Tiawana Brown couldn’t stop smiling Thursday afternoon when she opened the doors to a second home in the Charlotte area for women leaving the prison system.
Brown, a Charlotte native, grew up in Southside Homes — public housing in Charlotte’s South End — and later served a four-year federal prison sentence for fraud charges while in her 20s. She entered prison pregnant and gave birth to one of her two daughters while serving her sentence.
Now in her 50s, Brown is the founder of Beauty After the Bars, a nonprofit that provides housing to formerly incarcerated women. She has opened two houses in the Charlotte-area, one on Beatties Ford Road and the latest in Mint Hill on Lawyers Road.
Beauty After the Bars is a member of the SAFE Housing Network, an international collective of 32 organizations dedicated to offering reentry services to formerly incarcerated people, according to the organization. Brown’s homes are the only SAFE houses in the state, she said.
The new facility will house up to 12 women returning home following their sentences. Combined, the two homes can house 24 women, Brown said at the open house Thursday.
Providing safe and stable housing for these women is important to their transition back into their communities, Brown said.
“We can’t expect our system of justice to succeed when our approach begins and ends with time behind bars,” Brown said in a statement ahead of the opening.
’There is truly life after incarceration’
Reentry housing is in high demand in Mecklenburg County and 23 women are already on the home’s waitlist, Brown said in a statement ahead of the opening.
There is a recidivism rate of just 1% among the women currently living at A New Way Of Life’s homes, according to the organization. Brown herself struggled with recidivism and said she hopes opening the houses in Charlotte will help other women to not make the same mistakes.
“These women face immense challenges, and without a safe and supportive environment, they are at higher risk of returning to prison,” Brown said. “This SAFE home will provide the foundation these women need to rebuild their lives.”
Brown will welcome six women into the home next week and said she is interviewing another woman to allow her to move in with her baby.
“We want them to know that there is truly life after incarceration,” Brown said. “We want them to truly have a safe home.”
This tale was initially printed April 13, 2023, 4:38 PM.