Transitional Home Offers ‘Refuge’ to Downtrodden in Central Florida

by | Jan 31, 2005 | Charisma Archive

Mother Ann Smith’s House of Refuge has given former drug addicts, prostitutes and prisoners a second chance at life
When Tiffany Henderson was released from prison after serving a nine-year sentence, she struggled to find employment and make ends meet. Then she met “Mother Ann,” a Pentecostal missionary who specializes in helping people in transition. Before long, 29-year-old Henderson had landed a job at a restaurant and was an active church member.


Ann Smith–known as Mother Ann Smith within her denomination, the Church of God in Christ–is credited with helping hundreds of people turn their lives around through a string of transitional homes called the House of Refuge.


The faith-based residential facilities in Orlando, Fla., reach drug addicts, prostitutes, ex-prisoners and others. Some residents are HIV-positive. Others struggle with mental illness. “We help anybody who wants our help,” said Smith, stressing that the individual must want help.


Henderson, who lived at The Refuge, as the homes are known, while saving money for an apartment, was 19 when she was convicted of second-degree murder for stabbing and killing a woman in the heat of an argument. After rededicating her life to Christ while completing a reduced sentence at the New Jersey Correctional Facility, Henderson took the advice of a pastor and moved to The Refuge after her release.


“I am sorry for my past actions,” Henderson said, “but I am grateful for another chance.”


Mother Ann, 72, isn’t deterred by her residents’ sordid pasts. That’s because the former jail chaplain spent 30 years as a licensed practical nurse in Orlando-area correctional facilities, providing medical care for murderers, rapists, white-collar criminals and a host of others. “I don’t judge these people,” Smith said. “I just try to help them do better in life.”


According to the Florida Department of Corrections, roughly 40 out of 100 inmates released from prison in 2001 were convicted of a new crime within three years and approximately 26 of 100 returned to jail.


The House of Refuge helps residents avoid re-incarceration by offering a low program fee that includes housing and meals. Participants receive job training or work toward a high school diploma or GED. Some enroll in drug-prevention classes, and others go to work.


But all who live at The Refuge have an opportunity to get to know Jesus Christ through daily prayer and Bible study, which Smith and other local pastors and missionaries lead.


Brenda Straub, 54, knows the benefits of living at The Refuge. Straub was a substance abuser for years before she accepted Christ. With His help, she says, she managed to get off drugs and in 1998 worked as a volunteer on Homer Hartage’s campaign for county commissioner.


When the commissioner learned Straub had no place to live, he sent her to the House of Refuge and gave the ministry a donation to pay for her first month’s fees.


“All churches should collaborate with centers such as The Refuge and support them,” Hartage said. “We all have family members who have drug, alcohol and other problems to contend with.”


Today Straub is a licensed minister and on The Refuge’s board of directors. In 2003 she earned a real estate license from the state of Florida.


“I am extremely thankful for what God has done in my life,” Straub said. “Now I want to help others get their lives together at The Refuge.”


Mother Ann operated six transitional facilities before she sold five of her state-certified homes in 2003 to purchase a 20-bed home for men on three acres of land. A five-bed facility for women is located three miles away.


Mother Ann’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Last year, the local NBC affiliate named Smith “Town Hero.” And Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared March 25 Ann Smith Day during a banquet that honored her for outstanding community service.


“Over 30 years ago, God called me to this area of ministry,” Smith said. “And when people ask me how I do it, I tell them, Whom God commissions He also conditions to do the work.”
Valerie G. Lowe in Orlando, Fla.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Charisma Highlights: Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Charisma Highlights: Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Following are snippets of the top stories posted on charismamag.com over the past week. We encourage you to visit the links to read the stories in full. Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven? Is it possible that behind the pearly gates of heaven there are...

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude With Your family This Thanksgiving

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude With Your family This Thanksgiving

This month we are entering a season which, in the United States, has been devoted to gratitude and thanksgiving for 400 years! While the Thanksgiving holiday has had a long and varied history within the United States, the practice of devoting sacrificial offerings,...

Don’t Let Ungratefulness Turn You Into a Spoiled American

Don’t Let Ungratefulness Turn You Into a Spoiled American

My frequent trips to developing nations always help me adjust my attitude. Just when I start to feel spoiled and entitled, I meet people from places like Congo, India and Honduras—and I realize just how blessed I am. This happened to me again last week during a trip...

The Power of Being Thankful

The Power of Being Thankful

One of the best ways to show God we love Him is to be thankful. When we express our deep gratitude to Him, it actually invites His presence onto our lives. Being thankful also neutralizes the enemy and brings victory into our situations no matter what the outcome....

Get Off Your Pew!

Get Off Your Pew!

As God’s clock inches closer to the final hour before His return, many people find themselves filled with angst, anxiety and despair. People are not sleeping well, many have fallen into depression and are feeling hopeless. These are the very days that we have been...

The Great Commission Can Set Us Free from Responsibility

The Great Commission Can Set Us Free from Responsibility

Read Time: 4 Minutes 28 Seconds While all of the stories we read in the Torah are meaningful, sometimes the events we read about can seem to hold more relevance, especially for those of us who are followers of Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah. One such event is the calling...

RECENT ARTICLES

The Church’s Role in Preserving Freedom of Speech in America

Read Time: 3 Minutes 17 Seconds The controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving and his post of a tweet that claims the Jews in Israel are not the real Jews—that Black Africans are the real Jews—raises...
Count Your Blessings, For God Indeed is Good

Count Your Blessings, For God Indeed is Good

Read Time: 4 Minutes 42 Seconds Thanksgiving Day is just a few days away for U.S. Americans. It is a favorite holiday—perhaps only exceeded by Christmas—to gather with family and friends to watch parades, play (American) “football” and eat delicious food—often from...

Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFbfS03JkKY&t=1s Read Time: 3 Minutes, 10 Seconds Is it possible that behind the pearly gates of heaven there are murderers, pedophiles and cannibals walking along the streets of gold? We are taught in the book of Romans, "That if...

Pin It on Pinterest