In 2006 when we were working with The Choices Alumni group, Shirley and I began to talk about doing some type of aftercare work that would provide different levels of care. We felt that since we were teaching people how to feel and be accountable we would need to provide a spring board to aid them transitioning into the community. Shirley had just moved back from Stockton and I was working in the financial world as well as a re-development company that I had in the process of developing different projects. I came upon a family whose father had to be put into a rest home and his dilapidated house of 50 years in Daly City was a complete mess. The family had approached me as they knew that I did property development and they knew nothing about developing a home. So I took on the project as a normal development. Midway through the project I had visited the site to do a standard walkthrough and it was at that time that I had a crystal clear vision of Shirley Lamarr sitting on a pony wall that did not yet exist in front of a big beautiful bay window that also did not yet exist. The sun was shining through the window all around her like some kind of angelic vision. It was at that moment I realized what needed to be done.
I advised all of the workers to stop working and to go home. I immediately ran down to the jail and to the Choices program where I found Shirley and whispered in her ear, “I think I have found you a house.” Of course, she said “you’d better not mess with me Chris Odell.” I told her that I would be back in touch with her in two months.
I took a two month leave from my business, strapped on my tool belt and with a crew of people whose lives Shirley had also saved began to build the first Mz Shirley’s Transitional. Two months later Shirley moved into that house and for the next two years we saved lives and made people human again. We reunited parents with their children and children with their parents.
Our next property was another situation where a couple had gotten into financial trouble and were about to lose their home to investors. When I was introduced to them I asked if they would be willing to work with us in our Transitional Living model and if so, I would save their house from being taken. They agreed and I did my part and we moved in. For the next year or so we continued saving lives. While this house was great it was too large for us at that time. In looking at our organization Shirley and I decided that we needed more of a center with large common areas and needed to stay in San Mateo County. What we were looking for would provide vocational training, housing, basic life skills, a drop in crisis center and wrap around services with evidence based classes and job placement programs. In our search for a new facility, we found the old Salvation Army building on Broadway in Redwood City. Shirley saw it and said she would sure like that one so we pulled over where the agent was showing it to another party. At that point it seemed like a sales contract was in process. Three weeks later that same agent called me and knew what we were looking for and wondered if we were still interested. After a month long negotiation we were able to sign a one year lease. That was July 2011. In that building we were able to accomplish all the things and the services that we had talked about. We were able to help 60% more people than our previous locations. However, we did not anticipate the heavy operating costs. Since we do not get funding, all of our income comes from our enterprises. Given enough capital we could produce enough revenue to eventually buy the building and establish capital reserves.
I think the best part of this story isn’t how fast or how large we grew but it was that in 1999 Shirley Lamarr was able to save my life from sheer destruction and 13 years later save it again by letting me be a part of her movement. I have dedicated my life to this and I will do anything to ensure its success because I owe that much. I have business plans for each of the enterprises and for Ms. Shirley’s as a whole. With the right Community Partnership Ms. Shirley’s Transitional will achieve all of the goals we set out for generations to come.