The Transitional Living Center provides lessons and hope within its walls. This hope builds more positive community members in Kenai and Soldotna.
Despite the general misconception, TLC is not a treatment center for drugs and alcohol. It is a safe place for homeless women and their children to transition to independence. With a focus on successful independence, the center enables residents to move beyond the past and to become a part of the community.
Although the center is a branch of the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, clients do not have to be victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. TLC takes referrals from all community agencies and calls from people personally interested in the program.
The center encourages independence through the use of educational groups, advocacy and life-skills training. Intensive, hands-on education is provided on everything from budgeting to cooking to locating work.
The center also refers clients to various community agencies, such as the Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and the job center.
Even more important is the support that clients receive from staff and from each other.
"There's a lot of bonding between women that are here and learn to trust each other," said Deb Eisele, legal advocate at WRCC.
This feeling is echoed by TLC clients.
"Being able to support each other has been a real part of my growth," said TLC client Lisa Greenleaf.
Greenleaf has been a client of TLC for two years. She lost her home shortly after her husband's death in 1998.
Because she was unable to adequately house her son, she allowed him to live with his grandmother. She fell into a relationship that rapidly became violent.
"I knew if I stayed in it, I was going to die," she said.
Greenleaf managed to get help from a women's shelter in Juneau. She heard of the TLC program in Kenai and moved to the area with $18 in her pocket.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Greenleaf began taking steps to regain control of her life.
"I would wake up screaming in the middle of the night. ... Sometimes I wouldn't even know that I had been crying and screaming all night," she said.
SueAnn Romanski is another TLC veteran who is thankful to have found the program. TLC has helped her to overcome an abusive relationship and assisted her in finding treatment for her alcohol abuse.
"I used to hide behind alcohol," she said. "Now I have my own apartment and a lot of resources to help me."
The advocates at TLC take a personal interest in each of the clients. Romanski has a daughter out of state who was in a violent relationship. One of the advocates took the time to look up numbers for social service agencies in her daughter's area.
"Each (advocate) had something different that we could take and use in our daily lives," Romanski said.
Clients Patti Bowman and Renee Mitotes agreed that the support from advocates is essential.
"They're there because they want to help," said Mitotes. "I've got my dignity back and my self-respect and my independence," she said.
The center counsels clients in the importance of taking life one step at a time.
Bowman suffered from agoraphobia, a fear of leaving her home. She was addicted to opiates and alcohol and had virtually cut off her relationship with her daughter.
When she found she was going to be homeless, her difficulties multiplied. However, the assistance at TLC has helped her begin to cope with her illness.
Bowman is making friends for the first time in years. Her daughter visits and sometimes spends the night.
"I never would have done any of this on my own," she said.
Saturday at 10 a.m., more than 200 runners and walkers are expected to participate in the 14th annual Kenai Peninsula Run for Women. The purpose of the race is to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault issues on the central Kenai Peninsula.
Mitotes and some of the other TLC clients plan to participate. For them, the run is an opportunity to show what they've accomplished.
It's also a way to say thank you to the advocates and the community for their dedication and donations.
"I guess what we'd say is a collective, in capital letters, 'Thanks!' to the advocates and to the community," Greenleaf said.
Greenleaf will receive an associate's degree in human services in the spring from Kenai Peninsula College. She is on the dean's list and plans to obtain a bachelor's degree in psychology. Her son has been living with her now for more than a year, and she credits TLC with helping her regain her life.
"I have recovered my full identity. I am a whole person again. ... Now I am part of a community," she said.
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