Finding Common Ground
Updated: Feb 2
I have been trying to understand how to both explain and bridge the gap between LifeHouse Foundations' vision and the level of concern in our community. There were going to be concerns and they are understandable. What I think has happened is that we are speaking a different language because we “see” two entirely different things while using the same words.
We have all watched movies depicting release from prison, we have all been to downtown metro areas
where we see homelessness, vagrancy, and signs of crime. There are areas we have likely avoided where we would see the worst of it. Transitional housing has often been established in these neighborhoods – to meet the need right on the front step. This is what first comes to mind when I hear the word transition house, and it is likely the same for you. The 80-year-old brick building is on a darkly lit street corner. Paneled walls, unfinished, well-worn flooring, and poor lighting. The housekeeper shows newcomers to the room, throws a key at them, and walks away, leaving them to their own devices. There are some successes in these instances in bringing people off the street and in providing programming to help them change their lives, but it is limited, and the recidivism rate is very high. As such, if this is what you envision coming to your neighborhood, I completely understand the fear and concern you have expressed. However, this is not what we do.
LifeHouse Foundation is coming from a completely different place, with a completely different model which is established and proven across the country to reduce recidivism rates to previously unheard-of numbers. Not zero - never is almost unattainable, but the successes speak for themselves. I would like to spend some time explaining these differences, introducing who our board is, and giving you a glimpse of what can be achieved as we move forward.
The opposition to affordable, supportive, or transitional housing is usually based on the assumed characteristics of the population that will be living on the property and the impact that they will have on the neighborhood.
•House Values Will Decline
•Drug Use and Selling Drugs from the Property
•Parties that spill into the neighborhood
•Strangers Coming & Going
•Increased Theft and Crime
•Owners are Detached
•No one to call if there’s a problem
The benefits for the residents themselves are often ignored. These benefits translate into benefits for the neighborhood and society.
As a result of their personal experience with broken transitional housing models that failed to meet the needs of a loved one, our mentors redesigned the model and everything about it. They take the physical location of a transitional house out of the metro core, just blocks from crime hotspots, drug transactions, and the despair of homelessness and they purchase great homes in great neighborhoods. In these homes, they set up well-structured house rules which cover everything from house chores to curfew and a good neighbor policy. From their website:
“There are several paths to success. However, they all start with opportunity. We believe that opportunity must be nurtured and cultivated. The four pillars represent 4 of the main tenets at Kate’s houses.” These include Safety, Compassion, Knowledge, and Access.
Our residents are treated with dignity and respect. They are counseled and supported from the day they arrive. Their individual needs are met and addressed as quickly as possible, be they for education, job training, employment, or personal. When Tracy and I visited 6 Kates's houses one weekday, they were all empty save for a house manager and a newcomer. The other 40 or so residents were all at work. The houses were immaculate. House rules dictate that dishes used are washed, dried, and returned, bathrooms used are wiped down after each use, beds are made, and personal items are kept in one’s personal space. Rotating weekly chores ensure that common areas are kept up – vacuuming and dusting, lawn care, and others. As indicated, we met two residents. They were grateful, respectful, quiet but well-spoken, polite, and hopeful for the first time for their futures. They were on a journey and appreciated the opportunity
they had been given. There was nothing dangerous about them. The residents of Kates House want to find and keep a job, open a bank account, buy a car, make new friends, and get along with their lives, making up for the lost time.
What you need to know is that we have not blindly stumbled into a get-rich-quick scheme. We have approached this with discipline and structure. It has been in the making for nearly nine months. Our board of directors is very strong and possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge. Board members include Frank Candelario, who established Kates House Foundation with his wife Sherri, Karen Kalinka who developed and ran Hope Mission for over a decade, and Mark & Tracy Nelson who have been involved in recovery-related ministry and real estate development since 2001. With this solid foundation of experience, we possess the skill, knowledge, and business practices to see that this venture is well run, managed, and successful.
LifeHouse Foundation is just getting started but we stand behind the brand that we are creating. Key elements include:
· The parts of the house you cannot see are in excellent condition.
