Home for second chances closes in Woodstock

A Christian-based community home in Woodstock, designed to give people a second chance at life, has been shut down.

Bishop Bobby Hudnall, pastor of Through Life in the Word Church of Jesus Christ Inc., confirmed that the Restoration & Wholeness House has been evicted from a building on Main and Foundry streets. The home opened in 2014 to give men just released from prison and on probation a place to stay and help them to re-establish connections to their children and families, as well as to find jobs.

“This is political. The town is saying we don’t want this in our backyard,” Hudnall said.  “It brings me to tears that this has happened. I can’t fight this because I don’t have the money to retain an attorney.”

Landlord Ed Wilkens had a recent meeting with town administrators and under pressure and threats then asked Hudnall to move the organization out, Hudnall said.

Town officials confirmed the meeting.

“The commonwealth attorney had a recent meeting with the landlord. We were there,” town manager Angela Clem said. “We explained the legal behavior of what was occurring there.”

Clem denies it was a matter of “not in my backyard.”

“We would be very accepting of a program that had accountability. We would welcome a regulated program,” Clem said.

The town received a high number of calls concerning residents or former residents who stayed there, she said.

The police department received 51 calls for service to the home since it opened, said Police Chief Eric Reiley.

The police department also responded to 124 other calls for service at other locations in the community that involved current or former members of the house, he said.

The types of calls the police department received were a range of offenses including drug distribution, domestic assault, intoxication in public, auto larcenies and disturbances, he said.

Hudnall said he was trying to do God’s work, teaching fathers how to re-engage with their family and children.

“Society says you did your time you get a second chance,” Hudnall said.

There was also a job training program offered to those in the home that had a 100 percent success rate, Hudnall said.

On average, seven people lived in the home for a 90-day time period before moving on to other housing, he said.

Some of those were people on probation who had been recommended and approved for placement into the home by the Probation and Patrol District 11 of the Virginia Department of Corrections.

“These men are going to go somewhere. We try to provide them a structured environment but not too structured,” Hudnall said.

Others who stayed in the home, he said,  were homeless men who needed a place to stay.

Hudnall said he was unaware of the complaints and reports made against those living in the home, and said he was never invited to any meetings town administrators held to discuss the home.  If there were problems, why go to the landlord instead of him, Hudnall questions.

“They never gave me due process,” he said, adding that town officials or police never offered their support.

“I had a meeting two years ago with (Police Chief Reiley), that’s it,” Hudnall said.

Clem noted that town officials used to meet on a regular basis with officials involved in the program in its early stages.

Hudnall said the church operates two homes in Winchester, including, the  “Fathers in Training Program,” a 16-week voluntary initiative for inmates.

Winchester police were able to confirm one of the church’s homes.

Police have had 56 responses to that house since 2016, said Lt. Amanda Behan, adding this would be considered a high-volume call location.

Of those calls, 50 were police related, six were medical calls – including an overdose.

The organization ran a home in Stephens City that closed a couple years ago.  Hudnall said that when the community heard about that house, there were concerns from the homeowners’ association.