Hope House helps turn lives around - FOX 13 News

Hope House helps turn lives around

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

Women helping troubled women with a second chance. They are often moms serving prison time who commonly re-offend after they're let out. There is now help and a new approach to turning those lives around.

Behind the razor wire and bars of Florida prisons are high numbers of felons serving time for drug related crimes. It's often an endless turnstile cycle of lost hope.

Something that very rarely ends in a spotlessly clean family environment.

April Black is the exception. She has turned around after losing her kids and doing prison time from a life of hard drug addiction

"It's just been an amazing journey and I've been blessed," April said as she played board games with her kids in the living room of their home.

She has regained custody of her two children and is working again. April has a good paying job, a management position at a local car dealership. She has a lot of people to thank.

"Five wonderful woman and my team, they picked me up from prison and gave me love and support and I have my children back," Black said.

Support from a team of female mentors who volunteer at a place called First Touch Mission and Hope House, a faith-based prison outreach program in Pinellas County, FL for released female convicts.

"Each woman has a mentor, actually they have five mentors who sign up for a whole year and do life with them. They become lifelong friends and they don't want to disappoint," said Barb Stepanik the program's team leader.

She drives the team of mentors to bring about social and financial change and independence for women re-entering society.

"Every time we have a team meeting we look at those goals and we see what those victories are in terms of repairing family relationships, gaining financial security, employment, health & medical issues," Stepanik said.

In 2-and-a-half years they've helped eight women stay free, with only one falling back into a life of crime.

Much support and love to reach the ultimate goal. The kind of life April can have with her kids again.

"I still have a team of women I can call on at any time."

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