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Troubled families will find a haven



Published: Mon, July 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A school inside the former hospital also is under consideration.

By MONICA BOND

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- More movement is happening inside the Riverside Square building as two ministries expand their plans to help troubled families and youth.

Abigail's Home has moved again -- and another venture, Safehouse Ministry, is moving into the second floor of the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital, 1400 Tod Ave. N.W.

Tina McGowan, Abigail's Home founder and executive director, said the home seeks to provide an atmosphere of love and caring for women who need help putting their lives back on track.

Safehouse Ministry, meanwhile, works to help troubled teens and keep them off the street, explained its executive director Robert Denen.

Abigail's Home was planning to move into space on the first and second floors and the fourth floor. It will now occupy the third floor, and Safehouse Ministry will have the second floor.

The third floor gives Abigail's Home four wings, McGowan said. Three wings will provide emergency housing, housing for mothers and children, and housing for single women. The fourth wing will be the programming hall, which will include classrooms, an arts center, gym and caseworkers' offices.

Educational aspect

Abigail's Home also hopes to build an in-house school for children. Jim Freeman, director of development, said a new law effective July 1 limits the number of new charter schools that can be sponsored in Ohio each year.

"There can be only 60 new schools each year, 30 sponsored by school districts and 30 with other sponsoring agencies. Right now there are 100 applications," he said.

That leaves Abigail's Home two options: a private school or a conversion school, opened as a satellite by a local education agency. A conversion school would work in conjunction with a local school for a certain population, Freeman explained. He said a charter school is no longer an option because of the new law.

"The best scenario for these kids is private because we can pick our own staff," he said.

Freeman said there is a lot of work to do to get a school ready.

Targeting teens

Denen said Safehouse Ministry plans to set up a residential home for troubled teens. The home is the third step in its five-part ministry, which focuses on reconciling teens and their families.

"We try to get teenagers off the street," he said. "We want to put good, moral people around them."

The first two parts in the ministry are up and running: An after-school program provides healthy activities and a moral environment for teenagers, and a work program helps the teens find employment. A summer camp is part of the work program.

Denen said Safehouse Ministry hopes to begin accepting teens July 25. Its final two steps are partnering with other ministries and building a large recreation campus for sports.

"Hopefully we'll be able to do that within the next couple years," he said.

All teens who will live at Safehouse Ministry's home will be referred by the state, but Denen said the ministry will open some of its services to residents of Abigail's Home. Denen said there will be a game room available to others, family counseling, and children at Abigail's Home can attend the ministry's summer camps.

"We will partner with her [McGowan] as much as possible," he said.




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