Inside the gates, women are given Salvation Army rejected clothing, usually men's clothing and processed out with a release packet and divided by front entry release or bus station release. Those at the bus station release are gathered together, shuffled outside with their $50 gate check and taken to Waco, TX bus station. There, a guard arranges for the destination and they are left. The rituals are over. The semblance of familiar is replaced with uncertainty and often fear.
Front gate releasees are greeted by family, friends, perhaps a church outreach or a ministry much like ours; providing a greeting ministry that begins the aftercare provided by Spirit House Ministries. In our Front Gate Ministry, we bring along a set of brand new clothing with tags still hanging. Head to toe coverage; top, bra, jeans, panties, shoes and usually something special thrown in for a reintroduction into their life as a woman on the outside such as a pair of earrings, a bottle of perfume or a small make up bag with essentials.
And for us, as with many who have family or friends, several women are gathered together again inside this Shell station, in the restrooms changing their clothes and usually throwing the rejected Salvation Army clothing into the trash outside. This ritual is both for the mental health of the woman and for the symbolic ritual of putting the new wine into new wine skins. Their new life deserves new clothing; not hand me down, overused and usually gender improper clothing; but beautiful new clothing, shoes that fit and colors that remind them they are women.
You can only imagine the joy these women feel, as they pull out of a bag a complete outfit, sized as best as we could but chosen with them in mind. Great care is taken to choose attractive clothing with a modest appearance.
For our ministry, the rituals continue from Front Gate to First Meal. We always take our ladies out for the restaurant meal of their choice. We've had everything from Arby's to Mc Donalds to Chilis to a Chinese Buffet. There is always something these ladies have craved, missed or seen too many commercials for during their incarceration.