Recovery Program Creates ‘Safe Place’ for Addicts

Post a Comment » Written on April 17th, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Gustav Skogens

CHICAGO, IL (April 17, 2009) – John Couleur works full-time as a financial consultant, but he is passionate about helping people with no money – the homeless of Chicago – who are suffering from addictions.

That desire has led the Winnetka Covenant Church member to serve as executive director of the Illinois Shelter and Recovery Services (ISRS), a nonprofit organization seeking to develop a safe place where addicts have time to begin confronting their addictions.

“I wondered where God wanted me next, and this seems to be it,” Couleur says. Darrell Griffin, senior pastor of Oakdale Covenant Church, also sits on the five-member board of directors.

“Between 70-90 percent of homeless people are drug addicts.”

ISRS is modeling its program on The Healing Place, a successful shelter recovery operation started in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1989. It has since spread to Lexington, Kentucky; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia.

Homelessness and substance abuse are closely connected, Couleur says, “Between 70-90 percent of homeless people are drug addicts.”

The Healing Place works to break the chain with therapy that emphasizes the addicts’ personal accountability. According to Couleur, The Healing Place has a 65 percent success rate and at least 3,000 alumni.

“But that’s a conservative number,” Couleur says. “It’s probably closer to 4,000.” That success prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to describes the program as “a model that works.” Kentucky is implementing the program in 10 locations.

“We create a wonderful, loving community,” Couleur says.  The patients motivate each other to fully commit to the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-step program and follow the daily assignments from the book Recovery Dynamics.

The program “reinforces over and over again new positive ways of thinking,” Couleur explains. The clients are encouraged to find inspiration in a “higher power,” which often is God.

The program is cost effective, Couleur says. Because the program is based on the 12-step idea that the best people to help addicts recover are other addicts, few professional leaders are required. Patients do tasks around the facility such as laundry or cooking meals. Several medical communities provide free heath and dental care.

The average resident stays for six to nine months.

The cost is less than $25 dollar per person per day, Couleur says, compared to $250 to $1,000 per day for other treatment programs.

Moreover, services are free for patients, which means there is no pressure from insurance companies to get them in and out in 10-15 days, Couleur says. The average resident stays for six to nine months.

ISRS is seeking to acquire five acres of land to build housing for 300 men and 200 women with their children. The organization estimates that will cost $40 million. The annual operating budget is estimated at $3 million.

Fundraising began in June 2008 and is going well, Couleur says. He spends a lot of time writing letters and emails to individuals and companies, asking for contributions, and he has requested grants from the federal government.

He expects the Chicago Healing Place to open within three years. Then, he will continue to help spread the program across the country.

In the meantime, Couleur plans to start a short-term program by the end of this year. In a roughly 300-square-foot building on Chicago’s south side, ISRS will provide a mini-version of The Healing Place, teaching homeless drug addicts important life skills, providing counseling and helping them draft recovery plans.

ISRS will work closely with other Chicago social work organizations, such as the rescue mission Door of Hope in the Washington Park neighborhood.

Couleur has years of experience helping people recover from substance abuse, starting in graduate school when he volunteered with a program on Chicago’s south side. Among other activities, he has started an AA program at his church and also raised funds on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.

For more information, visit the websites of the Illinois Shelter and Recovery Services and The Healing Place.

(Editor’s note: Gustav Skogens is a North Park University student completing an internship with the Department of Communication.)

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