Los Angeles

Woman Builds Homes to Help Formerly Incarcerated Women Re-Enter Society

"It's just so important to heal from the effects of incarceration, of the effects of addiction, of the effects of trauma," Susan Burton said.

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A Southern California woman has been working hard to stop the revolving door of mass incarceration, opening up homes for women to re-enter society, and her efforts have taken on a new urgency because of COVID-19.

Latanya Reed says she’s working to get her children back from the foster care system, to stay sober and to stay out of jail. Her new room in her new home have a lot to do with it. 

"A lot of people count us out losing children, having substance abuse a lot of people count us out, but Miss Susan give us hope," Reed, who wants to become a chef, said.

"Miss Susan" is Susan Burton, who was honored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis Monday for her work finding homes for women coming out of incarceration. Burton says it’s important to have warm and caring environments, so that women like Reed aren’t locked up again.

"It's just so important to heal from the effects of incarceration, of the effects of addiction, of the effects of trauma," Burton said.

So far, Burton's organization, "A New Way of Life," has opened 10 homes, with the pace of opening homes speeding up because of COVID-19. The goal is to provide an opportunity for A New Way of Life the kind of transformation that Burton herself experienced. 

"This is what I needed when I was released in prison," Burton said. "This wasn’t here."

Burton says after being in and out of prison multiple times and the tragic death of a child, she finally received the kind of care that made her want to pay it forward. For more than 20 years now, she has helped hundreds of women re-enter society, reunite with their families and find jobs. 

Burton added, "It just means so much when you see people come back to life."

The newest home was a former convent, a gift from the society St. Vincent De Paul.

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