Photo by: Steven Mantilla/Times-News
By Natalie Allison Janicello
Trash bags and suitcases filled with belongings are neatly placed against some of the bedroom walls of women who have left a variety of unstable situations in search of a new start.
Bryant, 28, is executive director of Kearah’s Place, an organization named after his sister who died from cancer at age 7. After opening houses in Burlington and Graham, the ministry recently opened a facility at 869 S. Main St. in Burlington, where women seeking to escape domestic violence, drug addiction or homelessness, or those just out of jail with no place go, can have a safe place to rebuild their lives.
“It started out simple,” Bryant said. “We just wanted to help people get into better situations, and it turned into something amazing.”
The ministry began in 2013 with a residential house in Burlington, and it “just kept getting more and more women and people calling,” Bryant said. That facility now houses families, including four adults and six children.
The organization funded by private donations, grants and money from residents once they begin working, Bryant said, then opened a home in Graham that is housing two men.
Five women live at the Main Street facility, where they’re given breakfast, lunch and dinner, counseling, health care services, assistance finishing education, and work and life skills training. Kearah’s Place employs three full-time staff members and relies on volunteers to work at night.
“We wanted to help the ones who couldn’t deal with so much freedom,” Bryant said.
At the Main Street facility, residents sign in and out, and have a 9 p.m. curfew. They attend church services at Help Center Church, where Bryant has served as pastor for seven years.
Bryant said Kearah’s Place takes two pictures of residents: one when they arrive, “to show them how broken they look,” and another once they’re ready to move out on their own, to show “how successful they’ve become.” Residents typically stay for around six months.
Among those who have come through his program, Bryant said, is a young woman who had planned on simply continuing to live off a $600 Supplemental Security Income check she received every month.
She thought her only job option was prostitution.
He said that after working with her, the organization helped the woman get her first job at Wal-Mart and understand that $600 wasn’t a lot of money to survive on.
“You’ve got to have some type of ambition to say, ‘I might start off this way, but I don’t want to stay this way,’” Bryant said