MCKINNEY, TEXAS - McKINNEY, Texas – Shannon White gets letters daily from the women she visits at the Collin County jail. As a recovering alcoholic, she knows full well the challenges a good number of the inmates are facing in jail.
She would meet people through her work with Grace To Change, a recovery center based in McKinney.
"I did meth, cocaine, crack, ecstasy..." said Kim Chapman whose addiction spans 38 years.
Chapman, who is now happily sober, is just one of the many women who came from the Collin County jail to get help at the recovery center.
"I didn't think I could live without them," said Chapman who says she first started experimenting with drugs at 11 years old.
Shannon White says too many women are leaving jail with just a bag and are often times slipping through the cracks and back into addiction.
"We're not fighting the disease. We're punishing the behavior," she said
White says she's learned very quickly as she meets with women at the Collin County jail for behavioral counseling. Many who are fighting addiction do not have a "safe" place to go after release.
Christine Duke of Oregon was 3.5 GPA student and set up to go to college until she says an ex-boyfriend introduced her to drugs.
"It's very difficult to get on your feet when you have nowhere to go," Duke said.
Duke, 23, tells WFAA News 8 she's been arrested multiple times for possession, DUI, and now has probation issues, which has landed in her jail.
She says she has no family in Texas and any friends she has remaining are not good influences. And when she gets out, which is in early January, her record keeps her from qualifying for homeless shelters.
"It leaves hotel rooms or old places and hotel rooms are where all addicts congregate," she said.
At the Grace to Change site in McKinney, there sits a modified "tiny home" in the parking lot. It's White's dream to create a community of tiny homes in Collin County. She says it would be a place to stay for women as they get released.
It would also be a one-year treatment program to help addicts get off drugs and on their feet.
"The ideal location is close to McKinney as possible," said Matt Hilton, a realtor in the Collin County area.
Hilton has been working on the project for several months. He says a community of tiny homes would need to be close to the McKinney site to offer services.
"It would offer a home for me and my daughter because I have never really had one," said Kim. Chapman who had admitted to News 8 that her father was an addict and also happened to be the Chief of Police of their town in Oklahoma.
Shannon believes firmly that a community like this would have cost savings to Collin County taxpayers. She says the Collin County Sheriff's Department confirmed that county taxpayers spend about $70 a day per inmate. The costs over the course of a year would be $25,000 for that inmate to taxpayers.
Her hope is that a strong program would convince the DA and local judges to prefer probation over incarceration. She says the success rate of her program working with addicts is more than 80 percent and feels that could be multiplied ten-twenty fold.
"These are great people who don't have the ability to do for themselves," said White.
The goal initially is 24 tiny homes in an unincorporated part of the county.
"We're determined that if we don't find somebody to donate the land then we're gonna raise the money," Hilton said.
The group is hoping to find a piece of land in the range of 20 to 40 acres preferably outside the city limits where there are fewer deed restrictions.
The group expects challenges from residents who would rather not see a community like this one near them. White stressed to News 8 that this community would "have high scrutiny" and residents won't get to freely come and go outside of employment and rehab services.
When asked how she would respond to the possible and often criticism of "not-in-my-backyard," she responded with, "You have them in your backyard already, but they are un-treated," she said.
"People are people. They are human beings. We should have compassion on them and help them," said Hilton.
The letters White receives are from women who know about her dream of the tiny home community. In some of these letters, there are pleas from inmates fighting addiction to have their spot for a tiny home. For some women, White says it may be their only shot at recovery.
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