Open House Ministries’ new executive director, Renee Stevens, understands where people entering its shelter are coming from and why it can take time to build trust. That’s because in 1999, she entered the shelter with her three daughters.Then a 29-year-old single mother, she had been living on the streets while the girls stayed with family. They were able to reunite and stabilize at one of Open House Ministries’ studio apartments with help from the staff and intensive programming.“Despite of how broken I was when I got here, they loved me,” Stevens said.“I have always believed in Renee,” said Wayne Garlington, the former executive director.He’s worked at Open House for 14 years and remembers when Stevens was a client. Stevens embraces her background and uses it to inform her work at Open House, he said.“We were just so impressed by her,” Garlington said. “You could just tell there was something special there.”Stevens was hired in 2005 and has moved through the ranks. She’s worked as part of the overnight staff, at the front desk and in case management. Most recently, she was leading the case management team. Now that she’s taken over the private faith-based nonprofit — 17 years after she first entered its program — she’ll oversee the 34-person staff.She’d like to see more interventions with children, who represent about half of the people staying at the shelter. Currently, there are after-school programs, youth groups and cooking classes, but Stevens would like to bolster the programs. A new van was recently donated to shuttle kids around to activities.
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