By KARA FOHNER, The Gaston Gazette
GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — A Gaston County man has opened a fourth halfway house for people struggling with addiction, an ongoing project in honor of his late wife.
Cornell Thomas said that he is putting the finishing touches on a second house on Peach Orchard Road in Belmont. His nonprofit, Samantha’s House, began the project last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic significantly delayed the process.
“It delayed stuff with the county. It delayed stuff with donations,” Thomas said. “There was so much that we had to do.”
The project is in honor of Thomas’ late wife, Samantha, who died on Aug. 24, 2015, in a car wreck. Samantha, 34, had struggled with addiction, but she’d been sober five years at the time of her death.
Samantha and Cornell’s then 11-month-old son, Cornell Thomas Jr., survived the wreck. Their unborn child did not.
“It was real difficult, and so I had to do something with my time,” Thomas said. “When God tells me to stop, I’ll stop.”
Thomas’ goal is to create a nurturing environment for people struggling with addiction, homelessness, and the effects of incarceration, among other issues.
Thomas opened his first halfway house in 2016. One of the houses he now has in Gastonia has room for eight women.
He said that he wants to help reduce recidivism after people are released from prison, but when it comes to the people Samantha’s House helps, he tries not to limit it to particular groups.
“We stereotype and we lock ourselves in a box, and the people who need help can’t get it,” he said.
News of Samantha’s House has traveled by word of mouth. Temple Baptist Church leaders talked about it at their Sunday services, and Thomas says that local lawyers have also aided his organization. Thomas said that he himself has struggled with addiction, and so he understands the situation that many find themselves in.
“I know what it is for an individual not having a voice,” he said. “Especially when you’re coming out of a penitentiary and people are looking at you like you’re worthless.”
Thomas’ current wife, Tracey Thomas, now leads Samantha’s House as its director.
Cornell Thomas and his wife, Tracey, run a nonprofit called Samantha’s House, which helps those struggling with addiction, homelessness, and the effects of incarceration, among other issues. The couple is pictured here with Cornell Thomas Jr.
Thomas said that candidates for the houses need to be willing to go to meetings, work, and can’t use any illegal drugs. People can stay in the houses from six months to two years, and Samantha’s House helps clients move in, acquire furniture, and overcome other hurdles.
“If you need more time, we can give you more time,” he said. “If you’re sincere and doing things for the right reason, we’ll go above and beyond the call of duty for you.”
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