Women's advocacy group says fire won't stop them - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Women's advocacy group says fire won't stop them

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Five days after a fire ripped through the offices of a non profit, the group has already started thinking about where to rebuild. The leaders of the advocacy group Women With a Vision lift up women who are homeless, involved in drugs or the sex trade. They believe their mid-city office was targeted by arson..but they say one fire won't stop their mission

"What we're doing is getting right back first thing out of the gate and moving forward," said Rosana Cruz, a board member.

Volunteers clean up charred remnants of a blaze that destroyed key elements of a program for women with few options

"We offer free HIV testing, we offer meals, we offer showers for women who are homeless or involved in sex work. They can come in and feel clean," said Deon Haywood the center's director.

Haywood feels the fire was intentionally set by someone who doesn't like the program. Fire investigators haven't come back with a cause.

For Zina Mitchell, it's personal.

"When I went and see, I was like God, my safe haven has been taken from me!"

Zina has been involved with Women with a Vision for the past five years, most of them as a client.

"My lowest point, I was a drug addict, I was a sex worker, everybody had given up on me.The person I am today and the things I do..are all because of Women with a Vision."

She says she has been straight for two years

"In November, Miss Deon hired me. I got deeper in the organization and found out more and more," she said.

Haywood says Women With a Vision serves 250 people like Zina every year and they've been in this location for the past three years.

"It feels good for the ones that do move forward and find peace," Haywood said.

The group hasn't found a place to land yet, but they say clients will be able to find them. They're posting a sign on the burned out office, and many clients have the cell phone numbers of the board members.

"I just graduated from community health worker class because of them. I go to do HIV training next month to be certified. I have so many opportunities because of this program," Zina Mitchell said with tears in her eyes.

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