KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s all about second chances at Focus Ministries. The organization helps women just out of jail or prison rebuild their lives, but it needs more space to make that happen.
At the ministry’s Freedom House on East Emory Road in Knoxville, construction crews are adding a retaining wall and expanding the driveway.
On the outside, it looks like a regular home. Inside, are women who have worked harder than anyone will ever know to help other women get their lives back on track. Women like Savannah Ford who was in and out of jail for drug charges, facing a double-digit prison sentence in 2021 until she was offered a chance in court to get help instead.
“They allowed me to go to the program, basically on bond,” Ford said. “I felt like they were giving me one last chance before they tried to throw me away and I did it. I knuckled down, I was very determined, I could see God all through it. That’s the really cool part. God orchestrated all of this, and now my life is on a track I never thought it would be on.”
Focus Ministries Executive Director Heather Kaiser explained the process.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got, so these ladies are building tools and they’re learning new ways. They’re working on workforce rehabilitation, they’re getting their CDL so they can be a truck driver, they’re getting their cosmetology license, they’re doing culinary schools so they can have sustainable wage jobs, but it’s still difficult to go from incarceration to completely on your own in just six months,” said Kaiser.
That’s why Focus Ministries needs more housing like its Freedom House to provide step-down programs for women in various stages of recovery.
“It’s been difficult to find a place for them because once we submit the application and we let people know that some ladies that are going to be here have a past, they don’t want to rent to them.” Kaiser continued, “I really would like for people in the community to get to know our ladies as human beings instead of judging them based on something that happened years ago.”
Just look, for example, at Ford.
“I say thank you to Focus,” she said, “because it helped me just completely redirect my life in a positive way that three and a half years ago, I would’ve thought was never possible. I thought I was going to be on drugs forever, and now I have hope. I have a future and all these wonderful things about me I never knew were there.”
Ford is now on staff at Focus Ministries, helping other women.
The organization holding a grand re-opening at its Freedom House to celebrate its expansion and garner support for more housing. Focus is holding tours of the house on Thursday, October 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1414 East Emory Road. The public is invited.