There’s a sense of serenity throughout the house. Warm colors and heartfelt phrases like “May all who enter leave as friends” occupy the bedroom walls.
In the quiet living room, a light breeze trickles in thanks to the open windows on a warm spring day.
There’s a calmness that blankets the house. It’s a tranquility far from what many of the women who reside in the home are used to. Most of the residents come from homes of chaos, situations of abuse and overall uncertainty.
But at Beauty for Ashes in Alexandria, the women who live there are offered an opportunity to grow and a sense of peace, often for the first time.
The Christian home is an alternative for some homeless women and their children. The house offers a safe haven while residents go through a program to succeed in life and combat homelessness.
Director Sharon Renfro said instead of just offering a place to stay, Beauty for Ashes requires women to enroll in the program for at least six months. While there, they take classes, get counseling, work and get individualized help in order to get on their own two feet. Residents are also responsible for themselves, including paying for their own food and doing their own laundry.
“That’s what our key ministry is,” she said. “It’s the interior healing.”
More than 6,000 people are estimated to be homeless in Indiana, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But more often than not, people facing homelessness don’t have the tools and resources many grow up with, Renfro said.
It’s a common misconception, she said, that homeless people must deserve what they have – or don’t have – because of choices they’ve made.
“But that’s because they’ve probably been brought up in a Christian home, (were) probably protected by their parents and never had to experience any of the trauma these ladies have,” Renfro said. “And they don’t understand. If we all had been brought up in a protected youth, then we probably would all be pretty healthy.”