How one woman went from middle class mom, to drug addict, to prisoner, to a force for good in Cleveland's reentry movement.
Meet Cynthia Rios, Executive Director of the Women's Wellness Network and Founder, Dinami House.
Before my addiction really took hold, I remember driving through ravaged parts of town and thinking, "There should be a place where women could go that's safe."
I wouldn't find that safe place for years.
I remember sitting in the prison laundry room, listening to a young girl tell me she was "going home...but I don't have a home to go to." That didn't make sense to me; how could they just put her on a bus headed for her hometown - "send her home" - when truly, she had no home. She had nowhere to go and no one to receive her when that bus stopped.
"Somebody should do something about that," I remember thinking.
I turned out to be that someone.
I knew nothing about a "calling" but I now realize that God was orchestrating my path.
I developed an addiction I didn't understand that pulled me into its grip again and again. I ended up in prison. And then, in that laundry room with that young girl. But addiction does that; pulls us in, makes us crazy, drops us in jail or prison or worse; and then we either stop or we die. That's the story.
But this - this is my story.
I came home from prison determined to rebuild my life. I used to be a middle class, single mom. I had two great kids, a booming career, two cars, the works. I looked like I had it made. Then, I entered an unhealthy relationship that turned into a train wreck.
It looked like my life was over.
Then, God used my life for something powerful.
I knew - I really knew - that God had a plan for my life. From the start, God connected me with people who took an interest in helping me build something for other women. Women just like the young girl I met in that laundry room; women just like me.
God used everybody: staff, roommates, even folks I thought would have no interest - they all headed me in the right direction.
I was on a mission to open a home for women leaving prison. I would say, 'women coming home,' but of course - they had no home.
With three other recovering women, we started the Women's Wellness Foundation, a 501(c)3. We were just a few women trying to help other women by starting a group that focused on reentry.
Next, we needed a house. Not just any house, but a space where we could provide a loving, transformational living environment for women.
We needed a house that could become a home.
God, and the Cuyahoga Land Bank provided our perfect house which we named Dinami, from the Greek word for "strength." We worked hard and turned Dinami House into a real home where women grow in their recovery and strength.
So many sister organizations and individuals came together to provide labor, furnishings, good beds, pretty dishes, and decorative items so our new residents would feel as if they've truly come home.
It's been a long journey.
From middle class mom, to prisoner, to reentering woman, to Executive Director of the Women's Wellness Foundation which welcomes formerly imprisoned women home, is a steep path. But I have felt God's presence throughout, lifting me up, guiding me, transforming me into a woman for others.
With the Women's Wellness Foundation and Dinami House, God is using my life to transform life for other women; together, we're welcoming women home.
Note: Dinami House welcomed our first woman to her new home May 27, 2017. We are, with Gods help, on our way!
If you need help: Contact MiddleWayMinistries@roadrunner.com for confidential assistance or visit MiddleWayMinistries.org
If this is an emergency, go to your nearest emergency room.
If you need detoxification: Call Rosary Hall Intake - 216-363-2580 for assistance
If you need housing or other reentry assistance: Contact the womenswellnessfoundation.org