Project HandUp to open abused women’s shelter
As soon as Christmas of 2013, two dozen women escaping domestic abuse could be moving into new homes with their children in Grapevine, ready to start a journey of physical, emotional and spiritual healing. The Gatehouse at Grapevine, approved by the City Council this summer, will be the first women’s shelter of its kind in the area. And at build-out, it will provide a home for as long as two and a half years for up to 96 women.
“This has been a dream for so long,” founder Lisa Rose said. “The Gatehouse will be a passageway to a new beginning for these women — a safe, guarded, protected way.”
Rose and 11 other founders of the nonprofit Project HandUp began dreaming of The Gatehouse in 2006, when they began meeting weekly to discuss the needs of women in the community. By September 2007, the founders began bringing hundreds more into the fold when they launched First Friday, a monthly speaker series focused on women’s issues. But they still wanted to do more.
“The seed was planted then, but it was too big,” Rose said. “Looking back, it just wasn’t time.”
About five years later, timing would finally be on their side; Rose was contacted by Deborah Lyons, who had recently resigned after 11 years leading the transitional housing program at GRACE. With a master’s degree in psychology, Lyons had spent decades helping those in need in the U.S. and overseas, but for years she had been interested in being part of a venture that existed without the constraints of government funding.
She heard of Project HandUp’s ambitions to build a privately funded women’s shelter through a mutual friend and put a call in to Rose, hoping it would be the answer she was looking for.
“When I was with GRACE, we received 30–35 calls a week from women needing safe housing, and we couldn’t provide it because we didn’t have the room. It was a gut-wrenching feeling,” said Lyons, who will serve as The Gatehouse’s executive director. “Poverty and abuse are just around the corner from this place right here; it’s well-hidden, but you don’t have to look hard or far to find it.”
After Rose and Lyons found each other, they found the perfect location: a wooded 58-acre plot of land off Stone Myers Parkway. With $11 million already committed to the venture and a green light from the City Council, the first phase of construction is expected to finish by next winter with the first 24 apartments and a community resource center. Build-out plans include three additional phases of 24 apartments each, for a total of 96 one-, two- and three-bedroom homes.
The Gatehouse’s residents will work with counselors on everything from budgeting and parenting to job and household management skills, and will receive not only assistance with legal, medical and child care needs, but also time for personal growth and healing. Allowing residents to stay on for as long as two and a half years, Rose and Lyons say, will offer a solid foundation for women to restart their lives and a chance to break the cycles of poverty and abuse.
“Every single person has a purpose and every single person has possibilities, they just need to see them,” Rose said. “If we start in the family, then the culture has a chance to change. This is a beginning.”