Kandake House holds benefit concert with Nona Hendryx

LINDA ARMSTRONG Special to the AmNews | 5/25/2011, 5:50 p.m.
Greenhope Services for Women is opening their Kandake House today at 435 E. 119th St....
Kandake House holds benefit concert with Nona Hendryx

Greenhope Services for Women is opening their Kandake House today at 435 E. 119th St. in East Harlem. The $15 million, state-of-the-art residence will be an oasis for Black and Latina women who need substance abuse treatment and have been formerly incarcerated. Seventy-two women will live at the site, 28 of them with their children. Anne R. Elliot, Ph.D., the executive director of Greenhope Services for Women, spoke with the AmNews and was excited to talk about this new facility.

AmNews: How would you describe Kandake House?

AE: It's more than a substance abuse treatment program. It's the alternative for poor African-American and Latina women to prison. This population is a program within a community; Harlem. They are referred through the court. Women returning from prison who served their time and now are getting reentry services. If a woman from the community has a substance abuse problem, they can come in also, if they have a Medicaid card and take services from our outpatient program. We also deal with prevention.

AmNews: What kind of services are offered for the youngsters, and what age range of children will be there?

AE: Children are aged 0-5, because an intervention at that age is very successful and helpful. It's a critical time. We teach parenting skills, and now we can watch the parenting going on in the program. Family Services also has programming for women who don't have their children.

To serve the children, kids come and get to talk with other kids who have parents in prison, who need to talk about the shame they feel. There's family therapy offered for residents and for outpatient therapy.

Our program is women-centered. For our outpatient clients-which will go as high as 400 women-we will make home visits to make sure the house she's living in is drug-free and there's no domestic violence. Anything we offer residential clients, the outpatients get as well. For our residential clients, this facility is a viable alternative to the trauma of incarceration and their illness.

AmNews: What kind of accommodations will these 72 women live in?

AE: There are rooms inside suites, where there are a bathroom, baby tub, two showers and two sinks. The families are in suites. There are six to eight women in each suite for single women, two in each room, and there's a lounge.

Kandake House is designed like a Kente cloth. It's an energy-efficient building, it has an organic garden on the rooftop, there's a lot of natural light-the whole building is holistically done. We have the traditional services-classrooms with Board of Education-certified teachers, mental health services, doctors on call and a medical unit on call.

Once someone recovers, what then? What makes life more meaningful? To help our clients get their lives together we offer yoga, tai chi; there's downtime and Mommy and Me massage classes, where moms are taught to massage their children. There's also a garden on the roof. The produce we grow we will sell in the Harlem Market. We have a 5 star-caliber commercial kitchen. We have a chef and kitchen manager teaching class. Our chef was an executive chef at B. Smith's Restaurant.