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WATERLOO | A new halfway house in Waterloo will open for clients in early December.

Officials are set to open the residential section of the Women’s Center for Change, 1515 Lafayette St., on Dec. 3, easing crowding at the Waterloo Residential Facility on East Sixth Street and at the Black Hawk County Jail.

“It’s our goal to transition people out of prison and jail settings into our facility when they’re ready, and not just when we have a bed ready for them,” said Karen Herkelman, director of the Waterloo-based First Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.

The center will house women ordered to serve time in a community-based corrections setting and women moving from prison or jail back into the community.

Rev. Michael Coleman, a vice chair of the Iowa Board of Corrections, described the center as a bridge.

“They have to come back into society. There has to be some means to get them back into society, and this institution is that means. It is the bridge. We’re the bridge the helps them walk over,” Coleman said.

Herkelman said she anticipates filling the center’s 45 beds not long after opening day.

“We will start by moving the women from our current facility over on Sixth Street over here, and then we will start scheduling people on the waiting lists,” she said.

About 25 women will come from the existing facility, and there are between five and 10 others in prison and jail waiting for an opening, Herkelman said. That’s in addition to referrals from probation and parole officers.

“We won’t have a lot of empty beds,” she said.

Men in the prison and jail on waiting lists for the Waterloo Residential Facility will take the spots left open at the Sixth Street building sometime around Dec. 4, she said.

The Women’s Center for Change has a staff of 18. One of the new employees is Amy Jones, the former director the Black Hawk County Youth Detention Center, which closed down in June.

Jones, who started with a background in elementary education before working at the youth center for 16 years, will be the residential supervisor.

“I like working with people. I like seeing the success stories. I love being a part of changing people’s lives,” Jones said.

Al Hoff is the facility’s residential manager.

Construction of the $6 million Women’s Center for Change was finished in April 2011, but the residential section remained empty because of a lack of funding for staff. That changed earlier this year.

Since 2011, officials have been using another section of the building for office space, meetings and programming.

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Police and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Courier

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