Next Step Made Easier For Abuse Victims

The Women's Shelter of East Texas is known for providing a safe haven for women who need an immediate escape from domestic violence. The shelter can now continue that assistance through the "Next Step Transitional Housing Program."

An abandoned Methodist church has been refurbished into seven individual apartments. They're for single moms who have permanently left their abuser and are now working or going to school.

The service it provides stirred emotions at a dedication ceremony on Thursday. Women's Shelter board member and financial backer Murphy George tearfully recalled the day he met the first resident. "She had her baby in a basket. She had her belongings in a paper bag. And I looked in her eyes... And let me tell you what was written across her face. I saw it just as plain. It said, 'My God, I'm in Heaven.'"

Thanks to the Conference of United Methodist Churches for reclaiming the property and donations from the Temple and Kurth Foundations "The Next Step Transitional Housing Program" will help many more women and their children.

Among them is Stacy Studdard who proudly showed off her two bedroom apartment. "This is a mansion to me compared to what we did have. This is a blessing. This is such a blessing," the mother of two young girls said.

Studdard is grateful for a place to start a new life. In her life before, there was abuse as a child and later as a wife. Studdard recalled, "It was like I was at the end of my rope, and I didn't know where I could turn to."

Studdard had a degree in business management, but it was managing her own life that she found difficult. "Even though I have 12 years military experience and have a degree, it's still hard. And I've had to transition my life around something else."

With the help from the Women's Shelter, Studdard is confident her family will survive. "They could see I had potential, and they knew I was trying, and when they gave me the opportunity to step out, it's just been a blessing."

Studdard plans to stay at Next Step for a year as she seeks a paralegal degree. Upon graduation, she's pledged to show her gratitude to the Women's Shelter. "By God's grace I'm going to get there and help somebody else, and I'm determined."