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W House seeks expansion

June 16, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The executive director of the W House of Hagerstown Foundation Inc. hopes to move the residential substance abuse program for women into a new, larger facility with expanded services by the end of the year.

Executive Director Christina Trenton said she has been planning the $1.13 million project for at least three years. If the Hagerstown City Council approves a $350,000 loan next month, all of the funding will be in place, she said.

The 14-year-old nonprofit organization has received $702,177 in grants from the state government and $86,211 in foundation and corporate grants, Trenton said.

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The program plans to use the new property to double its bed capacity from nine women to 18, she said.

The extra space will allow the group to serve 40 or more women a year, Trenton said. W House averages a waiting list of 10 to 12 women, she said.

The home on Antietam Street, at 2,500 square feet, is too small to allow mothers to have their children with them, Trenton said. Six to eight children can be with their mothers at the new home.

Trenton hopes inner demolition work on an 11,000-square-foot property at 519 N. Locust St. will begin in July. The organization has purchased the property, which was previously the site of Ted's Rent-It Center.

The foundation will keep the existing home, perhaps using it as a place to provide transitional housing for low-income women, Trenton said.

She said women going through the program do not pose a threat to the community. They will be removed from the program if caught using drugs, she said. The female residents must have local jobs.

The group's purpose is to help the women move toward being self-sufficient, Trenton said.

The program works, said Gina, 27, who has been in the program for seven months. She did not want her last name used.

"It is structured to the point where it has taught me to be responsible, more honest and self-reliant," Gina said. "It gives the structure to live a decent life without drugs and alcohol."

The expansion is needed, she said.

"We definitely need more space," she said. "It is cramped."

The average age of women served at the facility is 27 to 35, Trenton said.

Most stay between six and nine months, she said. The minimum amount of time someone can stay is six months.

About 90 percent of the women treated were sexually abused as children, Trenton said.

The program has served more than 250 women since it started in 1988, she said.

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