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Tracy Arnold was not fully aware of the extent that the effects of homelessness can have on a person until she lost her real estate business in 2009.
A victim of the recession at the time, the mortgage broker was forced to close down her business of 32 employees.
She tried to seek help for her situation, but it was not exactly what she expected it to be. The hard times she had fallen on, on top of the domestic violence situation she soon found herself in, were starting to take its toll.
“After you are experiencing such a loss, I began to feel bad about myself. I was embarrassed, and I was shameful of what had happened,” she said.
Eventually, things started to improve for her, but the experience stuck with her from then on. She decided she wanted to improve the lives of women who find themselves in similar situations. From there, Arnold Place was born.
“I wanted to do something because we are not what we go through,” Arnold said. “Things just happen to us and here I was I didn’t have the appearance of someone who was facing homelessness. I didn’t have the appearance of someone who was in a bad situation, but that was what was really going on for me. So I knew if I had experience that, other women would experience it too and I wanted to do something to help.”
Arnold Place, a transitional home for women who are victims of homelessness and domestic violence, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 24 and will officially begin taking in women at the end of the month.
Sitting on 10 acres of land and containing five bedrooms, with two dedicated to families, the home will be able to take anywhere from 12 to 15 women at a time from ages 16 to 64. The house also includes a computer room, meeting rooms for instruction, a TV room, a sunroom also for discussions and meetings and a donation closet where women can take clothes and other items they may need.
Women will be allowed to stay at home for up to 18 months so that they can get on their feet and go through a complete recovery process, Arnold said.
“I wanted to give them two cycles, two areas in their life where they can actually go through that first nine months to discover who they are, discover who they were actually created to be, discover why they were put on this earth,” Arnold said. “And then the next nine months allow them to be able to push and give birth to that. Because when you are transitioning, there has to be a healing and deliverance that takes place.”
Arnold Place began with Arnold’s organization Arnold Place Inc. Founded in 2014, the nonprofit operates to provide for and create resources for underserved communities, especially those on the cuffs of homelessness.
Arnold wants the home to be more than your average transitional home and instead will be taking on a more “holistic approach” in healing and recovery. In addition to just giving the women to stay, Arnold Place will offer services such as mental health awareness, parenting classes, self-awareness and job placement.
“The biggest thing, the biggest class I’m excited about offering besides the normal things that you are in expectation to receive when you experience a transitional housing that we’re going to be offering is financial literacy which will include credit repair and home buying,” Arnold said.
According to the Maryland Department of Health’s latest report on homelessness from October 2016, there were 29,670 homeless individuals recorded that year, a six percent increase from the year before. Of that number, 39 percent of them were women, and the majority of them were adults over the age of 24.
Of the homeless people counted throughout the state, there were 1,921 total individuals from Prince George’s County counted during fiscal year 2016.
The home will not be able to have women start moving in until the end of the month, Arnold said. They were delayed 30 days due to some Fire Marshall/Department changes needed in the home such as extra smoke alarms in the bedrooms.
However, they have begun taking donations. They now have a garage full of items such as toiletries, clothes and other household items. What they really need now though, Arnold said, is funding.
Running a transitional home for 12 to 15 women is not an easy endeavor. They will need funding for utilities, a chef, 24-hour security, counseling services and instructors, all of which could cost Arnold Place up to $1.5 million per year, Arnold said. Additionally, she hopes to create a garden where they can grow food to be intentional about their holistic mission.
More than anything, Arnold wants to leave an impact on the women that they will carry with them when they leave Arnold Place.
After the 18 months, or however long they decide to stay at Arnold Place, they will know how to forgive themselves, how to live beyond what happened to them and live a healthy life beyond Arnold Place.
“I want them to take away the lesson, to take away if you can fall you still have a right to get back up,” Arnold said. “You do not have to stay where you are. And to know that there are people out there that love them and that people care.”