s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

A Rincon Valley property that for nearly 40 years served as a refuge for men seeking to kick addiction has been transformed into a residential facility for women and their children.

The fledgling Crossing the Jordan Foundation, a religious group that started with a thrift shop on Santa Rosa Avenue, last week bought the former Turning Point house on Acacia Lane.

"We have a waiting list that we're working through; every day we're getting calls," executive director Dana Bryant said.

The Christian group is permitted for up to 35 beds and expects to house at most 18 adult women plus their children who are seeking to get off the street, escape dangerous living situations or kick addictions.

The deal came together in an unusual agreement with Turning Point's operator, Drug Abuse Alternatives Center, said the drug abuse center's real estate agent, Michael Falk.

Part of the terms include allowing the foundation to make quarterly installments toward a down payment. The property was sold Aug. 22 for $706,000.

"This is a story about how one nonprofit helped the other one be able to take this over so there's a continuation of service," said Falk, himself a 1981 graduate of Turning Point.

The demand for bed space "far exceeds the availability," said Marlus Stewart, managing director of Drug Abuse Alternatives Center, which is part of San Rafael-based Center Point.

"It was exciting that another nonprofit could buy the property," she said.

The new facility adds beds in Sonoma County where there is a "great need" for housing settings where women can reunite with their children, said Jenny Helbraun Abramson, coordinator of Sonoma County Continuum of Care, a network of county agencies, shelters and other homeless services.

About 90 percent of 200 parents needing shelter with children find some type of housing program in the county, according to a biannual homeless count and survey completed this spring.

But that number belies the greater need — parents who are homeless and who wish to be reunified with their children once housed, Abramson said. That number hovers around 1,000 adults. The overall homeless population is about 4,280 people.

As a religious organization with a demanding schedule asking for a 12-month commitment, Crossing the Jordan's program is not for everyone.

Residents pay $380 a month as a program fee and work about 30 hours a week in one of the group's two thrift stores or in its warehouse, Dana Bryant said.

Although residents are not required to be Christian, they must participate in weekly Bible studies and attend church as part of a full schedule of classes, including recovery programs and parenting courses.

"We teach the good old-fashioned value system, and they love it," Dana Bryant said. "A lot of these girls didn't have fathers or anybody who ever cared who they were looking at."

Husband-and-wife team Dana and Michael Bryant, both Rohnert Park natives, started the foundation in 2011 when they opened their first charitable thrift shop on Santa Rosa Avenue. They opened a residential home for a dozen clients in Rohnert Park early in 2012.

The organization now has six full-time employees, including the Bryants.

Dana Bryant said that each woman will graduate with bank accounts, a driver's license, a car and a job. Several women have stayed beyond the 12 months, including one who is finishing commercial truck-driving training and another working on phlebotomy training.

Michael Bryant graduated from Turning Point four years ago and Dana Bryant graduated from a similar program, Center Point, in 1997. The couple said their personal struggles, including criminal records, drove their desire to create a residential program for women seeking to change their lives.

"They think I'm some church lady, but then they talk to me and I can tell them what time it is," Dana Bryant said.

Chris Castillo, executive director of the county's sexual assault crisis center Verity, said it's the only place where she can take a woman trying to escape from prostitution. Castillo said those women may not qualify for local services, many of which target women with specific problems such as homelessness or addiction. Instead, these women are often put up in hotels, which can be bad environments because much of the sex trade takes place in hotels.

"There was nothing in the county for anybody who is trafficked," Castillo said. ""There is never enough bed space in this county."

For Katrina Kidd, she had an apartment in Vallejo and no history of substance abuse when she was arrested last month during a police sting in Santa Rosa aimed at removing people from prostitution and identifying suspected pimps.

The 25-year-old said she was told she could keep her 4-month-old son, who was with her at the time, if she agreed to enter a program of some kind and stay in the county.

In a living room at the Acacia Lane house, Kidd watched her son Preston Bouie III sleep, the infant's arms stretched out in total repose.

Kidd said she tried to leave after a week with Crossing the Jordan but was convinced to come back. It took a commitment of giving up her apartment and, at least temporarily, her freedom, trade-offs she decided are worth it at this time.

"I'm going to pull it all together, but the right way," Kidd said.

For Angela Georgantes, 23, who grew up in Sebastopol, the organization was what she needed last May when she was several months into a drug recovery program with Victory Outreach, where she couldn't remain because she was eight months pregnant.

She moved into Crossing the Jordan's Rohnert Park house in May and into the Acacia Lane property last week.

"I love it, it's a nice country setting," she said of the one acre property.

Crossing the Jordan began leasing the property about a month ago from the Drug Abuse Alternatives Center so they could start renovating the place.

They replaced crumbling floors with laminate wood, painted the walls bright colors, repaired the roof and replaced furniture. Much of it done through donations and by volunteers, Bryant said.

On Thursday, Georgantes held her sleeping daughter, now 3 months old, as she recited a Bible verse during an evening meeting about recovery with her roommates.

The group sat in plush chairs and couches as early evening sunlight filled the living room, which was outfitted by donated items from downtown Santa Rosa furniture shop Cokas Diko.

"Memorize it," said Trisa Austin, 54, of Rohnert Park, who comes to lead the group Thursday nights. "It's one of the ways we stop the committee, all the negative voices in your head."

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.