CONWAY — Suzanne Gonzalez said the women who are living in the shelter she founded in Conway have the drive to turn their lives around, but there’s a big obstacle: transportation.
“We are needing transportation badly, like a van,” Gonzalez said.
“The women are seeking jobs, and they are ready to get jobs very quickly after their 30-day orientation,” Gonzalez said.
“We send them out to start
working, and with one car — and it has a cracked windshield, no air conditioning — it’s hectic.”
The eight women living in one trailer are participating in Stand Together And No Drugs, the ministry that Gonzalez primarily founded to help women who have been addicted to drugs, especially women just released from jail.
The women’s ministry is in Glen Echo mobile-home park, 1360 Torreyson St. Several donated trailers are being renovated with volunteer labor through Habitat for Humanity of Faulkner County and other groups.
The six-month program, which can be extended, Gonzalez said, has three phases.
“They get a little more independence after Phase 1; they go to work without being monitored,” Gonzalez said.
She said when the women come to live in the STAND shelter, doctor’s appointments are set up for the women to get examinations and receive any medications they need.
“They haven’t taken care of themselves when they get out of there,” she said of the women being released from jail.
“With eight women, we’re doing grocery shopping; we’re doing doctor’s appointments, interviews; going to the library to do online searches for jobs; GED classes; getting dental work,” she said.
The women go to counseling and education classes while in the program, and part of it is building their self-worth, Gonzalez said.
“I can’t even get a hairstylist to come in and do their hair,” she said.
“They feel like, ‘Hey, I’m doing something now; I feel great about myself,’ and it gives them motivation.”
She said the women work in the community through the Faulkner County Drug Court, performing community service at places such as The Salvation Army.
Making ends meet for the women is tough, she said.
“We’re not getting any financial support at all,” said Gonzalez, who does not receive a salary. “Our electricity, gas for the car, any kind of medical [care], prescriptions if some of the girls need them — we have no funding. We’re solely operating on donations. I’m trying to work on a grant.”
She has applied for nonprofit status and, meanwhile, is “piggybacking” off Vine & Village in Little Rock, she said.
“What we’re getting is donations, like toothpaste and stuff like that, which is great, and I’m proud of it and happy for it, but we need funding to pay the electric bills,” Gonzalez said.
Money to buy a vehicle or a donated vehicle would be a great help, she said.
“A woman said she was donating a van from out of state, and we never did hear from her,” Gonzalez said.
“As Christians, we need to pull together to help our sisters,” she said.
“I would say something different if the girls were just sitting around not doing anything, but they’re out there; they really are. I don’t want them to lose hope. They can’t get anywhere if they can’t get to a job.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.