Mission’s new site a real refuge

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

Jeanette Robinson was deep in despair during the summer when she locked herself in her apartment and smoked crack cocaine for four days.

She had just ruined 11 years of being "clean and sober."

Now, "it’s so joyful waking up every day knowing that I don’t have to live like that anymore," she said Sunday.

Robinson and her 11-year-old son are temporary residents of the Everett Gospel Mission shelter for women and children, a neat and new facility in a serene neighborhood in Lowell.

She was one of the helpers who prepared the facility for an open house and a first anniversary party Sunday afternoon.

A throng packed the shelter’s chapel for a presentation about the shelter that moved a year ago from a smaller facility on Hewitt Avenue near downtown Everett. That was a wise decision, executive director Sylvia Anderson said.

Moving into a residential neighborhood has helped people like Robinson.

"It caused a transformation in the minds of the women as to their expectations of where they should live or could live," Anderson said.

A nice, middle-class neighborhood with views of the Snohomish Valley and Cascades is a much better location than Hewitt Avenue where the women were likely as not to find drugs and the same sort of conditions that set their lives awry in the first place, she said.

"It’s in a neighborhood-type environment so you feel like you’re in a safer place," Anderson said. "I think that raises expectations for themselves."

One of Sunday’s guests, Helen Jackson, agrees.

"I think it’s great to come on a day like this where you can see the young women, visit with the people in the community who are interested in this place," said the widow of the late Sen. Henry M. Jackson of Everett. "It’s a wonderful, tranquil setting. I think they need a little bit of serenity in their lives."

Jackson was invited to the facility more than a year ago when the organization’s board was considering a purchase of what had been a home for patients with Alzheimer’s.

"I came out and thought the whole thing was terrific," Jackson said. She still does.

The hope is that when women see the kind of lives they could live, they will be reluctant to fall back into some of the patterns that brought them to the shelter in the fist place.

Some of the residents have had drug or alcohol problems, many had been emotionally or physically abused. Maybe they have been evicted because they lost jobs, Anderson said.

"I like to tell people our clients are your sister, your mother, some of your girlfriends and some of your best friends," Anderson said. "Some are here because they just gave up on life and ended up on the street or living in the bushes."

The shelter has a strong structure and strict rules everyone is expected to follow. Everybody has chores and must keep up their rooms.

The facility has a capacity of 75. Most are alone, but one of the four buildings is reserved for women with children.

In addition, the shelter has firm ties to various other social and support agencies for counseling and job preparation programs.

Although some in the Lowell community were nervous when the Everett Gospel Mission opened the shelter, Anderson thinks that storm has been quieted.

"They’ve welcomed us," she said. The only complaint she heard from a neighbor was addressed immediately, Anderson said.

Neighbor Steve Willey said he has seen no problems, despite a warning about it from his mother. Another neighbor, Cinderc Tong, added: "I’ve had no problems with them at all. They’re usually pretty quiet over there."

As for single mother Robinson, she’s glad someone in her church got her into the shelter. She didn’t want to go back to her old apartment, where drugs are readily available and there’s the memory of her binge.

She hopes to be out of the shelter by the end of the year, in a new home away from drugs.

"I’m happy now," she said. "I have everything I want. (The shelter) has given me a chance to really look at myself. My son lost trust in me."

Every day she does something to enhance her recovery. Robinson said she’s getting stronger.

"I no longer feel lonely and overwhelmed," she added. "I have all these ladies on this property to talk to."

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