A Waco substance abuse treatment center that is overhauling its business model because of financial pressures has settled on a new use for an old building. The Freeman Center soon will open a sober living house to provide transitional housing for women coming out of drug and alcohol treatment.
Summer Aletky, house manager for a new sober living house to be opened by the Freeman Center, stands in one of the bedrooms in need of renovation. It will be able to serve 12 women at a time, and center officials said they think it will quickly be at capacity. Half of the beds already are spoken for, CEO Dan Worley said.
The building being used for the project, at 326 N. 14th St., once housed another Freeman Center program. It provided residential treatment to mothers, with the unusual feature of allowing the women to bring their children with them. That provision was key for many single mothers.
The center recently discontinued the program after losing some state funding. That cut, along with other decreases in state money, is why the center announced earlier this year that it plans to wean itself off government funding altogether. To do that, the center is scaling back its residential program by 75 percent and making other program changes.
Eventually, the center hopes to sell the hodgepodge of downtown buildings it operates out of and move to a more streamlined facility. It announced a $2 million fundraising campaign to do that earlier this year. In the meantime, the center wants to use the buildings it owns as advantageously as possible, Worley said. It decided having a sober living facility was important, since there aren’t many local resources for women coming out of treatment.
Having a safe, supportive environment is key as people try to rebuild their lives, he said. “It precipitates a high incidence of relapse when people go back to the environment from where they came,” he said.
The Freeman Center has operated sober living facilities in the past. But the concept wasn’t well-executed, Worley said. This time, the house will have an on-site supervisor and highly structured environment, Worley said. Residents will be required to get a job within 30 days, abide by a 10 p.m. curfew and do chores. They must also pay $75 in rent per week.
The center is not placing a limit on how long women can stay at the house, Worley said. Nationally, the average stay at such facilities is 15 months, he said. Summer Aletky, who will act as the house manager, said she is thrilled to help women in their recovery journey. She used to be addicted to crack cocaine, and her husband also is a former substance abuser, she said. About a year ago, the couple decided they wanted to help house people trying to break the addiction cycle, Aletky said. That initially took the form of letting people sleep on their couch. But when Aletky heard about plans for the house, she jumped at the opportunity. Aletky, her husband and 13-year-old son will live at the house in exchange for free rent and health insurance. “It’s totally my passion,” Aletky said of helping people in recovery. “A lot of people in the cycle of addiction think sober living will be boring. But it makes you free. We love our lives (now).”
The target date for opening the house is July 1. The only thing it lacks is upstairs flooring, Worley said. The center is looking for a donor to fill that need. So far, the center has only spent $200 to renovate the building. The rest of the work has been done through donations and volunteer labor, he said.
by Cindy V. Culp, Tribune-Herald