Local public safety leaders and service providers joined friends and family of Diane Wade, a former Multnomah County parole and probation officer, to cut the ribbon on a new Afrocentric women’s transitional home bearing Wade's name.
The first-of-its-kind 38-bed program will serve justice-involved women in Multnomah County. The County is partnering with Bridges to Change, a community-based organization, to operate the Gresham-based program and provide mentoring, case management and life-skills services. Additional agencies will provide on-site, culturally specific programming.
A $2 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, through the Safety and Justice Challenge, helped fund the project. The two-year grant aims to reduce disparities and unnecessary incarceration by supporting mental health and addiction programs. According to a 2015 report prepared through the Safety and Justice Challenge, African Americans in Multnomah County are six times more likely than whites to be incarcerated, even though they only represent 6 percent of the County’s population.
“This is one of the most important projects that I’ve ever had the honor to be a part of,” said Chair Deborah Kafoury during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, April 10. “Women, especially black women, have not been given the same opportunities to reclaim their lives.”
Wednesday, guests including Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, District Attorney Rod Underhill, members of Multnomah County’s Circuit Court and more got a rare glimpse at the 6,300 square foot transitional home before clients move in this month. The home — adorned in African pictures and artwork — will provide culturally-specific mentoring and life-skills. Multnomah County Department of Community Justice parole and probation officers and case managers from the County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division will refer participants to the program. They will live at the Diane Wade House, with the goal of transitioning back to the community.
“It is important that we as a public safety system acknowledge the harm that institutionalized racism, embedded in the justice system has caused our communities of color,” said Abbey Stamp, executive director of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council.
“This is our attempt to do something different and do something right,” Stamp shared with guests.
Diane Wade was known for her advocacy and passion for supporting justice-involved women. She belonged to the Department of Community Justice’s African American Program, where people remember her fondly for supporting them during their most challenging times.
O’Nesha Cochran met Wade while Cochran was incarcerated at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Cochran said meeting Wade changed her, inspiring her to get sober and turn her life around. Now, she will be the program manager at the Diane Wade House, helping to mentor other people in similar situations.
“Diane Wade came into the penitentiary when we had nothing to give her. She came into the penitentiary when we were locked up and we were deemed incapable to be in society because our behavior was dangerous,” Cochran said. “And she still came to see us.”
Candidates must be at least 18 years old with a high need for behavioral health support. Priority will be given to African American women who are on supervision and have a history of trauma, mental illness or a substance use disorder, but women of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds are eligible to participate.
Alexandria Ioane, Wade’s daughter, said the program will embody her mother’s spirit. Wade, she said, brought out the best in others. Ioane said she hopes the home will help other women heal.
“Having a house that embodies that, that is able to do that for other women, is absolutely amazing,” Ioane said during the opening celebration. “When you got to that finish line, she was there to say, ‘Good job.’”
Ioane then turned to the women who will mentor the Diane Wade House participants.
“And so, ladies, good job. And I hope that you are able to do that for some other women.”
To view more photos visit Multnomah County's Flickr page