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Women find shelter, tools to rebuild their broken lives

Shepherds Door offers beds, showers, hot meals, fresh clothes and a program for recovery


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Kyra is ready to put her cooking passion to work and focus on her children after completing the recovery program at Shepherds Door.Kyra said she was living the rich life in California.

She had a husband who worked at a hi-tech job, a big house, two kids and a fancy car.

Then her marriage started failing, and the meth addiction she quit at 18 came creeping back.

Soon, she was hooking up with a gang member and blowing her alimony on drugs.

Police got involved. Her boyfriend went to prison. Her ex-husband took custody of the kids, and Kyra lost touch with everyone in her family. She lost all of her possessions, except for her car, which she started living out of. As if things couldn’t get messier, she found out she was pregnant.

After her sister refused to give her money to abort the gangster’s child, an adoption agency referred her to a women’s shelter called Shepherd’s Door.

Too ashamed of her life to tell anyone, she packed her belongings and left to have her baby at the shelter.

A woman does not have to be homeless to be accepted at the Christian-based transitional care facility, operated by Portland Rescue Mission and located on the border of Portland and Gresham.

Some arrive voluntarily, by word of mouth or at the recommendation of a friend or family member. Many show up bruised and battered, suffering sexual or emotional abuse and pain. Their lives have been destroyed by meth, heroin or alcohol addictions. They’ve lost touch with family, reality, God.

“When you meet some of these men and women and learn about their struggles, you realize any one of us could have that happen,” said Alexa Mason, spokeswoman at Shepherd’s Door.

A similar shelter for men called the Harbor is located in Northeast Portland.

Portland Rescue Mission also operates an emergency homeless shelter in downtown Portland at 111 W. Burnside St.

Up to 42 women and children can stay at Shepherd’s Door, where they live in apartment-like rooms. The program, started in 1994, moved to its new facility on Northeast Halsey Street and 132nd Avenue in 2003.

Once in the doors, emergency services are provided to those who need it. Then women have the option to commit to a free, 12-month residential recovery program. For many, the program is a last chance to right an upturned life.

Mason said many women just need to hear, “We are here, and we care about you.”

At no cost, they receive a warm, confidential and safe place to live, eat, shower and sleep. Then recovery begins.

Living in the dark

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Kim Schoenes new favorite hobby is reading in the library of the womens shelter.Kim Schoene of Gresham was jobless and living in the dark, literally, using her electricity money to buy meth and lying to protect her finances. Her five children had been taken away by their father years ago. She had taken a final blow to the head by her abusive boyfriend, their relationship shredded by the greed and craze of a meth addiction.

Schoene,38, finally decided, “I wanted a different life.”

Hurt, lonely, afraid, Schoene walked out the door and never went back.

After bouncing between a domestic violence shelter and her brother’s house, she landed at Shepherd Door’s eager to start the shelter’s year-long, in-patient treatment program.

“Drugs had not done anything for me,” Schoene said.

Upon entry, women enter a “black-out” phase that lasts four to six weeks. No mail, no phone calls, no visitors, no cigarettes, nothing but themselves to focus on recovery.

Schoene hated the no smoking rule at first. And the quiet. Imagine trying to sit down and watch a Lifetime movie, she said, considering the life she had known for so long was a “stay at-home tweaker.”

But off drugs, the quiet soon took on a different persona.

“All the time in my own head turned out to be a good thing,” she said. Schoene started to feel and think clearly again.

Instead of taking drugs to suppress the fear and hurt, she turned to counselors and God.

Facing pain, isolation and broken relationships is part of the process to recovery.

The Bible and its teachings are a required component of the mission’s program. Women go to daily chapel services and Bible studies.

Two months into the program, Schoene said she is building a relationship with God.

“I am learning that God loves me,” she said. “I don’t have to have somebody,” referring to the abusive relationship it took her so long to leave.

God is helping her work through her past turmoils, letting her forgive herself and giving her the strength to change, she said.

In the treatment program, women take classes to understand their addiction, trauma, mental illness, unemployment, criminal record, lack of housing and life skills, anger, grief and despair.

They work with counselors to get to the root of their problems: how their often-troubled childhoods affect who they become as adults.

“I really never knew who I was or what I liked, and I am learning that here for once in my life,” Schoene said.

Many women at the shelter are relearning the skills their parents or guardians were not around or were too high to teach them.

She was 15 when her parents introduced her to meth.

“The whole foundation I based my life on came crumbling down,” she said. “It was fake.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - A garden is therapeutic healing for some women at the shelter.Living at the shelter, women have access to a workout room, childcare facility and playground, kitchen, cafeteria, outdoor patio, garden, living room and lounge area, library, computer stations with Internet, clothes “boutique” and shelves stocked with toiletries.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Fresh clothes are important to women working towards a new take on life.While she has been hurt in more ways she can remember or would like to admit, Schoene said, “This is a safe place.”

She is confident she will be able to heal with God and the help of staff.

When she goes back into the world, Schoene said she will have the tools to start her “real life.”

‘Just the beginning’

As a single mother addicted to methamphetamine, Schoene’s two boys and three girls were taken away. “I’ve let them down so many times,” she said. Many of them have grown up and continued on with life.

Schoene is trying to mend the broken relationships with those still around.

Her 14-year-old daughter visits her at the shelter on the weekend.

The girl is proud to see her mom trying to change, encouraging her, but her 18-year-old son is still angry with her.

“I need to know how bad I hurt my kids,” Schoene said, unable to hold back tears.

Though it is just the beginning of her journey, she said, “It will heal.”

Women move through four, three-month phases (Causes, Critical Conditions, Cures and Completion) before they can graduate from the program.

The last step is preparing for transition. Residents are trained how to get and keep a job, find housing and maintain stable living once they’re out.

After graduation, women can spend another year at the shelter and gain job experience by completing an internship with the mission.

“I knew I needed to come here; I needed help,” Schoene said. “And thank God Shepherd’s Door was there to help me.”



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