Heroes Among Us: Acres of Diamonds helps dozens of homeless women and families

DUVALL, Wash. -- About 25 years ago, the owners of a property in Duvall had a vision to help out homeless women and families. It was a vision that went beyond providing a roof over their heads.

This place is called Acres of Diamonds, and it's helped so many homeless women break the cycle of addiction, poverty and abuse.

It is amazing what a little hope can do. Even the little things, like a sense of accomplishment, wholesomeness, are things we strive for, but often take for granted. But when that hope isn't there, which was the case for Porsha Lee last year, it can be debilitating.

"I just felt like I wasn't as effective as a mother. There was some addictions that got in the way," Lee said.

Lee is a mother of two boys, one of whom has special needs. For Porsha, it was a broken engagement and alcohol addiction that prevented her from simply being her.

"Alcohol is really tough. It's just one of those things where you think you've got it under control and before you know it, you're like whoa," she said.

She sought help and constantly prayed. And in May of last year, a place called Acres of Diamonds answered those prayers.

"I'm able to really focus on my kids' needs. And do that healthy," said Lee.

Jennifer Paddock is the executive director of Acres. She says it serves as a desperately needed resource in the region.

"Pretty much every mom and child that we serve, they are survivors of unthinkable trauma," she said. "Homeless moms and kids, young moms and kids, and I did not know this before I came to Acres, they are actually more than half of the homeless in our state. And they are largely the least served."

Everything at Acres caters to that need. It's a place for kids to play with toys and ride bikes. Many items, including toys and clothes, are donated from the community. On the property, there are 17 apartments for women and families.

There is also a large gathering space. Even that serves a purpose.

"This is to experience their home as a place where celebrations happen, compared to what they experienced before," said Paddock.

It's also a place to heal and learn a new skill or two.

"Right from the first day they get to Acres, they're working on budgets, which at first is not their favorite thing to work on, but we know it takes a long time to develop a household budget. But that alone can make you homeless," said Paddock.

Acres also provides parenting classes, counseling and meetings with case managers. On average, a family stays at Acres for about two years.

"They're in a place where they can heal. And it's amazing what can happen in one or two years of that kind of support," Paddock said.

When Porsha first got to Acres, she noticed a doll that reminded her of her past.

"When I was here, there was one of those dolls, and I was like, 'Oh my goodness.' It just reminded me of a time when I felt life was right," she said.

With the help of Acres of Diamonds, Lee hopes to have that feeling again.

"They say it takes a community. And now I'm really understanding what that really means. It is so important," Lee said.

Acres of Diamonds plans on expanding to 21 apartment units. They will break ground on that project in the spring. Acres helps about 50 women and 80 kids in a given year.