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Healing haven unites families

LifeChange Center for Women and Children opens in Beaverton


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Ellie Garrett starts the long process of unboxing her possessions at the new LifeChange Center in Beaverton on Tuesday. She is on a path to turn her life around and rededicate it to raising her sons, ages 2 and 4.Ellie Garrett is counting down the days until she is reunited with her two young sons.

The 29-year-old Grants Pass mother spent Monday and Tuesday unpacking and setting up her room at the new LifeChange Center for Women and Their Children in Beaverton.

The LifeChange Center offers transitional housing that provides a safe, healing environment for women and their children to overcome homelessness, addiction and abuse. It opened its doors this week at 3400 S.W. 103rd Ave. in the former Northwestern Christian Home for the Aged dating back to 1938 on the Cornerstone Church property.

Garrett, who is a recovering drug addict, recently made the decision to commit to a yearlong program with the Portland Union Gospel Mission.

“Initially, I planned to go home on Dec. 13, but having the opportunity to have my boys more, at least on the weekends, is a big deal for me,” said Garrett, who learned about the program in August from a “sister” who was finding success in her recovery.

Her probation officer also recommended the recovery program as a way for Garrett to achieve the sobriety she was striving for.

“Being able to have my sons with me puts even more strength behind me to get well,” Garrett said. “This place provides me with the support I need to get my footing.

“I have been able to work through things with my counselor to find the deeper issues that led me here. I’m growing as a person and am able to see things more clearly. I want more time to work on those issues.”

As she and nine other women settled into their new home after relocating from a downtown Portland location on Northwest Third and Burn side, the calming gardens and peaceful setting of the Beaverton facility provided a welcome relief from the bustling entertainment district.

“I am still taking it all in,” Garrett said.

A safe haven and family

Opening the new LifeChange Center marks the first time Portland Union Gospel Mission has been able to offer recovery housing to women with children, said Stacy Kean, communications director for the Christian-based organization.

“At the downtown Portland facility, we were forced to turn pregnant women and women with children away,” she said. “It was heartbreaking. Now, we have the space to provide the support and services they need.”

As part of the program, residents will live at the Beaverton facility as they work with a case manager and counselors to heal and gain spiritual growth. They take classes, participate in work therapy, attend weekly counseling sessions and Bible study as well as build life skills. The dedicated staff also hold them accountable for their actions while offering support and encouragement.

When it reaches full capacity, the center could eventually house 25 women and about 20 children, said Gloria Hall, LifeChange director.

“For the women who choose to move onto the next phase of their recovery, they know it’s their chance, and it doesn’t cost them anything,” Hall said. “We can’t make them change, it’s their choice.

“We want to walk beside them and create a safe environment where women can be touched and healed and transformed. That’s really by the power of Jesus Christ. He’s opened a door, and it’s our opportunity to love on them, lead and guide them.”

On average, about 92 percent of homeless women have domestic violence issues in their past, Hall noted. “As part of our ministry, we help them deal with the core issues that led to homelessness. Unless we deal with those, they are likely to relapse.”

“Our mission is to help these women escape homelessness, addiction or domestic violence,” she added. “We are making this place a home, and they are part of our family.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Melinda Bell unpacks her boxes Tuesday in the new women's LifeChange transitional housing facility in Beaverton. Bell is from Eastern Oregon and credits the program with turning her life around.

Change on the horizon

Melinda Bell, 39, was seeking change when she learned about the Portland Union Gospel Mission and its LifeChange program.

“I found a flier on a bookshelf in jail and gave it to my lawyer,” the Hermiston mother recalled.

The faith-based recovery program appealed to Bell, who wanted to get her children back and put her addiction to methamphetamine behind her.

Since first entering the program on April 18, she has grown stronger. “I am able to trust in God and wait on his timing and not force things to happen on my schedule,” Bell said.

As she set up her two-bedroom living quarters in the Beaverton center to accomodate her 16-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and 6-year-old son, she was bubbling with excitement as she looked ahead for the day her 9-year-old twins would be able to join them.

“My kids will be here this weekend for a visit, and three of them will move in the following week,” Bell said. “I didn’t think this would ever happen, and it’s here. It’s really happening.”

She is grateful to the program and the chance it has given her to begin a new life.

“I was looking at 10 years in prison for selling prescription drugs, instead I have a one-year sentence to home detention, where I am learning new life skills and able to raise my children in a healthy environment.”

Watching women like Bell on their road to recovery is rewarding, Hall said.

“It’s wonderful,” Hall said. “We see it as a walk they need help with. It’s a process. It is awesome to watch them do well and start flying.

“I’m like a proud momma.”

As the first child moved in on Tuesday night, Hall and Kean were all smiles.

“These women wholeheartedly desire to be mothers and have the chance to restore relationships with their children,” Kean said. “Opening this center allows families to stay together and get well together.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Gloria Hall is excited about the Union Gospel Mission's major expansion of its LifeChange program with the opening of new transitional housing for women with children in a leased Beaverton center.

You can help make a difference

Portland Union Gospel Mission relies on individual donors and donations from churches, businesses and private foundations to fund this new Beaverton facility and program.

The LifeChange Center has many needs to outfit the space for women and their children, including bunk beds, dressers and other furnishings to make it a true home.

Union Gospel Mission is also seeking significant financial support for the expanded program that will allow the center to more than double the number of women it serves in addition to supporting their children.

Volunteers are also needed.

Below is a list of items needed for the Beaverton LifeChange Center for Women and Their Children:

  • Two bunk beds with double on bottom and a single trundle

  • 10 night stands with a drawer

  • 20 blinds (The center can get these at cost. It needs sponsors to donate $75 for each blind. Some rooms need one, some two.)

  • 15 (five-drawer) chest of drawers (The center can get five at half off for $275 each.)

  • 30 valances

  • A 48-inch flat-screen television with sound system

  • CD player

  • 20 twin bed sets (sheets, comforters, bed skirt)

  • 15 pillows

  • Volunteers to help: electricians, plumbers, painters, help move heavy boxes or furniture

  • Someone with a truck who could do pickups/deliveries

  • Women or groups that can come in and help fix a meal, serve and clean up

  • Christmas gifts for the children and the women (The center has a list of things they would like.)

  • Six new computers and software to start the Learning Center, where women work on their GED, typing skills and computer literacy

  • Business phone system for 10 staff members

  • New computers and software for 10 staff members.
  • For more information and to donate, visit ugmportland.org or call 503-274-4483. To volunteer, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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