Transition home geared for women of color at risk of re-offending opens in Gresham

Diane Wade House - KATU image

A transition home opened in Gresham that is dedicated to African American women who are on supervision and at high-risk of re-offending.

The Diane Wade House is part of an overall strategy to reduce unnecessary incarceration and reduce the number of African Americans who are over-represented in the criminal justice system.

It's named after Diane Wade, who served as a county successful parole and probation officer. She was a leader in the African American community and best known for her advocacy and passion for justice-involved women. Wade passed away in October 2010.

The home is the first-of-its-kind transitional housing program for adult women involved in the criminal justice system in Multnomah County.

KATU News learned that the dormitory-style home will house 38 women and provide gender and culturally specific mental health, addiction and support services. It is designed to provide an alternative for people who would benefit more from community-based services than from jail.

Women will be referred to the Diane Wade House by parole and probation officers. Participants will be identified as someone struggling with mental health and/ or substance abuse issues, with an interest in becoming engaged in supportive housing services and community stabilization.

Shalontelle White-Preston is the home's resident assistant. She has direct experience with the criminal justice system. She served three years at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility after she was convicted of theft in 2013.

White-Preston says there was a lack of services while she was in prison. She did not have access or the opportunity for a transitional program like the Diane Wade House that would have helped her change and reintegrate into the community.

"When I got out, I had to get the jogging suit, the gray jogging suit," White-Preston said referring to how little she had.

Today, White-Preston doesn't wear gray. She graduated with success after receiving help from community organization Bridges to Change.

Multnomah County partnered with Bridges to Change, who will operate the Diane Wade House.

"It was a journey, and I’m not going to look back, I’m going to look forward," White-Preston told KATU. "That’s what we want. We want our women to look forward into the future, and know that they can be [anything], and they can dream big."

White-Preston, along with many other formerly incarcerated women, including O'Nesha Cochran, and members of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Multnomah County and community corrections provided extensive input to design the home and craft the program.

Local leaders, including Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, County Chair Deborah Kafoury, local judges and community leaders attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.

The 6,300-square-foot Diane Wade House has 38 beds, and features community rooms, conference rooms, a meditation room, and a kitchen and dining area.

The Diane Wade House is funded by a mix public and private dollars, and from the MacArthur Foundation through the Safety and Justice Challenge.

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