Autumn Henry, 37, moved to Fort Worth thinking a new location would provide her a new lease on life. Years of childhood trauma led her to substance abuse and legal troubles.
For a while, it seemed to make a difference. She had a job she loved, a house and a car, and she was able to provide for her two daughters.
With the progress she made, she thought it would be OK to have a casual drink. But her life took a turn for the worse, and a casual drink turned into substance abuse again.
“I had forgotten how to live, how to brush my teeth, how to wake up in the morning, make your bed and pay your bills,” Henry said. “I went to animalistic behavior… I thought my kids were better off without me; I could die.”
Child Protective Services got involved, her car was repossessed and her family and church stopped helping her with bills. She remembers falling to her knees praying God would guide her and help her keep custody of her children.
To ensure she could, Henry knew she needed a recovery program that could offer her long-term results and monitor her more closely than ones she’d previously been in.
She heard about Fort Worth’s Opening Doors For Women In Need from a Child Protective Services peer support coach. Within 30 minutes of her meeting with Director Sandra Stanley, there was a place for her in the program.
Opening Doors For Women In Need is a nonprofit that provides programs and resources such as housing for women who have been recently incarcerated or have struggled with addiction. It has resources for men, as well, but does not provide them housing.
The nonprofit recently received a $14,000 grant from United Way of Tarrant County to allow recovery from COVID-19 financial strain and provide transitional housing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, jails released inmates early, straining resources for transitional programs. At the same time, fewer jobs were available when the economy took a downturn, increasing the chances of recidivism.
Stanley founded the faith-based program in 2003, particularly to help women with the difficulties of meeting parole and probation requirements and to handle the emotional burden of re-entry into society.
“I want to be an advocate for re-entry,” Stanley said. “Not a lot of people see that as ministry because they’re like, ‘You’re adults, you need to get over each mistake.’ But a lot of people have made mistakes.”
The year-long program is not court-ordered, so women elect to be in it. It offers a home and a car for the women. There is an initial $300 program fee, which Stanley said goes directly back into the women’s rehabilitation. Women who can’t afford the fee can gain sponsorship for the first month.
Participants are required to work, save money, and attend regular Bible sessions and programs that teach life skills like time and money management and computer training.
The women attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous with a sponsor. They are also asked to reconcile relationships with family members or children that were strained from their addiction or incarceration.
Opening Doors For Women In Need
Goal: ”To help enhance self-esteem, build confidence and empower women.”
Director: Sandra Stanley
Location: 3600 Horne St, Fort Worth, TX 76107
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday
How to apply: Individuals can apply by calling or sending a letter to the organization
How to donate: To support Opening Doors, visit its donation webpage.
Opening Doors also offers professional counseling, a food pantry and recreation like gardening. The women have curfews and required chores.
“It was definitely an adjustment for me being homeless and a rebel,” Henry said. “But I was so eager to learn anything I could.”
The program’s rigidity appealed to graduate Natasha Barber, 40, who was convicted for her involvement in prostitution and methamphetamines.
“It’s easier to do prison,” Barber said. “Who wants to really go get help because that means you’re going to have to kick something? You can’t use crutches no more.”
There was only one spot in the program at the time she applied, but she said she knew God didn’t bring her this far to turn her away. Since being in the program, she’s been able to open a bank account, obtain her driver’s license and is close to earning her GED from Tarrant County College.
“If you knew me like six years ago, I couldn’t even keep an apartment for a month,” Barber said. “I came to the program and stayed a full year. I keep trusting the process because they have some really good programs and I needed that accountability.”
She works as a cashier and has illustrated a nonprofit Opening Doors For Women coloring book. She has plans for more coloring books and wants to be a drug counselor.
“I really think who better to tell the story or really understand than somebody who has been through it?” Barber said.
As for Henry, since graduating from Opening Doors For Women In Need in May 2017, she received two associate degrees with honors from Tarrant County College. Stanley inspired her to continue her education and now she has a full-ride scholarship to TCU, where she will study social work and child development in the fall.
Henry also works two jobs, is active in her daughters’ activities and has rekindled relationships with her loved ones.
“Because of the impact that Dr. Stanley had on my life, my kids’ lives and my family’s life, [my parents] actually let her walk me at graduation,” Henry said. “There are many success stories. Without that program, there wouldn’t be any hope for us.”
Opening Doors For Women In Need has a success rate of 97% with a 3% recidivism rate. It has a goal of helping at least 20 women each year.
“We’ve been good stewards working with partners and people with issues,” Stanley said. “A lot of the stipulations that they have coming out are so hard. I really have a heart and passion for this.”
This article has been changed to reflect the correct name of Autumn Henry, who is a graduate of Opening Doors For Women In Need. Her name was misspelled in the original version.
Brooke Colombo is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by grants from the Amon G. Carter and Sid W. Richardson foundations. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.