· Yard is maintained
· Clean and functional exterior
· Quiet House
· Energy Efficient
· Neighbors support you
· No visitors loitering on the property
· Property could be listed immediately
· We do what we say we will do
· Residents are polite and interact with the neighbors
Let me introduce you to the National Alliance of Recovery Residences (NARR). From NARR’s website:
“Our mission is to support persons in recovery from addiction by improving their access to quality recovery residences through standards, support services, placement, education, research, and advocacy.”
In short – they were created to raise the bar on what recovery residences had become. In each State, an affiliate of NARR is set up to implement NARR’s policy in that state. In Washington state, that is the Washington Alliance of Quality Recovery Residences (WAQRR). Their mission is defined on their website:
The primary mission of WAQRR is to promote the establishment, successful management, and growth of high-quality community-based recovery residences in Washington State.
We accomplish this by:
· Maintaining quality standards for recovery residences
· Certifying and publicizing recovery residences
· Interfacing with neighborhoods, government, and other agencies.
· Providing resources and training for residence operators.
We are developing a network of safe, effective, and high-quality recovery providers who provide the environments essential for recovery from all forms of substance use disorder.”
WAQRR is important because Tracy and I are not interested in filling a bunch of rooms and collecting a fee for it. We can do that, but we believe in the mission of WAQRR, we believe in the mission of Kates House, and we believe in the power of solid programming and structure based on biblical principles to help people turn their lives around. LifeHouse's foundation is built on the mission of these organizations and is committed to an entirely new experience for those who need it most. That includes both our residents and our neighbors. LifeHouse has begun and will complete WAQRR certification, making these two houses the first Certified houses in Whatcom County. This is a three-step process culminating in interviews with existing residents about their experiences. For this reason, they cannot be certified prior to opening.
I urge you to spend some time watching the testimonies of those who have experienced this new model. This includes Veterans of foreign wars and those who enjoy gardening for therapy. These videos largely feature women at the time the videos were made, though they need changes over time. LifeHouse houses will be the same.
We have received questions about who we will house and how many. I cannot give you a more specific answer than I have already. It may include:
· Veterans of Foreign wars
· People from local or more distant addiction recovery centers
· Kids who have aged out of the foster system
· People who have experienced incarceration
· People involved with local drug court or county jail
· Women fleeing domestic violence & abuse
· And others as the Lord brings them to us.
We believe that we are here at the Lord's leading. We daily seek his guidance as we make decisions and we have been blessed by the doors that have opened for us as we have started this ministry. We will remain sensitive to his direction and that includes opening our doors to those in need. While the entire community is in an uproar over criminals, it is entirely possible that we will have young adults getting their feet under them either immediately or at some point down the road.
It has been said before, these houses will be manager run. They will have onsite, someone who takes care of the daily tasks of ensuring house rules is implemented and that residents are upholding their responsibilities. The manager will be always contactable. Additionally, Mark & Tracy Nelson will provide business cards for you to reach us at all hours of the day. This is not a hands-off, passive rental situation but an intentionally managed one. You will find us responsive and concerned for the neighborhood.
It would appear based on input that we have received that our mission is a good idea, but not here. Let’s look at the reality of what is going on in our world.
· As of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. CDC
· Overdoses have also spiked since the onset of the pandemic
· A reporting system called ODMAP shows that the early months of the pandemic brought an 18% increase nationwide in overdoses compared with those same months in 2019.
· The trend has continued throughout 2020, according to the American Medical Association, which reported in December that more than 40 U.S. states have seen increases in opioid-related mortality along with ongoing concerns for those with substance use disorders. www.apa.org
· Around 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the last year of unprecedented upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, up by 22 percent from 2010. That’s among the key findings of the latest annual report released on Thursday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which also provides an overview of global drug markets, as well as their impact on people’s health and livelihoods.
· the COVID pandemic is fueling a major increase in drug use worldwide: UN report | | UN News
Unfortunately, Lynden, WA is not insulated from these issues. We know of several families whose lives have been touched by these realities. These are families who live in our town, attend our churches, and go to school with our kids. The reality is that this is on our doorstep. LifeHouse is simply stepping up to take action and do something about it, to meet this need, to love these people to more stable lives, better paths, and brighter futures. You don’t know us, but we are asking you to give us a chance. I know our residents, whoever they may be, are hoping that you will.