The Mountain Times

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For furloughed women, Mandala House stands for ‘unified living,’ hope and rebirth

One new structure in Rutland is giving women, once jailed, just that - some structure and hope as they build new lives.

The Mandala House, an 18-month residential, rehabilitative program next to the Vermont Achievement Center, had a grand opening and tour last week attended by city leaders, Rutland Police Chief James Baker and the many women who are learning job skills and how to live in a home life free of violence and full of tolerance, while they are out of jail and on furlough, or supervised released.

The House, four months into it's first influx of women from a Chittenden County detention facility, has already seen progress in helping women stay drug and crime free and earn their independence.

The program is funded by the Vermont Department of Corrections with support for the structure's remodeling from the Vermont Housing Conservation Board and women who live there receive counseling and 24-hour supervision.
Take it from Michaela, a resident of the house who recently made a hand-braided scarf out of recycled material for sale in a number of different Rutland co-ops.

If not for the Mandala House, Michaela said she would be on her own in an apartment in the city without a support system, which lends itself to relapse.

"You're pretty much thrown out to be on your own and you don't get enough supervision or support," Michaela said, asking that her last name not be used.

She also said many women in jail have nowhere to go if they were to get out, so they stay.

"A lot of women who have been incarcerated are extremely talented and intelligent and deserve that chance," she said.  
Some of those women attended an official ribbon cutting ceremony last week.

According to Dr. Cheryl McKenzie, program director, the women have built their own garden, got into trade school, job hunted, helped in Tropical Storm Irene recovery and helped build a home with Habitat for Humanity.

Police Chief Baker told the women that he and the city want them to succeed and "get where they need to be."

"Oftentimes, victims see themselves on the other side," Baker said.

Rutland Mayor Chris Louras praised the women for setting an example. "What you can do shows others what can be accomplished," he said.

For more info on The Mandala House, call 772-7802.

Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The Mountain Times, she can be reached directly at cristina_kumka@yahoo.com.