ANDERSON – After years of serving as the chaplain at the Madison County Jail, Barbara Dowling saw a need in the community. Affiliated with Sister 2 Sister Reentry Ministries and Outreach, she knew their work was vital but far too limited.
Transitional housing for women re-entering society after incarceration has been available through the faith-based program since December 2009, but the facility has only been able to house four women at a time. Dowling recently purchased a house that will service three times as many women.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved with women and there was a need,” she said simply. “I started looking in June and came across this place.”
Choosing the home on Historic West Eighth Street for the location, space and price, she has been renovating the 109-year-old structure to bring it up to code and refit the layout for their specialized needs. Problems multiplied as rehabbing continued.
“I thought I got a good deal on the house,” said Dowling with a shake of the head. “But we just kept running into more and more problems.”
A major unforeseen issue was the old knob-and-tube wiring, which all had to be replaced. Much of the plumbing had to be updated or added — as more bathroom space was needed.
“The floors even had to be jacked up to make them mostly level,” she added. “That was probably the biggest structural change we made.”
The most exciting was the conversion of a laundry room into a large bathroom/laundry room. This addition created two second-floor bathrooms and one ground-level half-bathroom. Of course, all the walls have been painted (by Dowling’s son, Travis) and some of the flooring has been installed.
By sleeping three to a room, the house will hold 12 women at a time. Since older homes tend to be much more spacious, large square footage and high ceilings grace each room.