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Once homeless, woman now calls Hampton house home

By Ed Brock

When she came to Calvary Refuge Center Homeless Shelter 22 months ago Betty Matthews had no idea she would leave to go live in her own house.

But on Friday Matthews and her four children will do exactly that, move into a $94,500 house in Hampton, a dream that she realized with more than a little help from her friends at the shelter.

"I feel great. It's something to go home to," Matthews said.

And while there have been other success stories coming out of Calvary Refuge, Matthews is making history for the shelter, said shelter spokeswoman Tawana Tarno.

"Most of the shelter residents, when they leave they are usually going back to their old apartment," Tarno said. "It's very unusual for us to see them leave us and purchase a home."

One of the first people to help Matthews onto the road to home ownership was Debbie Green, a volunteer with Women Success Network who puts on parenting groups and finance budgeting classes at the shelter.

"She's the one who told me about the program through the (United States Department of Agriculture)," Matthews said.

That program is Rural Housing Services, part of the USDA's Rural Development Office. Along with the affordable home loan, members of the community donated furniture for the new house, and the Jodeco United Methodist Church of Stockbridge "Jodeco on the Road" program rented a truck and is helping Matthews move along with other assistance.

When she came to the shelter 33-year-old Matthews had lost her job and her apartment in Jonesboro. A single mother, Matthews got a job with the JCPenny's Outlet warehouse in October 2002.

The house is a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch house on Belmont Court. Matthew's children, 15-year-old Shanika Barber, 13-year-old LaQuonda Matthews, 12-year-old Donterris Matthews and 5-year-old Antavius Matthews are also excited about the new house, Matthew's said.

And Matthews success has inspired Denise Lipford, another former resident of Calvary Refuge who, after receiving the help she needed to get her own apartment, came back to work for the shelter. Matthews deserves her good fortune, Lipford said.

"You just have to love her," Lipford said. "She goes to work everyday. She doesn't miss work unless it's an emergency."

But there's still more the community can do to help Matthews. The shelter is trying to find a car for her, Tarno said, and a clothes washing machine.

Matthews said she's not picky about the color of the car.

"As long as it's a car that runs I don't care," Matthews said. "Just a good running car."

Currently the shelter has 40 residents, Calvary Refuge Transitional Operations Manager Kristen Schooler said, 15 adults and 25 children. They are always looking for volunteers and donations, said Tarno and Schooler.

Anyone interested in doing either can call the shelter at (404) 361-5309 or they can page Tarno at (404) 280-3010. Calvary Refuge is at 4265 Thurmond Road in Forest Park.