Volunteers make upgrades at Santa Maria Hostel in Spring Branch
Some Houston-area women working to better their lives will benefit from improvements volunteers made at the Santa Maria Hostel in Spring Branch on Friday, Oct. 5.
The AEC Cares ProjectHouston brought out about 150 helpers to the nonprofit facility on Jacquelyn Drive that offers residential addiction treatment and housing to approximately 110 women every day, according to Santa Maria Hostel CEO Nadine Scamp.
Santa Maria started in 1957 as a halfway house helping at-risk women, but over time it began focusing on substance use issues and looking at the unique needs of women who were parenting or pregnant and those concurrently facing substance use and mental health disorders.
“The mission of Santa Maria Hostel is to empower women and their families to lead healthy, successful, productive and self-fulfilling lives,” Scamp said. “We provide a full continuum of care to meet each individual or family where they are on their recovery journey, from community based prevention and intervention programs, to outpatient and residential treatment for substance use disorders, to long-term housing and recovery support.”
AEC [Architects, Engineers, Contractors] Cares added new flooring, lighting, storage and furnishings to the facility’s meeting spaces that Santa Maria participants use for therapy groups, family visitations and free time. Also, they upgraded the dining and kitchen areas and added seating, gardens and a playground to the outdoor space.
AEC Cares began its first “blitz build” in 2011 as the American Institute of Architects to hold their annual convention in New Orleans. Laura Marlow, ConstructConnect vice president of strategic partnerships and AEC Cares executive director, and her colleague Mike Waldinger thought to put the convention’s thousands of attendees to work in the city that was still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
Marlow said being a part of the program has had a large effect on her.
“Spending so much time in underserved communities has profoundly changed me as a person,” she said. “I feel far more aware of the struggles of people living in these areas and more determined than ever to make a difference.”
Since 2011, AEC Cares has done projects in Orlando, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Washington with the help of organizations like ConstructConnect, Andersen, MAPEI, Assemble Systems, DesignIntelligence and Wells & Kimich, Inc. Also, Kirksey Architecture, LBK Architecture, Terralab Landscape Architects, Rivers Barden Architecture, Powers Brown Architecture, and DE Harvey Builders also provided designers and general contractors pro bono for the Santa Maria project.
Last year, Santa Maria helped more than 5,000 women, children and family members, and Scamp said the impact of its work is felt not just by its participants but by the greater Houston community.
“Addiction impacts everyone in our community, and it has such negative impact not only on individual women and families, but for our community at large in terms of strain on our child welfare, criminal justice and health care systems,” Scamp said. “We are one of the only places in Houston where a woman can access treatment without insurance and one of the few places in Texas where a woman can bring her children with her while she accesses treatment.”
Marlow said AEC Cares looked at doing work at other sites in Houston, some of which were damaged in Hurricane Harvey but needed structural work greater than what could be addressed in the one-day blitz build. Santa Maria was chosen, Marlow said, because the organization requested projects that could be completed in one day and also because its mission aligned with that of AEC Cares.
She said she was looking forward to how the renovations would enhance the experience of women and families at the Santa Maria Hostel.
“The women at SM have faced difficulties that most of us cannot imagine. They’re now using the services of SM to get their lives on track,” Marlow said. “I love the idea that we’re making their environment a bit brighter and perhaps making their lives a bit better in the process.”