk in October. Chest of Hope also opened Treasure Chest Thrift Store at 126 W. 11th St. in December.
The homes for domestic violence victims are still in the early stages, and Pittman said more donations are needed to help furnish them. People can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chestofhope.org for more information.
For now, Pittman said the Chest of Hope transitional home will be the first for single women in town and potentially one of the few in the region.
“It’s a place, an entity of its own, that gives women hope,” Pittman said.
On Wednesday afternoon, she said she was going to be interviewing a woman who was working but had nowhere to sleep but in her car.
“A home such as ours will give that person at least nine months of hope, or nine months to get their acts together. It allows them time to save some money,” Pittman said. “Our goal is when our women transitions out of the home, we would be able to help them furnish their new home.”