Founded by in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt’s campus, Magdalene is a residential program for women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution and addiction.
For two years, Magdelene offers housing, food, medical and dental needs, therapy, education and job training, all without charge or to the women receiving treatment. Magdalene’s programs are grounded in 24 principles about living gracefully in community with each other. Residents, graduates, staff and volunteers share daily tasks, offer hospitality, build on each other’s strengths, and provide compassionate, disciplined support.
With a waiting list of over 80, women come to Magdalene from prison, the streets and from across the Southeast. They range in age from 20-50, were sexually abused between the ages of 7-11, started using alcohol or drugs by 13, have been arrested on average a 100 times, and have spent about 12 years on the street prostituting. Seventy percent of the women who join Magdalene are clean and sober 2 1/2 years after beginning the program.
After four months in the program, women find work, return to school and/or enter Magdalene’s job training program at Thistle Farms, a social enterprise. Magdalene offers a matched savings program to help residents prepare for economic independence upon graduation. Women who remain in recovery two years post-graduation are eligible for a new home buying program administered by two local congregations and Magdalene.
Magdalene was founded not only to help a subculture of women, but also to help change the culture itself. Participants and supporters stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from abuse, addiction, and life on the streets. Magdalene stands as a witness that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.