Shelly Spaziano opened facility to honor memory of her late daughter
By Steve Yablonski
From tragedy came hope: Kristina’s House of Hope.
“My daughter was 20 years old and she was in a car accident in 2016 and died. Her name is Kristina,” said Shelly Spaziano, president and founder. “She was a joyous and empathetic spirit who believed in empowering women. We will carry that spirit within the walls of KHOH.”
It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, founded in February 2019. It’s dedicated to providing immediate assistance to displaced or homeless women who are struggling with drug or alcohol dependency, providing them a safe, stable home to live in. They have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol; they also have drug tests on premises.
“Soon after my daughter’s accident, I broke my leg and I was in a wheelchair for four months. During that time, the Lord said to me, ‘Start a house for women.’ I didn’t question it. I just called up someone that I knew that would know these things. And, I said, ‘How would I do this?’” Spaziano explained. “We met for breakfast. I brought a notebook and he gave me a bunch of ideas. He sent me to somebody else; they sent me to someone else and every idea that I got, I just started doing.”
She filed for a 501(c)(3) and received it. Then, she filled out the state form, “which was very detailed and very long.”
“I happened to ask this doctor — who wishes to remain anonymous — if he would donate some money. I had raised about $15,000 over the phone and by holding a chicken barbecue. I just started raising money toward buying a house,” she said.”
The more that Spaziano got into it, the more she was interacting with Social Services and others in the community; getting more ideas.
The doctor found two houses and helped her put a down payment on them. Then they went to the city and got approved to have a women’s shelter.
KHOH consists of two furnished homes
She started in 2017; but didn’t buy the houses until two years ago, in April.
“In the shelter it is actually the front and back part of the house. You can only have four unrelated people in a home. So, I have two houses. One in front and one in back, like ‘A’ and ‘B.’ We have two large bedrooms in the front and a bathroom with a living room and a small office area. We have two bedrooms and a bath in the back with a bath downstairs and a kitchen,” she said. “It works out that we can have two girls in each room, four in the front, four in the back. There’s a huge living room and a huge kitchen. It works perfect.”
Spaziano owns the house next door. So the girls who get through this program, if they want, they can rent a bedroom in the house next door, she added.
According to Spaziano, KHOH provides a safe, controlled environment in which women can live while they work toward stability and self-reliance.
She has accumulated invaluable experiences and knowledge throughout her life. She has first-hand knowledge of what it is like to successfully recover from addiction, as she has been in recovery for the past 17 years. Spaziano has an intimate understanding of the challenges women face while suffering from addiction, undergoing rehabilitation and finding a support network to ensure success.
“Our tenants have the opportunity to attend rehabilitation services, seek job training and receive counseling while taking advantage of other services provided by nearby agencies, as appropriate,” she explained. “We have a curfew, mandatory education, mandatory vocation, and mandatory attendance at Farnham.”
“The girls get up around 8-ish. They make their bed. Get their coffee and meet me at the table at 9. We do maybe 10 or 15 minutes of positive reading. Start the day off in a good way. Then we clean the common areas,” she added. “They have to have a support meeting at least once a day. Then we have a meeting here at noon. Most of them go to that.”
“Yes, there is a referral process where clients have to go to Department of Social Services and ask to be referred to KHOH. We currently do have a waiting list at DSS and can accommodate more girls after some of our current clients move into their new apartments, hopefully by the end of this week,” Spaziano said in mid-February.
“There are rules, like in a family; we do follow the 12-step program. We do have a contract that each girl signs upon their arrival. It’s a case by case basis when rules are broken. As long as the client admits their mistake and is willing to accept our help, we will place them on a safety plan,” she continued.
On average, girls stay at KHOH about two and a half months.
“Our biggest issue being housing,” Spaziano said. “There isn’t a lot available and affordable as they have limited resources. We were fortunate to have had several of our girls on the waiting list for East Lake Commons and seven of our girls got in.”
Spaziano said she has kept in contact with the girls who have left.
“We have a 40% success rate. This is a women’s shelter for women with drug and alcohol issues. But, we do get some women who don’t have drug and alcohol issues; some have domestic abuse issues. We have one lady that’s currently here who had a stroke and she’s starting over. Medical bills and stuff like that took her out. We do have some other people who are just homeless. But mostly we just have those with drug and alcohol issues,” she said.
The staff includes Spaziano and three others; one full time and two part-time. She said she is considering hiring a fourth part-time employee.
“My dream is to do the whole enchilada. We help them get clothes, personal items, we feed them … everything so they can have a fighting chance. We have compassion and love for them,” she said.
“We’ve received strong help from people in the community; they actually care about others.”
“I run this place like a family, a home. Not a shelter. I don’t get a paycheck. I love what I do,” she said.
Editor’s Note: For more information on Kristina’s House of Hope, visit https://kristinashouseofhope.org, www.facebook.com/KristinasHouseofHope or email firstname.lastname@example.org. KHOH’s phone number is 315-216-4025.
Featured image: Shelly Spaziano of Oswego is president and founder of Kristina’s House of Hope. She founded the nonprofit in February 2019 to honor her daughter Kristina, who died in a car accident in 2016, when she was 20 years old. KHOH helps displaced or homeless women who are struggling with drug or alcohol dependency.