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10-07-12, 02:09 PM #1
Homeless moms who plead guilty to felonies allowed to live in apts with their kids instead of jailRosalia Silva came to New York from Mexico with the promise of a good job, her small child in tow. Instead, she was forced into prostitution, trapped in a life of abuse and misery, and she saw no way out. Deeply depressed, she tried to hurt herself and her little boy.
Silva was arrested on assault charges and jailed, and later institutionalized while her son, Francisco, lived with foster parents for nearly five years. But then Silva was accepted into Drew House, a program for mothers that allows them to live with their children in a private apartment instead of prison while they serve out court mandates.Silva and four other mothers live in the unmarked apartment building in Brooklyn, all sent there for felony offenses. Some involve drugs, others weapons, and still others more violent crime. Eligible women are flagged by Brooklyn prosecutors and defense attorneys. In order to live there, women must be homeless, have minor children, and have pleaded guilty to a felony. The charges are dropped if they complete the court-ordered requirements, but if they break the law or don't follow through, they get the maximum sentence.The women are largely independent except for a curfew and sign-in requirements. Mothers attend parenting classes, job training and therapy. Their children go to school and receive medical care and tutoring — and are given a sense of stability and safety.
Rita Zimmer, the founder of Housing Plus Solutions, the nonprofit that runs the program, said it costs $34,000 annually to house a woman and her children at Drew House. It costs nearly four times as much to incarcerate a woman and put her children in foster care.
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