ALBANY, NY -- "I have four daughters and four granddaughters," said Gwenndolynn Thompson Kirksey, a client at Lydia's House. "And you have to know I don't want to see any of them go down the paths that I have."
In the mid-90s, Kirksey, an Albany native was arrested on drug charges.
"I violated probation and ended up going upstate for 21 months," she said.
The day she was released, she was referred to Lydia's House.
"I still look at the pictures," said Kirksey. "Sitting around that table. Having all my children, all my grandchildren, Tamika and her sister, that warmth and that comfort is what keeps me going in wanting to do the right thing, to continue to have that support that I got that day."
The brick building doesn't stand out on Clinton Avenue. It doesn't even have a sign. But for female inmates re-entering society it's anything but ordinary.
"A homecoming," said Kirksey.
Every wall, ever hardwood floor, renovated with the blood, sweat and tears of Tamika Williams and her husband.
"We want them to be able to know that the support is here and to feel that they're welcome," said Williams. "So we help them find housing, we help them find employment, we help get them into treatment for alcohol, drugs, mental illness as well. I believe in it because I've seen the turn around and I know that it is possible."
Kirksey is now in treatment and has regained custody of her 11 year old daughter, after spending nearly three months here. Karen Foust is going on her second week.
"This is stepping stone for me, this is going to help me prosper," said Foust.
"When you're getting ready to leave the program you stay in this room," said Sandra Matos, who has been at Lydia's House for 60 days. "I've been clean and sober for six months. Tamika helps us do positive things within ourselves. I wanna go back to school."
A lot of the trust they have in Williams comes from the fact that she knows where they've been. 15 years ago she was on this very block when her life took a step in the wrong direction.
"I was arrested right there on that corner," said Williams, pointing across the street. "I did five years [in prison]. I was angry with God, I was angry with society, how they let me down, they failed me."
When she was released she had forty dollars in her pocket, nowhere to live and a six year old daughter who barely knew her. It was a wakeup call.
"Because I was able to see a new direction and some hope," said Williams.
Williams started volunteering; she graduated community college and bought a house, naming it for a woman in the Bible who offered shelter to former inmates.
"If she can do this I can be a drug counselor," said Foust. "She inspires me."
Williams says more women are referred to her program every day, but a lack of funding keeps her from answering the call.
"It forces me to keep the beds empty, absolutely," said Williams.
She's confident she'll get there, her inspiration being how far she's come from that false step 15 years ago.
"I come by there and I see that spot and I look across the street and I look at the transition that has taken place in my life," said Williams. "It's amazing."
To donate to Lydia's House, mail a check to:
Lydia's House, Inc. 336 Clinton Ave. Albany, NY 12206 or donate online at www.lydiashouseinc.org