by Lisa Tramontana
Rhonda Altazin’s job is rewarding, but far from easy.
Her life is dedicated to helping anyone in need, but she focuses on homeless women and children. Every single day, she says, she must turn away at least one person who seeks her help. The need for resources is great and the list is long with the names of women who are down on their luck and trying desperately to change the direction of their lives.
Altazin is the founder of Travail 6:33, a homeless outreach ministry that offers peace, rest, safety and unconditional love for those who have been wounded or abused. After years of providing services to the homeless, Travail was able to rent its own facility, a “home” more than a shelter, in 2014. A second smaller home was opened about 4 months ago.
“The women who come to us are broken,” she said. “Many of them come from abusive or violent relationships. They have addictions to drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, criminal pasts … some have been victims of sex trafficking. They have emotional issues to deal with and they need to heal.”
Many of these women have been living on the streets, in vacant buildings, or even in their cars. Some have young children, and others are practically children themselves, like the 17-year-old girl who was kicked out of her house by an abusive father just a few weeks ago. A clean bed, a hot meal and a feeling of safety is a godsend for many of them.
Some women are in transition and just need a place to stay for a few days. Travail can help them get back on their feet with short-term aid. Those who need a little more help can take advantage of job training workshops, parenting classes, and finance management. Ongoing counseling and mentoring is available as well, and is based on each individual’s need.
As part of the program, residents must agree to certain conditions, such as curfews, house rules and job requirements. And since the program is faith-based, residents attend church and Bible studies. “We can help others, but we can’t ‘fix’ them,” said Altazin. “Only a relationship with Christ can do that. I believe that God has put these people in our path and we are commanded to help them. We have been blessed to touch so many lives.”
Travail 6:33 relies heavily on donations from the community. That includes household items, furniture, towels, bath products, hygiene products, clothing, children’s items, gift cards, gas cards, etc. And volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, including communications, administrative work, and transportation.
The name Travail means “work” or “labor,” that bears fruit. In Scripture, it is often associated with women like Sarah, Ruth, and Rebekah, who were barren, but eventually brought forth children. It also refers to an intercession in which individuals or groups “labor” with God to create a “new life.” The 6:33 refers to a verse in the book of Matthew — “But first seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all things will be given to you.”
Both definitions apply to Travail 6:33, whose staff and volunteers have literally saved lives and transformed darkness to light, sin to forgiveness, and despair to hope. Many women have credited Travail with turning their lives around.
From Stephanie: “Travail House saved my life, taught me about Jesus and how to forgive others. It allowed me to be a mom again. I have been reunited with my 8-year-old daughter, and by the grace of God, she loves me unconditionally. My life was completely hopeless and now I have unbelievable joy.”
From Jacqueline: “I had been in and out of jail for the past 10 years. I was battling drug addiction, loneliness and prostitution. After I was accepted into the Travail program, I came to have a personal relationship with Christ and I now see myself as a beautiful, strong woman. I fall asleep speaking to Jesus and I wake up to Him each morning.”
Erika Anaya of Venezuela is a living, breathing example of Travail’s power to transform people. Without going into detail, she says her past was a spiritual darkness and that she suffered with ongoing sickness and despair. She is now a valued member of the Travail staff, counseling women and concentrating on a career in graphic design and communications.
“I am beyond thankful to my American ‘family’ and to Travail for providing a place where I can minister to others and grow closer to Christ,” she said. “I’ve learned patience and self-sacrifice. I feel the spirit of God upon me and I’m helping to bring people from spiritual bondage into a life of freedom and deliverance.”
Erika has seen many women like herself trying to overcome desperate situations. “I remind them that nothing is impossible with God,” she said. “Our most desperate moments are the platforms upon which God does his best work.”
If you would like to help this important ministry, donations are accepted on the website at Travail633.com, by check (through the mail), or with cash (in person). All gifts are tax-deductible.
For more information, call Altazin at (225) 933-9465.