Fighting Poverty with Passion
When I think of the word “home” I think of coming home from work, taking off my shoes, changing into comfortable clothes, having a snack, or taking a nap. I associate the word with a safe and comforting place where I can relax and move at my own pace. For many of the residents at Eden House, they have never had a safe and comfortable home, and for some, never a home at all. According to the Department of Justice, the average age of entry into prostitution for an American girl is 12-14 years old. This means that many of the women who come to Eden House have spent years of their lives on the streets, in strange hotel rooms, in cars, hungry, drug addicted, without clean clothes, and surrounded by people who have abused them sexually, physically, and emotionally.
One of my favorite parts of working at Eden House is welcoming a new resident into our program. Many of the women come straight from prison or off the streets with just the clothes on their backs. When they arrive at Eden House, our community of residents and staff greets them on the front porch and presents them with a key to the front door. We then let them unlock the door and enter “their new home.” Upon receiving a gift basket and flowers, the other residents take the newest woman upstairs for her to pick a bedroom and then to the donation clothing closet where they can “shop” for clothing and shoes.
The days following a resident’s arrival at Eden House, they are encouraged to rest, sleep, and take care of themselves. In a professional development session, our volunteer psychiatrist shared with our staff and interns that for many of the women, when they come off the streets, there is a huge adjustment period for them to begin to be used to being awake during the day and be able to sleep at night. As a resident begins to get more settled, we start scheduling doctors, dentist, and therapy appointments.
Whenever I am explaining Eden House to someone who is not familiar with our program, I focus first and foremost that it is a home. Yes, we provide medical care, psychiatric care, education resources, job skills training, legal assistance, financial literacy, and many more incredible services, but without a safe place to stay for two years while they transform their lives, substantial growth would not be possible.
One of the many exciting things that is happening this fall at Eden House is that Rebuilding Together-New Orleans has chosen us for their annual October Build! This means that with the help of grants, additional fundraising, and volunteer labor, Eden House will get a complete facelift! The scope of work includes: scraping all the lead paint from the building’s exterior, replacing rotten siding, priming, repainting, replacing gutters, and landscaping in the back yard. The house itself is over 100 years old and was beautifully made but has been weathered by the natural elements here in New Orleans.
By November, the outside of the house will be weatherized, beautifully repainted, and energy efficient updates will be made on the interior. During the first work day last week, I watched as residents sat outside and talked to some of the volunteers from Rebuilding Together and asked them questions about the different stages of the project. It has been a group effort picking out paint swatches and getting everyones (resident and staff) opinion on what color the house should be repainted. I look forward to times in the future when we welcome a new resident on the front porch to a restored and beautified home which they can proudly call their own.
I have been truly honored to be a part of the Eden House community for the past year and I look with excitement on the next year as we grow and develop as a program. I do now, and always will consider Eden House my home away from home. #chooselove