Now they are roommates celebrating their graduation into the second phase of Hope for Women’s sober living program.
The three are among the first 15 women to move into an old apartment complex in downtown Jasper that has been renovated for the program.
After several months of facing their addiction head-on, they are being rewarded with a taste of freedom — something Graves has not experienced in a long time.
“May will be three years that I’ve been incarcerated and gone. I haven’t had my own bathroom, a couch, a bed, nothing. Hope for Women changed my life, and I thank God for it,” Graves said.
Graves was among the first women to enter Hope for Women when director Tammy Hankins opened the doors last fall.
Hankins refers to the first phase of the program as “spiritual E.R.”
Women come in straight off the streets and are under strict supervision as they begin getting their life in order.
The second phase is semi-independent living, which provides fewer restrictions and more responsibility in a controlled environment.
The final phase is independence and serving as mentors for women in phase one.
“We take them from homelessness to permanent independent housing. Our goal is to get them from zero to 100 — mentally, physically, spiritually and financially,” Hankins said.
Hope for Women’s main facility is a house on 5th Avenue.
The program had just begun when Hankins walked two streets over to an apartment complex where drug activity seemed to be rampant.
“I prayed, ‘God, we really need that complex for phase two.’ I bet it wasn’t a week later that I came by and saw that it had burned and everyone was gone. I have never seen a move of God that fast,” Hankins said.
Hope for Women is temporarily leasing the facility and will soon own it outright.
At capacity, the complex will be able to house 42 women in 14 apartments.
Local church groups and community members helped renovate and refurbish the first five apartments for phase two graduates.
Sponsors are still needed for the remaining nine apartments.
Hankins said although the women didn’t verbalize, she could tell they didn’t believe Hope for Women would receive enough support to make a phase two facility possible.
However, she encouraged them to stick with the program and wait on great things.
“Faith is all we have, and now we have hope. Recovery is possible,” Hankins said.
As Graves sat Friday afternoon in the living room she will be sharing with two other women, she said the transition to semi-independence felt like a dream.
“I’m just grateful that I can have a life, and I don’t have to die on dope,” said Graves, who will serve as senior resident at the new facility.
Ayers, who was in nine different rehabilitation facilities before coming to Hope for Women, has seen a similar change in her own life.
“I had to learn how to surrender it, give it to God and know that He has me. I can’t do it without His help,” Ayers said.
Millwood encourages new residents by urging them to forget their previous experiences with rehab; Hope for Women is different.
“You can come here and be real, be honest and fight for your life. Use the steps and God’s going to work with you if you just surrender,” she said.
For more information, contact Hankins at 205-567-2607.