MOUNT VERNON — One of the biggest obstacles for someone completing a substance abuse recovery program is housing.

Many programs, such as those provided by Riverside Recovery Services, offer housing for up to a year while individuals go through rehab. Once they have graduated, however, they are frequently faced with what can quickly become an overwhelming challenge: Where will I live now?

As Flint Postle, assistant director at RRS, pointed out in a July 2021 workshop, recovery housing is a safe place, but the goal is to get individuals reintegrated into the community. He noted that there is no “next step” when it comes to safe, stable housing that helps those in recovery get re-established and on their feet financially.

With the opening of the Abrean House on April 1, that next step is now available locally.

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Abrean House will provide housing for women who have completed rehab. A collaborative effort between TouchPointe Marriage and Family Resources and Eli and Shelby Miller, local churches, individuals, and organizations have helped with funding and furnishings.

“Housing, in general, is difficult for many people in poverty, and most of the people coming out of recovery are in poverty,” explained Dan Humphrey of TouchPointe. “Our goal is the ladies will be able to become established enough with a job that they will be able to afford the next step in their housing.”

Humphrey said the goal is sustainability through the residents (he calls them neighbors.) As the women become employed, they will pay rent.

“This is not long-term housing. We are looking at a year. For some, it may be less; for some, it may be 18 months,” he said. “Our goal is to be a hand up, not a hand out.”

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“God has a way of working.”

Since becoming executive director of TouchPointe more than three years ago, Jessica Reynolds has worked with people coming from rehab or jail who need transitional housing until they get back on their feet.

Humphrey was sympathetic to the need, but that was as far as it went. Initially.

“I told Jessica we are not going to be in the housing business because we don’t want to own a house,” Humphrey said. “Yet Jessica kept telling me there’s no place for these women to go.

“Well, God has a way of working.”

While exploring potential future locations for TouchPointe, Humphrey met Eli and Shelby Miller. The Millers attended a board meeting to learn more about TouchPointe.

“Through the course of conversation, we learned they were interested in buying a house. They wanted to make a transitional house for women. So it became a collaboration,” Humphrey explained.

Eli and his crew completed renovations on the house. Shelby sets the house rules and provides guidance to house manager Cassi Blair. TouchPointe’s role is to provide volunteers to mentor the women.

Mentors will spend two to three hours a week with each neighbor, following a curriculum that includes helping them with budgets and self-image. In addition, neighbors will complete TouchPointe’s KnoxWorks program, learning how to get and keep a job.

“We are faith-based, so ultimately we want to share Christ,” Humphrey said.

A woman who attends church with the Millers and recently moved here from North Carolina has experience with transitional housing.

“She’s bringing that information here and is willing to train the mentors,” Humphrey said. “It’s interesting the way this is falling together.”

“God put the pieces together.”

Although Shelby Miller has worked with the homeless in Licking and Coshocton counties, neither she nor Eli have experience in transitional housing. But when her niece became homeless, Shelby said, “We’ve got to get her a place to live.”

Eli merely said, “How are you going to do that.”

It was a statement, not a question.

After meeting Humphrey, one thing led to another, and the Millers ultimately bought what would become Abrean House. Ninety days later, renovations are complete, and the house, named after Shelby’s niece, is ready for today’s opening.

“It’s because God put all of the pieces together,” Shelby said.

Those pieces include Jacob Miller and another investor providing funding, volunteers like Amy Blanton doing landscaping, and the congregation of Overcomers Christian Church donating all of the kitchen equipment, linens, and utensils.

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It includes Joe Noonan writing policies, Rochelle Noonan providing artwork and decorating, and Tim Smith excavating, compacting, and providing gravel for a parking area.

Assistance from Common Pleas Judge Richard Wetzel, a Massachusetts woman who provided furnishings, and building trade relationships formed through Eli’s Down Home Rentals business supplemented the support.

“If there was one part missing, this would never have happened,” Shelby said.

“The lady from Massachusetts has now donated seven bedrooms full of stuff including bedding. Her neighbors have even gotten involved. She is so passionate about this and is doing it in honor of her brother who was schizophrenic and homeless.”

Each bedroom has a bed, refrigerator, and chair. Residents share a common kitchen, and there is an onsite coin-operated washer and dryer. The $465 rent includes WiFi, gas, electric, and water. The house does not accommodate children at this time.

“Housing at low cost.”

Abrean House will serve as next-step housing for women completing Riverside Recovery’s program. Some women will come through ARMOR Court and MERIT Court. TouchPointe’s Reynolds will do the screening process.

“We are excited because we see the opportunity to provide housing at low cost,” Humphrey said, adding that it is easy for those in recovery to relapse if they return to their former environment. “With the mentoring going on, that’s a plus.”

Noting that Abrean House is an affordable, supportive restoration home, Shelby Miller echoed the sentiment.

“They need a helping hand because they are afraid to go back into their old life,” she said. “What we’re really doing is discipling and mentoring them, helping them build personal relationships.”

The women must have $700 a month in income. If they do not have a job, or their job does not reach $700 a month, the women must have a letter of promise from a support agency agreeing to provide gap funding.

“The goal is to make [gap funding] temporary, and they learn how to do it on their own,” explained Eli.

“The court has some funds available that can be used to pay the first couple of months rent,” Humphrey said. “There may be some donations. Women United donated some money.”

Love and hope

Humphrey said the plan is to have a welcome bag for each person moving into Abrean House. The backpack will include hygiene supplies, a Bible, perhaps a book or devotional, and other assorted items. Each woman will also receive a set of clothing.

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“We just want them to feel welcome. They have faced so much rejection in their life,” he said. “We want the house to be transformational. We want them to feel ‘I am loved’; we want them to feel ‘there is hope.’”

For those wishing to contribute, financial donations are preferred over actual items to ensure consistency in supplies and furnishings. Mail donations to TouchPointe, Box 93, Fredericktown, OH 43019, or drop them off at 400 S. Gay St. in Mount Vernon. For more information call 740-485-5408.

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