Hope House

Hope House for Women is a six-month residential alcohol and drug treatment program with mental health services for women who are released from the San Mateo County Women's Correctional Center or California Department of Corrections, or are homeless. Hope House provides a supportive and structured environment to prepare women to return to the community as healthy and productive members, free of alcohol and other drug use. The program is designed to help residents make a successful transition to community living by assisting them in overcoming substance abuse problems and developing supportive social networks.

Writing Desires, Performing Hope

Dr. Leslie Hill, Dr. Helen Paris and I worked with the women of Hope House through the Hope House Scholar Program directed by Stanford's Center for Ethics and Society. For ten-weeks, we worked with the women on writing and performing original works. Everyone in the group had a hand in creating original material drawn from their own experiences and imagination. We worked together in the classroom, in the living room and in the garage, on different themes each week, such as 'inheritance', 'dreams', 'desires' and 'utopias', exploring different ways of producing creative writing and/or live performance. At the outset, we asked the women to allows themselves to be curious and open to their creativity and they responded boldly, and beautifully, forming and performing ideas on the page and on the stage. 

In recognition of my work with the women of Hope House, I received the Dianne Middlebrook Graduate Teaching Prize for 2013 from The Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies of Stanford University. 

More important than all the work that Ryan put into the course (and he put in many, many hours), I was most impressed by his attitude. He was warm, funny, energetic, engaging, and genuine. He created a classroom that was safe for women and the women responded. They went from shy women, afraid to engage with the material in their own house in front of their housemates, to women that eagerly performed in front of an audience at Stanford.
— Joan Berry, Executive Director, Stanford Center for Ethics in Society

Creating a World of Hope

Many of the women at Hope House had lost their physical possessions either prior or during their incarceration. I took photos (within the legal boundaries of Hope House) of the women in relation to their writing and included them in small booklet. It was important to our teaching team that the women had a well designed document of their writing so that they could experience seeing themselves as published writers.