Rebuilding women’s lives after incarceration through empowerment, support and community

June 13, 2023

For more than two decades, Angela House has helped over 550 women transition back into their communities and lead productive lives in Houston. (Photo courtesy of Valencia Lewis)

HOUSTON — Empowering women released from incarceration to identify their strengths, set their own agenda, and make constructive changes is an effective way to help them transition back into their communities and lead productive lives.

For over two decades, this has been the mission of Angela House, a ministry of the Archdiocese, which has journeyed with over 558 women released from prison. Staff and volunteers provide these women who take up residence at Angela House with emotional, spiritual and educational support as they seek to change the patterns and behaviors that led to their incarceration.

“There are so many different components of the transition process, and our ministry addresses each one,” said Valencia Lewis, executive director of Angela House. “Our program provides free and safe housing, therapy and educational and employment resources. We support the ladies in their journeys of sobriety, growth and a renewed identity.”

Angela House was established as a “good work” of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 2001 and became an independent 501c3 organization in 2006. Women who are currently incarcerated and looking for transitional housing may apply to Angela House, as well as women on probation or parole. They receive access to medical, dental and mental health services; individual and group therapy; creative arts groups; faith-based support groups; twelve-step recovery meetings; job readiness training; financial management; and exercise and healthy living skills.

In 2013, the ministry took possession of the current property located at 6725 Reed Rd. in Houston, which has a more spacious dining room, kitchen, community room, chapel and office space that doubled the ministry’s capacity to serve up to 16 women.

Barbara Amelio, a volunteer with Angela House who began serving under the leadership of original founder Maureen O’Connell, OP, said she wanted to be a part of the mission to create a successful program to empower these women using a standard of care other programs could emulate.

“It is important for me to give back and help the women,” said Amelio. “I am a woman who has been pushed to the side and overlooked, and I want to help these women not be overlooked. I want to make a difference.”

A current resident, who has asked to remain anonymous, is an example of how the women at Angela House can build a stable life and escape the cycle of recidivism.

“I have dealt with so much shame and disappointment, and Angela House is helping me overcome that and see myself differently,” said the resident. “I finally feel included, safe and comfortable, and I have gained self-awareness so I won’t make the same decisions that lead to mistakes. I appreciate the staff because I see they want each lady to succeed; I am being taught resilience.”

Lewis said since it is important to continue supporting and providing resources to the women who “graduate” from Angela House, the ministry is increasing its Aftercare Program with additional wraparound services and referrals.

“Our Aftercare Program continues to surround them with all the resources, support and community they experienced while at the house,” said Lewis. “Each service is still available to help the ladies successfully continue their journey back into society.”

Angela House is one of 64 ministries supported by the annual Diocesan Services Appeal (DSF). Lewis said through the DSF, the faithful in the Archdiocese are given the opportunity to serve those in need of God’s healing through their donations.

“Funds provide ministries to those on the periphery, the least and often most forgotten among us,” said Lewis. “If more DSF funding became available, we would expand our program and provide more resources and opportunities for our residents and graduates. Angela House has an extensive program, and we rely on amazing community partners to fill in the gaps for some of the programming we are unable to do ourselves.”

A former resident and now staff member at Angela House, who has asked to remain anonymous, agrees the DSF is important to Angela House continuing its good works.
“By supporting DSF, you can help change lives, communities and generations,” said the staff member. “The impact may not be immediate, but there will be a change.”

Lewis said Angela House provides a unique opportunity for the members of the Archdiocesan community to participate and welcome residents through various volunteer opportunities.

For more information on how to volunteer, go to To learn more about how you can donate to Angela House and the 64 ministries supported by the DSF, go to

The DSF supports each of these ministries, whether direct service or education, which requires this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries.