Although reintegration work began in 2001, Beauty for Ashes only opened their own halfway facility in a house in Observatory Cape Town for women in July 2003. Before this women were accommodated at ‘Loaves and Fishes’ a homeless street shelter in Observatory. Beauty for Ashes sponsored their stay at this facility. Stephanie van Wyk (founder) and a few friends had begun investigating the problems ex offenders faced when leaving prison after an ex offender was murdered in Goodwood because she returned to prostitution as a way of earning money. It was later decided that a separate home for women ex offenders would be more conducive in helping women re-enter society after prison.
A NGO was established, the name Beauty for Ashes (BFA) was chosen and a board of directors was selected together with a constitution. BFA established a vision statement and a mission statement and preparation was made raise funds. Decisions to define the type of home BFA wanted to establish were made and reintegration programs were selected.
BFA found two suitable homes near the Jubilee Community Church in the area of Observatory. The church, being a cosmopolitan mixed-race congregation, provides for this group of women in various ways. The church offers a place of study for ex offenders i.e. literacy courses, craft and computer courses. Every Tuesday the church runs a group called ‘Sunshade’ for marginalised women and their children where life skill programmes are taught. Today the church provides free health care and counselling as it runs a health clinic on its premises.
It was incumbent upon BFA to promote this facility at the prison and persuade the authorities and the offenders that this may be a place they would like to come to as a transition from prison to community. BFA had established good relationship with prison authorities by this time and had service provider status to teach several life skill courses behind bars.
Today BFA has two houses in Observatory and house managers live on the premises. BFA has accommodated over 150 women over the years. BFA’s relationship with the DCS has grown and a partnership agreement was signed between BFA and DCS where both parties now work together towards the successful integration of ex offenders back into society. BFA has a waiting list of women in Pollsmoor prison who want to take up residence at the halfway facility.