Karat Place, Inc., a grassroots non-profit residential rehabilitation program for homeless women ex-offenders and their children was founded and chartered December 7, 1999 by Melvena C. Leake.
Karat Place, Inc., became a member of Greater Memphis Interagency Coalition for the Homeless and received its 501 (c) (3) status May 12, 2000. With board of directors' approval, Melvena rented 918 S. Willett and began accepting in-kind donations and planning policies and procedures for operating. Karat Place became an official service provider January 2001, with the capacity to serve four (4) women.
Melvena C. Leake is a retired Memphis City Schools teacher, who has voluntarily committed herself to helping female offenders prepare themselves for living-wage employment. She has provided transitional housing and other supportive services through partnerships with other agencies and organizations. This project is called Special Transitional Actions to Restore the Talents (S.T.A.R.T.) (of Women Ex-offenders and Their Children) because it assists clients in their struggle to overcome barriers to become self-sufficient as they re-enter society.
June 2003, Karat Place, Inc., moved into a twelve (12) bed facility located at 829 North Parkway. With a furniture donation from Rhodes College in 2004, it became and is now a sixteen (16) bed facility. Ms. Leake and the live-in resident manager makeup the "staff."
Funding is slow in coming but she has sustained the program these past five years with piece-meal funding from church gifts, foundation grants, corporation grants, individual donations and personal funds. To date, seventy-five (75) women have been served and all, but ten (10) obtained employment. Several are successfully living in the community. Melvena C. Leake has received recognition and many awards for "people who are making a difference in the community." To date, Melvena has not received any compensation for her relentless efforts.