Who is Angela?
Angela M. Schneider O'Connell
Angela House honors the memory of Angela M. Schneider O'Connell, who typified the energy, love of life, and care for all of creation that comes when one has the opportunity to live and grow in safety. Angela was passionate about empowerment of others, fiercly believing that all people have the right to live, grown and becomet he kind of person they want to be. Her keen intellect, sense of humore, and warm personality were a joy to all who knew her.
Angela taught those who knew her what it meant to live vividly alive, even as cancer ravaged her body. She fiercly resisted the "dying of the light." Each new treatment was a stand against death, a refusal to give the disease warrant over her, her family, or her friends. She continued to work hard, look elegant , engage itellectually, cook marvelous meals, and warmly greet her friends. Angela passed on November 10, 1998 at a much too early, 51 years of age.
Angela House provides residents with the opportunity to resist "dying of the light," which is so often a consequence of incarceration.
The mission of Angela House is “To successfully transition women into society after incarceration.”
At Angela House, our philosophy is to establish a community of women who respect themselves and each other, and who are committed in working for their own empowerment as well as the empowerment of their families and each other. The administration and support staff will work hand-in-hand with the residents in creating a communal atmosphere in which each individual feels respected and valued. Empowerment of residents is one of the primary goals of Angela House. Empowerment is accomplished by assisting each resident in identifying her strengths, setting her own agenda, and making constructive changes in her life.
History of Angela House
Angela House was founded in 2001 as a transitional, residential facility for women upon their immediate release from incarceration. The program was identified as a “Special Work” of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP), Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston at the behest of Bishop Joseph Fiorenza. Located in Houston, Texas, Angela House serves women released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison and state jail system, and county jails. In July 2006, Angela House became an independent, non-profit, 501c3 entity within the Archdiocese. In December 2013, we relocated to a newly renovated facility south of downtown Houston. This move allowed Angela House to serve more residents and expanded our programming. Healthy & Whole, our collaborative with Healthcare for the Homeless Houston, seeks to empower residents to make healthy lifestyle choices through a variety of creative and innovative interventions.
Residents of Angela House are typically homeless or at risk of being homeless and have, few if any resources with which to begin the process of moving toward stable residency and productive lives. According to Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) statistics for fiscal year 2008, 61% of the women released from prison were minorities, with 66% under forty years of age. The average IQ is 91: the average educational achievement score is at the 7th grade level, although releasees report completing the 10th grade level.
Through July 2015, we served 307 women who came to us voluntarily. During the calendar 2015, we expect to serve approximately thirty eight women. Initially, the women make a four-month commitment with the understanding that they can extend their time in order to accomplish their goals and successfully reintegrate into society.
The women who participate in the program need housing, counseling, medical, dental and legal assistance, jobs and often retraining or education to support themselves and their families. Forty eight percent of the women currently incarcerated in Texas are there as a result of drug charges. Sadly, budget cuts have led TDCJ to greatly reduce substance abuse education and therapy opportunities available to women while incarcerated. These events have directly impacted the population of women we serve.
The core staff of Angela House is comprised of the full time executive director, associate director, case manager, office manager and program psychotherapist. A house manager is on site when core staff is not available, to provide transportation and support to residents. In addition to collaborative agreements with other community partners, we contract for the services of our program psychotherapist. She is a Master's level therapist who is also a licensed chemical dependency counselor and provides weekly individual and group therapy to all residents.
Angela House also involves members of local faith based communities, high school, and college students to engage in doing justice through volunteer activities as well as financial contributions. It provides an opportunity for all involved to walk in solidarity with women after incarceration as they struggle to turn their lives around and reduce their chance of returning to prison. The hearts of community members are changed by the experience of putting a face to those society refers to as "ex-offenders." Volunteers provide computer support, creative writing, speech, tutoring, Bible study, clerical support, bookkeeping, general maintenance, gardening and yard work. In 2014 volunteers provided 4107 hours of service.
Sadly, there is nothing to indicate that the number of women incarcerated in Texas or the number released back to the community without a plan of treatment will decline. We expect that Angela House will be here for many years.