Amanda Hankins

As Hand UP for Women gets ready to move to a new location, leaders know home is more than a place, rather it’s a warm feeling that fills your soul when it’s nurtured with kindness and love. But for some who have experienced homelessness, housing uncertainty or challenges at home, having a safe and warm place to go means so much more than what words can describe. Home becomes a launching point for great ideas, a place to express yourself, respite after a long day and a sanctuary during trying times. For some participants and graduates at Hand UP for Women home is the epicenter for growth and change.

A New Place to Call Home

Soon there will be a new place for Amanda Hankins to call home. Currently Hand UP for Women is located on Fairview Street, which has served the organization for eight years. The current Duncan House location has transformed the lives of many women. As an answered prayer, Duncan House will be moving to a 3.5-acre property in North Knoxville on Buffat Mill Road.

Amanda is planning to move into the new location. It will be a big step up for her since she’s living in communal housing. “I will have more positive support. It’s a new chance to be a family,” Amanda shared.

Overcoming Obstacles

Amanda has been trying to get her driver’s license back for years. She relies on friends and the bus to get her to work and other places. Although she’s been clean for three years, it’s a slow process and costs thousands of dollars. She continues to save up her money but knows having Hand UP for Women participants and graduates who encourage her will allow her to truly feel more at home when the house is ready for her to move into. “It definitely helps to have the support system around you,” Amanda said.

There are criteria to live at Duncan House: participants must be in the program for at least 6 months and do exceptionally well; they have to have a high level of motivation toward goals; and they must have a financial barrier that they are facing that could derail efforts. For Amanda, it is lacking a driver’s license and subsequently a car.

Serving More Women

Hand UP for Women’s new property is more than double the size of the current location. It is 3,700 square feet with three bedrooms, and there are extensive plans to add additional apartments, office space and classroom meeting space. Upon completion, the new location will accommodate 25 women in the program. Currently, the program serves a maximum of 15 women at a time.

“The incredible meaning is that we can double the number of women we can serve in classes and mentoring,” Executive Director, Eva Pierce, said, “Longer term we can provide a safe, positive, housing option for twice as many graduates, basically doubling everything we can do.”

An Act of God

An investor who has asked to remain anonymous purchased both the current location at Fairview Street and the new property at Buffat Mill Road for $1,225,000. The anonymous investor also provided an interest-free loan to the nonprofit organization on the remaining $425,000 balance, making it financially feasible for the organization to expand and serve more women.

“You know when you hope for something and pray for something for years and explore a lot of options, we felt we had been down that road so many times. We finally just said ‘What God has for us we’re just not there yet.’ It was at that point when we let go then He dropped this house literally in our laps,” Pierce explained.

Finding Serenity

The new location is in a park-like, rural setting. It will offer an intermission for program residents, which Amanda looks forward to the most. There’s a swinging bench under a tree and a field of grass for prayers, picnics or play.

Plus there are opportunities to build community for the women who will be there with Amanda. “I’m looking forward to being with women that have the same track mind as me. Not just in recovery but in faith too.”

Eva said, “You don’t hear people. every now and then a car goes by, but there are no sounds from the city. It’s a deep breath from all the noise outside and in participants’ and graduates’ heads.”

What’s to Come

Initially, the Buffat Mill property will house three women. Phase one renovation entails the house itself being renovated. Phase two will be renovations to the freestanding garage which will be a huge classroom. Then phase three has the second free-standing two-story garage that will become a couple of apartments for women who need affordable apartment housing. While they are living there, staff can assist with finding first-time homebuyer programs for women to ultimately transition into safe and secure housing.

How You Can Help

The home needs remodeling and updating to accommodate the needs of the non-profit and its residents. Additionally, the public and businesses can help by sponsoring a program participant for $6,000.  

To donate, visit the donation page here.