Fighting Poverty with Passion
Clemmie Greenlee is Eden House’s Former Resident Director and one of the most incredible people I have ever met. Clemmie came to New Orleans from Nashville, TN to help open Eden House a little over 2 years ago and then has lived at Eden House off and on acting as friend, mentor, and survivor consultant to the residents in our program.
Clemmie was abducted at age 12 and forced into drugs and prostitution and it wasn’t until she was 42 years old that she learned about Magdalene House in Nashville, TN and was able to leave the life of prostitution, addiction, and violence.
Eden House is based after Magdalene House, which was started 17 years ago by an Episcopal priest named Rev. Becca Stevens. Becca started Magdalene House after doing outreach in the prisons in Nashville and realizing that women were cycling in and out of prison due to the lack of long-term housing resources for women.
Recently, Clemmie came back to New Orleans from Nashville to speak at the 3rd Annual Eden House Fundraiser. I had the honor of picking her up from the airport and we immediately picked up where we had left off, discussing all of the changes, challenges, and successes of Eden House as well as her non-profit, Nashville Peacemakers.
Her speech at this year’s fundraiser was with Christina, Eden House’s senior resident. Christina will reach her 2 year mark at Eden House this March and is working full time, leading the Eden House community, and saving money for an apartment. It was a joyful and emotional moment for the Eden House staff to see Christina and Clemmie stand up in front of 250 people and talk about their friendship and how it has truly transformed Christina’s life.
Their speech was about “Keeping the Promise” and how Regina, Clemmie’s best friend from the streets, came back and found her and brought her into the Magdalene House program and how Clemmie then met Christina and has guided her through her first 2 years of recovery. As senior resident, Christina now acts as a mentor to the youngest residents in the Eden House community.
Both Magdalene House and Eden House are based on the Benedictine Monk Model which is the idea that the oldest resident in the community takes care of the youngest, helping them to get acclimated and settled into the community.
Even though Clemmie is no longer at Eden House full time, her teachings, wisdom, and energy is still very much present as we watch Christina step up as a leader. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with Clemmie over the years and feel reinvigorated from her visit. It has reminded me to look at the bigger picture and how, even though every resident that comes through our doors might not complete the 2 year program and graduate, but they are still receiving love and healing that they will carry with them for days to come.