Published: Sunday, October 8, 2006
Abigail's Home prepares to open shelter
Abigail's Home is named after a little girl Tina McGowan helped.
By TIM YOVICH
BAZETTA Abigail's Home, a nonprofit agency that serves homeless women and works with prison inmates, will open a shelter next month in Warren for women and children who have fallen on hard times.
Tina McGowan, agency executive director who has had her share of misery with domestic violence, rape, crack use and homelessness, has been working for 21/2 years to open such a facility.
McGowan said the shelter, working with donations and with National City Bank, will open in November at 1140 Main Ave., an older, five-bedroom house.
It will be able to accommodate 15 single women or women and their children.
McGowan terms homeless women and children "a hidden problem," since 42 percent of the homeless in the country are in either category.
The administrative offices of Abigail's Home are in a house at 2920 Niles-Cortland Road, next to Tamer Win Golf Course.
From the Heart Gift Shoppe filled with children's clothing handmade by the staff and items donated by local crafters is also at the Bazetta headquarters.
Telling her story
McGowan, 47, brings in $100,000 annually through donations by telling her personal story of the many bad decisions she made earlier in life.
Also, Abigail's Home has received a $125,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives to work with inmates at the Trumbull Correctional Institution and their families to reduce recidivism through reuniting families and working with their children.
Abigail's Home is named for a little girl she helped care for because her mother was bipolar and homeless.
McGowan has received between 10 and 15 calls monthly from women who need help because of illness, disabilities, job loss, can't earn enough money or can't find affordable housing. In 2005, the number who sought help was 186.
If McGowan can't help them locally, they are referred to sister missions in Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown or as far away as Arizona, Texas and Washington.
McGowan lives in Champion with her husband, Kevin, whom she met at the former Warren General Hospital. She was a patient and he a licensed practical emergency room nurse.
"He took care of me," she said while sitting in a conference at her office.
They have been married for 16 years, have four children between them, and have fostered 13 children in the past 41/2 years.
McGowan said she can relate to the women she talks with who have problems.
McGowan was reared in Hubbard in an atmosphere of domestic violence. Her father, she explained, was abusive.
At age 23, she had 2-year-old and 9-month-old children. She fled that relationship and spent six weeks at a Youngstown homeless shelter.
"I was scared," she recalled, explaining that her husband at the time had become physically, emotionally and verbally abuse.
She had no money, no car and no clothing after leaving her husband. "It was awful."
"Part of me was relieved because I knew I was safe. I was scared because I didn't know what the future held."
McGowan said she moved around because her husband was stalking her. They were eventually divorced. She had a full-time and two part-time jobs to earn enough money to leave the area.
She moved to Jupiter, Fla., but found it difficult to make ends meet. She then decided to return and left her children with her former husband's parents.
"That was the hardest thing I ever did, leaving them," she said.
She returned to Florida. "I found myself In the wrong place at the wrong time," McGowan said. She was raped.
Having lost her identity, family and children, McGowan started using crack for the next six months.
She returned to the area in 1989, two years after a life-changing religious experience, and moved in with her parents. She was determined to care for her children.
She worked several jobs such as at New Life Maternity Home in Vienna. In 2003, McGowan went to work at the Warren Family Mission to develop a women's program, but it didn't work out because of differing philosophies.
However, it was at the mission that McGowan met Abigail and her mother and decided to start Abigail's Home.