Knoxville halfway house for women suddenly closes, leaving clients in limbo

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville halfway house for women shut its doors seven weeks ago leaving some residents in need of help. Women who depended on the house say what happened was wrong.

For the last five years, The Next Door Knoxville, a halfway house, provided a safe place for women coming out of jail. It closed suddenly in early February, leaving some wondering what to do next.

Missy Emory, 36, put her faith in The Next Door Knoxville, a place she called home for a short six weeks. On parole after serving two years in jail on drug charges, she was finally getting her life together. On February 2, the Next Door Knoxville closed. Emory was left starting all over again.

“I’ve had no where to live. It’s been really hard because I put my faith into the program,” she said.

When it was open, The Next Door Knoxville provided services to 14 women, felons recently released from jail. Completing the six month program was part of each woman’s parole. Under strict guidelines, they were required to find jobs, pay rent, buy bus tickets and attend counseling sessions. The faith-based non profit was also a licensed level three alcohol and drug treatment center.

“We all felt that we were lied to,” said former resident Heather Mullins.

While Mullins didn’t have to scramble to find a place to stay like Emory, she was within a week and a half of finishing her six months. She says that wasn’t the situation for others.

In early January, Mullins said everyone was called into a meeting and told not to worry that the place would not be closing. Then a memo came January 27 from their case worker saying the Next Door Knoxville wound be closing, but the note gave encouragement —  the clients would not be in violation of their parole.

“I’ve got four years hanging over my head. I do not want to go back to prison for four years because The Next Door breached contract,” said Mullins. “‘They breached their contract. We signed forms to stay there for six months unless we did something wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong… They closed on us.”

“The rug was just jerked out from under us,” said Emory.

In a letter dated January 28, CEO Linda Leathers wrote: “TND-Knoxville will no longer operate as a halfway house after March 22.”   However, Emory says she was given less than six days to move out as the doors were closed February 2.

WATE 6 On Your SIde was scheduled to speak with directors from Next Door last week, but they cancelled at the last minute. They sent an email instead. “Our team created detailed discharge plans to ensure a successful transition for each client. We want each woman to succeed. All clients agreed to the terms of our transition plan and voluntarily left, we did not kick them out,” read the email. “As part of their after-care, each client has been invited to attend our weekly LRM program, or lifetime recovery management program.”

“I’ve not been contacted by anyone,” said Emory.

Mullins heard from Next Door Nashville right after our initial inquiry to them. They sent a text message on March 14 saying, “LRM tomorrow at 6 p.m. Hope to see you.”

Emory says without assistance the last seven weeks have been difficult.

“I lost my job today,” she said through tears. “I’m not saying it’s their fault, but if this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had to stay everywhere. I could have made it to work, I wouldn’t have lost it, my job.”

In its statement to us, The Next Door Nashville said if there was a “misunderstanding” or “our effort fell short” for any of its clients, “we look forward to rectify the situation.”

The Next Door Knoxville is expected to reopen in a few months, refocused to provide treatment for women with addictions.

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