When Lisa Cohn started volunteering 11 years ago at Nassau County Correctional Facility to work with women who had alcohol and drug abuse issues, she knew it was something she was meant to do.
“I felt like somebody needed to treat these women like women,” she said.
She continued volunteering at the jail, holding meetings and teaching creative writing classes, until a year ago when she decided to take an extra step. She sold the business she had with her husband and began to work on creating a place for women to learn how to live on their own again.
The buildings she chose to set up her establishment, Living Water for Women, were previously Sunset Rooms boarding houses. They were places people went after getting out of prison, but that didn’t ensure the residents would get better from the addictions that led to their arrests.
Cohn’s idea solidified after a women she knew from her work at the jail died outside the boarding house while drunk.
“My goal is to make the houses transitional,” she said. “Just giving them a room isn’t enough.”
Cohn plans to set up a program that will teach residents basic things they need to live on their own, everything from proper hygiene to how to balance a checkbook. They would also be required to spend three hours a day at Glen Cove Hospital Community House for substance abuse treatment.
Spirituality is an important component of Cohn's program.
“I’ve looked at a lot of faith-based programs,” Cohn said. “I want to have them do things like read inspirational books and be able to discuss them.”
Cohn also hopes to work with local churches to give residents another support system.
“I’d like to have people from the church come in to speak and maybe mentor the women, and have multiple people for them to go to,” she said. “If they need a ride somewhere, or feel depressed and need someone to talk to, they have a couple of people to rely on.”
With the help of volunteers, efforts by Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce executive director Phyllis Gorham and donations from local companies including , and , Cohn and her husband have been able to start making the houses liveable.
She said she hopes to have both up and running by October 1.