Union Gospel Mission opens center for women, children in CdA
Two women, both mothers in need of healing, have bonded at the start of a long journey toward recovery.
They’re doing it from the refuge of the new Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children in Coeur d’Alene.
Jan Bates, 48, is recovering from a traumatic marriage.
Anjelique Mader, 40, has battled prescription drug addiction and is four months sober.
They arrived at the faith-based residential center soon after it opened three weeks ago, and they’ll spend up to two years there putting their lives back together.
“Living with these women and sharing our hearts and our lives the way we have, we’ve developed very strong connections,” Bates said.
Anjelique Mader, left, and Jan Bates are residents of the Union Gospel Mission in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
The nonprofit serving the poor and homeless will take in up to 100 women and children at this $5.7 million complex, the first facility the Spokane-based ministry has built from the ground up.
They may be impoverished or poor in spirit, reeling from rejection and full of despair, living on the streets or couch-surfing among friends and family.
In the rubble of the Great Recession, women in need of rescue and restoration are as close as one’s neighbors and family, even in communities with the facade of affluence.
“The face of homelessness looks different today than it did in years past,” said JoAnn Zajicek, the center’s director. “It could be any one of us. … None of us are above this.”
This is the first long-term recovery center in Kootenai County for homeless women and children. A count last January revealed that 230 women and 140 children are homeless in the county.
Fundraising and grants cover all operating costs; the women pay nothing.
“This is why we’re here,” said Jan Bates, right, resident of Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children, as she talked to UGM director JoAnn Zajicek about the new facility in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
It was not an easy decision to move in, said Bates, who is divorced and has three children in their early 20s.
“I didn’t want to do this. I don’t think anybody eagerly says I want to commit 18 to 24 months of my life to being in a facility,” she said. “And yet this feels like a rescue. In every aspect, it feels like a rescue and an opportunity to get whole and just have hope again.”
Mader, who has four teenage children, has been in and out of treatment centers since she was 17. She said she longed to tackle deeper problems than her addiction.
“It’s just kind of been a downward spiral in the last two years,” she said. “I needed a change, and I needed it fast.”
Through counseling, support groups and life-skills classes, Bates and others will learn to take ownership of their lives.
“They may walk in here being a victim, but when they walk out of here, they’ll walk out in victory,” Zajicek said.
The center covers 48,000 square feet on 2.7 acres on Haycraft Avenue just east of U.S. Highway 95 and north of Interstate 90. It features 28 dormitory-style rooms plus a chapel, clinic, kitchen, family room, fitness center, beauty salon, counseling rooms and computer skills center.
The first three children at the center were set to arrive with their mother today. They’ll find child care and a teen room, an outdoor playground and a serene healing garden.
Many women will arrive in crisis, and all will spend some time in a short-term rescue center with six rooms. They need to lay down addictions and commit to the process of recovery before they can move into the residential center next door.
“The program is for women who want restoration and healing, not just three meals and a bed,” Zajicek said.
Mader came to the center homeless. She has worked as a nurse’s assistant and did volunteer work with ski patrol and search and rescue organizations. Her children are living with her parents on the Palouse.
“I did a lot of praying on whether or not this was supposed to be the place for me,” she said. “I guess God opened the doors for me to be here, and it’s a blessing that I’m able to have this opportunity.”
Bates described the center as loving and spirit-filled. “This is an excellent opportunity for anybody who needs to get their life back on track,” she said.
She home-schooled her children as a stay-at-home mom and had helped her ex-husband run an interior decorating business for a time. At the center, giving up full autonomy and living communally have presented challenges, she said.
“What has made it easier for me is that from the moment I walked in here the heart of this ministry was so evident,” she said. “It was marked by love and kindness.”
Bates has found encouragement in sharing her experience with other women who are hurting.
“There are times when you’re broken and shedding tears, they rally around,” she said. “It’s just been an exceptional demonstration of love.”
Soon classes will begin on topics ranging from parenting to drug addiction to recognizing boundaries. Women also will have opportunities to learn skills such as cooking and home repair.
The center will accommodate drug and alcohol counseling as well as case management for legal problems. Some women will take classes to earn a high school diploma equivalency. Later they’ll spend six-month unpaid internships at local businesses to learn new job skills and rebuild their resumes.
“We don’t just try to get the women a job; we begin to help the women dream again,” Zajicek said.
Not yet a month into the voyage, Bates said she recognizes this as a real turning point in her life.
“I don’t yet know what my hope and my future look like, but I know that I have one,” she said. “And I didn’t feel that way less than three weeks ago.”