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Changing Lives: Salvation Army’s Door of Hope

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A few years ago, nothing was going right for Liz, a single mother of two sons with special needs. Her family’s life had been upended by events out of her control, and as hard as she tried, she couldn’t seem to get it back on track. Then she found out about the Salvation Army’s Door of Hope, a multifaceted program that includes transitional living facilities for women and children.

“I’m in such a good place now,” says Liz, who recently moved into a new home in Clairemont, not far from her 12-year-old boy’s school. She also got a big promotion at work. “The things I value now are different than what I valued before.”

In 2011, Liz was forced to take time off from her job and move out of her apartment when a man she’d dated briefly began stalking and threatening her. While at a safety house in Oceanside, the second shelter the family had moved into after fleeing their home, Liz’s older son, who was 18 but considered a minor because of mental disabilities, was brutally attacked by eight men in broad daylight. He was stabbed and barely survived the beating.

“He fell into such a deep depression,” says Liz, who had to take a long-term leave of absence. “And he no longer felt safe at safety houses.”

Her older son went to stay with a friend while Liz focused on finding a more permanent home for her and her younger son. Then she got a call from Door of Hope’s Transitional Living Center, which has an apt acronym: TLC.

“The women who come to us have drama and trauma going on all at once,” says Salvation Army Major Jessyca Elgart, who administrates Door of Hope. “It’s hard to look for a job when your living situation is couch to couch. It’s hard to maintain stability. It’s hard to get on your feet and rebuild.”

TLC — which provides for up to 26 families at any given time — is just a part of the seven-acre Door of Hope campus, which also provides foster care for teen moms and live-in rehabilitation treatment for women who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

“It’s all people in transition,” explains Elgart, who points out that the Door of Hope doesn’t do much public fundraising and relies heavily on private donations. “They’re transitioning into adulthood, sobriety, and living independently.”

For Liz, the TLC was a godsend. When she first arrived, she clarified her goals, which included personal healing, taking classes, getting back to work, and cleaning up her credit. During the 18 months she stayed — it’s typically a one-year program though some women stay longer — Liz received spiritual counseling, therapy for her and her son, and classes on nutrition, budgeting, and more. She says she was buoyed by the common bond she shared with other women. “We were all in the same boat,” she says. “We supported each other.”

Liz’s case manager helped her get her career back on track and qualify for a car loan through the outside Ways to Work program. And though Liz is now in her own home, she remembers her two-bedroom place at Door of Hope fondly.

“People donated such nice things to make the apartments feel like home,” she says. “Even white roses outside the door. We were surrounded by beauty instead of being reminded of all the dark things that had happened.” (858.279.1100, www.sandiego.salvationarmy.org)      ANNAMARIA STEPHENS

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