Opening Doors to Second Chances

One year ago, Candace Boots needed help. When addiction made her life “spiral out of control,” she found a fresh start at the Maria House. 

“Without this place, my days would be dark and dim,” she says. “Words could never express how grateful I am to have a roof over my head and my children’s heads.”

Homelessness Can Happen to Anyone

Candace is not alone. Since 2000, nearly 3,000 homeless women and children like her have received a second chance at life at Maria House or Teresa Shelter, two women’s shelters supported by the nonprofit Opening Doors.

“Our story started with a homeless woman and her dog on a park bench in Jackson Park,” says Ann Lorenz, development and marketing director for Opening Doors. “The dog found a home easily, but there was no place for the woman to go. We opened our doors shortly after.” 

According to the Institute for Community Alliances, 12,918 Iowans were homeless and served by emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid rehousing or street outreach projects in 2015. Another 8,174 Iowans were at risk of becoming homeless. Community organizations like Opening Doors are working to change these numbers by not only providing shelter, but also access to the job training, counseling, and support people need to break the cycle of poverty. 

“We’ve had women with master’s degrees who have fallen on hard times and need to rebuild their lives,” says Ann. “Some people are dealt bad cards in life. There are many reasons why people become homeless, so we try and break that cycle of homelessness by giving them the skills they need to find another way.”

Providing a Second Chance

Today, Candace is feeling grateful and hopeful about her future. She’s been sober for a year and she’s pursuing her High School Equivalency Diploma and a career in social work with hopes of someday working to improve the lives of others like herself.

“If I can help at least one person like me, I know I’ve succeeded,” she says. 

A Constant Source of Support

Ann Lorenz is also grateful—for the many community members who support Opening Door’s endowment fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. This year’s payout will help fund a new program at Opening Doors called Doorways to Hope, a job skills training program that teaches women soft and hard job skills so they can secure living wage jobs. 

“In 2013, we lost a very large federal Housing and Urban Development grant, and the endowment payout was there to fill that gap,” says Ann. “It was there for stormy times like that and it is there for the future growth of our organization.”  

Photo caption: Candace Boots (left) is grateful for the support she received from Opening Doors and Maria House Case Manager Brittany Beesecker (right). 

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The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque envisions a vibrant and inclusive Dubuque region where everyone can thrive. Since 2002, we have inspired people to give back to their community, and we turn this generosity into lasting change across our region, increasing access to resources and opportunities that help all people succeed. 

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