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October 12, 2010 > Life House provides hope and positive futures

Life House provides hope and positive futures

By Julie Grabowski

Everyone needs a haven, a place of hope, stability, and encouragement to get them through rough times. Life House Recovery Homes, Inc. provides such a place. Operating as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Life House was started over two years ago to provide transitional living and recovery support for those emerging from substance abuse.

"Our mission is to promote the well being of men, women and families in recovery from alcohol, drugs and related behaviors by providing a safe, structured and independent sober living environment," says Director of Public Relations Tom Johnsen. "We utilize a service system that emphasizes trust, respect, confidentiality and compassion. We are committed to providing a nurturing, supportive 12-Step based atmosphere for individuals at any stage of recovery."

Beginning with one house in Hayward, Life House has since grown to five - one for single men, one for women with children, and one for single women in Hayward; one in San Leandro for single men; and one in Fremont for couples with children. People are referred mostly through word of mouth, and the only requirement is a sincere commitment to staying clean and sober with active involvement in a 12-Step program.

The cost is very low and manageable for most, but seventy-five percent of applicants come with no money, job, or resources. However, very few ever get turned away. Life House will help them apply for county and state assistance programs, riding it out until benefits, a job or another option comes through.

"Our goal from the beginning has been to achieve effective and lasting results by making it possible for individuals and families in early recovery to enter our program, even though they may have little or no resources. Our goal is not to make a profit, but to help those in recovery move forward in life and become productive members of society," says Johnsen.

The process begins with an interview, ensuring the potential resident will be a good fit. A house manager lives at each site and assists with individual needs such as interviews, counseling, and connecting residents with available county benefits, other services, and sponsors. Life House regularly collaborates with Child Protective Services, Probation, County Social Services, Drug Court and other case managers involved with their residents. Transportation is provided to necessary appointments and 12 Step meetings, as well as to the grocery store.

A house meeting is held each week as well as informal recovery meetings, and random drug and alcohol testing is conducted to ensure a safe and sober living environment. Residents must follow house rules, complete assigned chores, and abide by curfews. There is a limit of six residents per house to avoid overcrowding and maintain a stable, supportive environment.

Johnsen says, "We have tried to create more of a 'family' environment at each house. Our residents consider their roommates as brothers and sisters. An atmosphere of love and mutual support is really what we work to maintain."

All staff members of Life House are volunteers; no one receives a salary. There are currently 12 on staff, eight of which are former residents who know the process and hold a great belief and passion for the organization and want to stay involved, serving as role models for those to come. "The beautiful part about this is that the rewards of helping another alcoholic on the path of recovery are priceless, far beyond any material reward," says Johnsen. "We simply carry the message that recovery is possible and try to help others to find what we have found."

Solely financed by a generous medical professional who wishes to remain anonymous, Life House is run on the spiritual principle of helping people and hoping the rest takes care of itself. However, with such growth and need, one financier is no longer enough.

In the face of this truth Life House has instituted a community outreach campaign in order to help maintain operations and fuel their hopes for the future. The primary goal is to add another home for women and children by the end of the year, and a minivan is also greatly needed. Another big goal is to start a business before the end of the year, creating an in-house opportunity for residents to get started in a job.

"There is an ever increasing need for our services, especially in the Hayward, Fremont, and San Leandro areas," says Johnsen. "Our sincere hope is that local individuals, businesses and charitable organizations will be willing to help us help our community. Please give generously and you will see the results right here, in our local community!"

Monetary donations can be made online via PayPal or contributions can be mailed directly to Life House at P.O. Box 758, Hayward, CA 94543. Usable goods for the homes such as working appliances and clothing for men, women, and children are also welcomed, and pick up can be arranged with the organization. All donations are fully tax deductible.

Life House will have an information booth at the Danville Fall Festival, October 23 and 24, and is currently visiting neighborhoods with their door hanger campaign, making the community aware of their presence and mission. For more information on Life House Recovery Homes, Inc., contact them at (510) 397-3934 or visit online at www.lifehouserecovery.org.

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