December 20, 2010 10:46:00 AM
After prison, all too many women return to their old drug- and alcohol-infused lives.
It''s easier. And when they''re broke and homeless, shunned by employers, they have precious few other options.
That''s why Kelly Britton and Bill Vaughan started the Avante halfway house and Life on a Prayer program for women Nov. 1.
Avante House, which is south of Highway 182 outside of Columbus, is the first halfway house just for women in Lowndes County.
Britton, who is involved with prison and drug and alcohol treatment ministries, has been thinking about starting a halfway house for 10 years.
"It''s something I''ve always wanted to do," she said.
So, in October, she called Vaughan. Between then and November, they raised enough funds and support to buy the house.
"It''s like God''s providing whatever we need when we need it," said Vaughan, who owns a private counseling firm in Columbus.
Avante, which means "to move forward or progress," is the goal of the house, said Britton, who knows firsthand how hard it is for women to recover.
That''s one of the benefits of the halfway house, Vaughan said. In a halfway house, "you''ve got a lot of support" and accountability.
"As a counselor, I work with a lot of women who get out of prison and go back into the same environment with the same bad influences," he said.
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house is large enough for eight women, although only four are living there now, and a housemother. The residents take turns cooking and cleaning, and have to come up with $50 a week in rent or have a sponsor.
Britton took time to answer questions about the project.
What prompted you and Vaughan to found the halfway house?
This is a need here in Columbus. There''s a lot of women coming out of jail or prison here who don''t have the money to stay somewhere.
We wanted these women to have a house. Some of them have never had a home, some have been abused. We wanted this house to be filled with God.
We thought we could, with the help of the community, give them somewhere to live and introduce them to God.
The bottom line is, everybody deserves a second chance. For some, a first one. I deal with a lot of women who''ve never had a chance.
There''re people who are ready to get out of prison and get better. They just need someone to show them how.
We''re going to give these ladies the opportunity. I really believe this house is run by God.
What sparked your interest in helping these women?
I have had some trials and tribulations in my life and I was given a second chance. It''s only right that I show others how to get one.
This has been something I''ve been willing to do for 10 years.
How does the house work?
The house is just supported by a small amount of rent. If people don''t have a job, we get sponsors for them.
The women have to take drug screens. They have to learn living skills. It''s just to teach them how to live a sober, productive life. They are very grateful to be here.
They learn how to cook, clean, balance checkbooks and communicate with people. They learn how to be friends, daughters, sisters and mothers. We have people in the community who come and teach them these things.
They can stay in the house for one year. But if they''re not ready, we won''t make them leave. They slowly become productive members of society without being rushed.
This is the first halfway house we''ve ever run. It''s going to be trial and error, but there''s a desperate need in Lowndes County for this house.
Do you plan to expand the program?
We would like for this house to get up and be self supporting. Once we do, we want to shoot for men. There''s a need for a halfway house for men as well as women.
I heard a man went to his probation officer here just recently and asked to be sent back to prison. He said no one would hire him, that he was broke and was living on the streets.
How is the program funded?
The sad thing about government grants is you can''t speak about God in anymore in the house. That''s why the house is funded privately. It''s between them and God.
I can''t take away from these women how God helped me.
How can people donate to Avante House?
We have an address people can mail donations to: 938 Kincade Road, Columbus, MS, 39702. People can make the checks out to the Avante House. Contributions are very much accepted. If anyone wants to know more about the house, my number is 662-574-1768.
firstname.lastname@example.org commented at 12/20/2010 12:22:00 PM:
patty commented at 12/20/2010 12:26:00 PM:
Thank you, Kelly and Bill. A place to call "home" with rules and oversight is very much needed when people are released from prison. Often, to go back to family is not in anybody's best interest; but families feel that they must take their family member in. All too often, before long, it's "off to the races" again. Many people that are incarcerated lack life skills, are unable to think in a logical manner how to deal with life's problems, and therefore repeat all the mistakes and behaviors that got them locked up originally. And so the cycle continues. I sincerely thank all the supporters of this project; hopefully more will follow before too long!
saphireblue1427 commented at 12/20/2010 1:19:00 PM:
I am so proud of my friend Kelly Britton and Bill Vaughn for doing almost the impossible and starting this home. If anyone can pull it off Britton and Vaughn along with GOD can do it........I think it will be truly an asset to our community!!!!!!!!! TY Kelly and Bill.....Hugs, Cherri
insanity commented at 12/20/2010 5:44:00 PM:
I think it's sickening that you can't get grant money because you want to talk about God in the house. It's not like churches of all demoninations and organizations of all types do not receive tax breaks and tax credits because they are a church or a certain organization. Getting a break a not having to pay taxes is the same as getting money in a grant. So what's the big deal is you guys get a grant? Makes me sick.
slbaker0447 commented at 12/21/2010 10:07:00 PM:
Why there is no halfway house for men and women that have never been to jail. There are people that need help just as well as the people that been to prison.
stormy commented at 12/22/2010 1:37:00 AM:
slbaker.... looks like Bill and Kelly have their hands full with the women. I agree that men need one also, what about you starting that one up?
sportsfan1 commented at 1/9/2011 3:42:00 PM:
Thank God for these 2 wonderful people and others who help them. I wish the best for the women in this house and hope they will do good in life with the help of Anante House!!!!!
1. Ex-office manager arrested for embezzlement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Different paths, same mission: Columbus police officers still joining up despite hazards COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Columbus native juggles love of music, medicine with UMMC band COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Police forces face challenges filling rosters COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY