Monday, November 30, 2009

Next Door helps women in crisis

By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • November 30, 2009 Cynthia Stovall credits her daughter with saving her life after she was released from a federal prison three years ago and began doing drugs again. "She came in my room and made me watch Intervention," Stovall said. "And she told me she wasn't going to watch me die." Contina Stovall, now 23, told her mother she would call her probation officer and report the drug abuse if she refused to stop. A few days later, Cynthia Stovall, 47, said her daughter made that call. After a 28-day drug rehabilitation program and a 60-day stay at a federal halfway house, Cynthia Stovall came to The Next Door, a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping women in crisis. In the five years it has been open, The Next Door has helped 566 women like Cynthia Stovall recover from incarceration, drug addiction, homelessness and more, said CEO Linda Leathers. "It's a place where they can find out how to live," Leathers said. "When they come to us, they literally have nothing." More than 40 women live at The Next Door, which is downtown. An additional 20 women and their families are staying at an apartment facility off Charlotte Avenue, Leathers said. During the program, the women complete counseling and job training while living at the treatment centers. Most women stay for six months, but there are some exceptions. "It's very individualized," Leathers said. "Our goal is to get them into apartments of their own, but we become a family. Anyone who needs us can always call home and we'll be there for her." Cynthia Stovall has called the downtown center home since she completed the program in 2006. Today, the former inmate and addict is the resident coordinator at The Next Door, helping other women meet their goals. She often draws on her experiences, the 10 years she spent in federal prison for bank robbery and the eight years she spent addicted to crack cocaine, as a way to reach out to others. "I remember being so afraid when I got out of prison," she said. "It was like I had been kicked out into the world and I didn't know what to do. I felt like I didn't know my family and they didn't know me. "This program was a struggle. I didn't think I needed to be here, but I did. I can relate to everything these ladies go through, because I've been there."

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