Serenity House, a residential facility that treats substance abuse and serves as many as 105 women a day, has fallen on hard times and is facing eviction if it cannot come up with more than $12,000 in back rent by Wednesday.
The nonprofit is a haven to the women battling drug and alcohol addiction. There, they are able to safely peel back the armor assembled after years of physical, sexual and mental abuse -- the trauma they treated with drinking and drugs.
The women raised $187 in cash during a protest against the increase held Wednesday in front of the square building at 2420 San Pablo Ave., a section of Oakland dotted by residential hotels and people. One woman passing by handed them $8 in cash and promised to donate $25 a month.
Johnny Davis, program director for Serenity House, said the landlord refused to lower the rent or to give them time to come up with the money they owe. Instead he is evicting them.
"The organization has done some great work," Davis said. "But we just ran out of money."
The landlord, Ed Hemmat could not be reached by phone or in person for a response. His business, Maz Glass, is next door to Serenity House and he owns Produce Pro, appreciated for being the only full-service grocery store in West Oakland.
Serenity House, a faith-focused residential program founded 17 years ago, houses the women a few blocks away in two donated homes and is planning to rent a small storefront across the street
"I've been through 10 other programs and never been in one that loves you unconditionally," said Lisa Woods, 44.
Woods and about a dozen other women had just finished an emotional group meeting where they took turns working through the ups and downs of recovery. They were black, white and Latina. The youngest was 20. Some were from Oakland, others from the suburbs. All had been molested.
"We have a family in here," added Joann Brown, 52. "It really saves lives."
The organization has gotten by on private foundations, donations and contributions from the women who generally rely on general assistance and food stamps. A grant writer recently volunteered her services, giving the organization hope that it will be able to strengthen finances in the future.
"Some things take time," said Stacy Harrold, 43, who organized Wednesday's protest. "That's where we're at now."