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ywca passage point reconnects moms to their children — and their futures: At the tender age of 13, Cherdy Rials had endured physical and sexual abuse and given birth to her first child. By the time she was 15, Rials had started using crack cocaine and dealing drugs in order to fit in with her boyfriend’s family.

Over the next two-and-a-half decades, life did not improve for Rials, who had amassed a bulky rap sheet for crimes that included burglary and drug offenses.

The light of Rials’ future was quickly fading.

But following a 2007 arrest for delivering drugs to an informant and a 40-day stint in the county jail, Rials became eligible for a corrections program called CCAP (for Community Center for Alternative Programs), which provides alternatives to incarceration. Instead of the potential decade behind bars she was facing, Rials was given a chance to turn her life around.

Within a year, Rials moved out of a shelter, left her abusive boyfriend, graduated from drug court and CCAP, and connected with the YWCA. She enrolled in Passage Point, which provides supportive housing to single parents returning to the community after incarceration to help them reunite with their children.


Reentering the community from prison can be particularly hard for those who have been incarcerated, noted Homeless Initiatives Regional Director Linda Rasmussen. “It’s a very destabilized time for those adults, because they have not been a part of the society and they have a stigma associated with them,” she explained. That creates barriers to finding jobs and housing, which hampers their ability to reunify with their children.

“This often results in recidivism and re-incarceration, which is expensive to our society,” Rasmussen added. By 2008, Rials had seven children ranging in age from preschool to adult. While she had custody of her youngest son, she was trying to reunite with her teenage daughter. Meanwhile, her parental rights had been terminated for twin boys who are now 10 and being raised by Rials’ mother.

YWCA Lead Case Manager Paulette Payne helped Rials obtain a Section 8 low-income-housing voucher, which otherwise would have been difficult to get because of Rials’ criminal background. And YWCA Housing Liaison Michael Anderson helped Rials find a landlord willing to rent to her.

“In 2009, we were able to move out of the shelter and into a three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhome,” Rials said. “It was wonderful.”

Rials was also able to connect to a host of YWCA programs that teach financial and life skills. She eventually landed a job with a chocolate factory, and life was going well.

“I had my house, I had my family, we had a savings and extra money to go out and do things like see a movie every weekend,” she said.

But challenges still loomed for the single mother.

“I got over-confident,” she said, and stopped attending the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings that helped her stay sober for some three years. Then the grandmother who had raised Rials passed away, and her oldest son was arrested for armed robbery.

“Everything had me so stressed out,” Rials said, and last August, she relapsed.

“I was living in motels, hustling, doing whatever I had to do to keep a roof over my head” during the relapse, Rials said. Yet the reality of how far she had come and all that she had lost reverberated through her core. “I felt so much shame and guilt and embarrassment of once again failing,” she said. “I felt I should have been stronger than that.”

All the while she continued to hear from Payne, her YWCA case manager. “Paulette would tell me, ‘Just come home, everything will be OK,’” Rials said.

After two months, Rials did return home and again began recovery. She continues to attend weekly support meetings and submits to random drug testing to help ensure she remains sober.

Although she no longer qualified for her three-bedroom townhome because her daughter moved away, Rials was able to find an apartment in Kent, and today eyes a future with unlimited potential. Her immediate goals include finding a job that fits around her son’s school schedule and getting her GED. Eventually she hopes to attend a school for culinary arts.

Through it all, she continues to rely on the support of Payne.

“If I’m stressed out, she’s one of the first people that I call,” Rials explained. “She’s always able to relieve that tension and that stress, and get my mind back on track. She’s like an angel; she’s like a part of my family.”

Although still shaken by her relapse, Rials believes it actually helped strengthen her resolve to remain sober and out of jail.

“I have my problems still, but there’s no problem that can make me go back out there, because that is the most miserable place to be,” she said. “Now I just work through my problems, I pick up the phone, I call people. I journal, I keep in contact with my caseworker. I’m reaching out.”

Rials graduates from Passage Point next year and feels confident that the help she received from the YWCA programs will sustain her.

“I will use the tools that I have gained and I will always remember where I have been and where I am now,” she said. “Nothing in the world is worth losing all that I’ve accomplished.”