Our program takes into account the factors that keep women trapped and offers what they need to heal.
The vision for Magdalene Omaha began in 2014. We spent a year learning about Omaha’s growing sex trafficking problem and the services already being provided. In 2015, we studied the Magdalene model in great depth – including going to Nashville to learn about it up close. Then, we engaged community leaders and those already doing work on the front lines in Omaha to help determine if this model was needed here, and if it was a good fit. There was overwhelming enthusiasm to bring this model to Omaha. In 2016, we formally created Magdalene Omaha, established a board, and received our 501c3 tax-exempt, non-profit designation from the IRS. In 2017, with the support of the Omaha community, we purchased our first house, renovated, and began moving in our first residents.
Long-term, safe housing.
Our residents live in a safe home for two years, rent-free. With basic needs like shelter, food, and clothing taken care of, survivors are able to focus on their journey toward healing. Living together in community develops residents' relational skills and provides them a supportive community of peers.
A plan for recovery, tailored to their needs.
Residents work with the residential program manager to develop an individualized recovery plan and connect to the services they need. In the first six months, women begin to heal from trauma and receive the medical, dental, mental health, and substance abuse treatment they need. As they progress through the program, they receive intensive educational programming that includes life skills, financial literacy, and vocational training.
Job training and education.
To ensure their long-term economic independence, residents are offered employment in the program's justice enterprise, a survivor-run small business, Thistle Lights, where they learn job skills, build their resume, and grow their savings. Opportunities like GED and college classes, a matched savings program, and employment internship programs with large employers and other small businesses in Omaha offer residents the chance to meet their unique long-term goals.
Above all, love.
We strive to have love, respect, and acceptance for survivors inform everything we do. Of the women who enter the founding Magdalene program, 84% graduate clean and sober—a percentage unrivaled by any treatment center. That’s because Magdalene is not an institution, but a community, committed to the belief that love is the most powerful force for change in the world. The program is unique in its reliance on community, and its use of peer mentors and survivor-leaders to run the program as they progress through it and after they graduate.
Meet our Staff
Teresa Houser, Executive Director
An Omaha native, Teresa brings over thirty years of non-profit experience and community service to this position, including nearly twenty years of experience in addictions recovery programs and over fifteen years of experience in working with survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking. In 2014, she founded the Friends of Tamar, an organization dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual violence in all its forms, including rape, domestic violence, and trafficking. It was from this work that efforts to establish Magdalene Omaha began. Magdalene Omaha became a separate 501c3 organization in 2016.
Rachel Pointer, Residential Program Manager
For years, Rachel bravely has used her powerful story of surviving sex trafficking in Omaha to advocate for survivors, and to inspire so many of us to get involved in the fight. Rachel also began supporting Magdalene Omaha as a volunteer first, and one of the brightest highlights of 2017 was when she gave the Magdalene Omaha update at the Thistle Farms national conference in Nashville this June. She joined the staff this fall, bringing significant residential experience, and tremendous professional breadth and depth to this position.
Jovita Epps, Residential Program Administrator
Jovita also joined the staff this summer. She is a 2016 graduate of Thistle Farms/Magdalene Nashville (the original program upon which ours is based). Jovita developed several aspects of our residential program, including the program curriculum for our residents. She daily offers her tremendous insights from years of service as an employee of Thistle Farms and as a survivor-leader in Nashville's Magdalene residential recovery program. We are grateful for her amazing ability to both inspire and make us all laugh every single day.
Tesa Miller, Special Projects Manager
Tesa joined the staff this summer after several years of service as a phenomenal volunteer. She has led efforts to renovate the house and will serve as our volunteer coordinator. Tesa also oversees our social media efforts and organizes our event preparations.
Stacy Gustin, Financial Administrator
Stacy joined the staff this fall. As a long-time volunteer, Stacy played a major role in building Magdalene Omaha since it was just a crazy idea a few of us began to imagine. We daily benefit greatly from her immense expertise and wisdom. Indeed, she helps us in so many meaningful ways every day that we now regularly refer to her as the Empress of All Knowledge.