Heroin impacts transitional housing
Foundations for Living to tighten rules
By Angie Landsverk
Foundations For Living is considering changes in its transitional housing program due to increased drug use in the community.
The changes include a 10 p.m. curfew and house monitors.
“Heroin has thrown us for a loop. It has forced us to re-examine how we’re doing it,” said Robin Madson, who is the executive director of the nonprofit organization.
Those who are addicted to heroin may not want to continue using it, but the drug has a hold on them, she said.
“The addiction process is quicker and deeper,” Madson said.
Those who live in FFL’s houses must remain alcohol and drug free and be willing to submit to AODA counseling and periodic drug and alcohol screening.
Client housing privileges are immediately terminated if there is alcohol or drug use, possession of alcohol or drugs or behavior that puts the client, staff or other clients in danger.
The recent arrest of a woman who was living in Foundations For Living’s (FFL) Union Street house brought the issue to the forefront.
“To our knowledge, there was never any drug use in our house. When they arrested her, she had it (heroin) in her purse,” Madson said. “We did intentionally bring the drug dogs in after and didn’t find anything. There is no evidence of drug dealing there.”
She said Foundations For Living is taking all the steps necessary to make sure that does not happen.
“She had gone through almost all of Life Skills. To see her stumble and fall like that is just heartbreaking for us,” Madson said. “She had so much potential. We don’t know what happened.”
Foundations For Living’s transitional housing program began in August 2012 when a four-bedroom house for men opened on Bailey Street.
The following December, a house on Union Street opened for women, as well as a house for families on South Main Street.
Today, the Union Street house remains open. The house for men is now on Van Street, and there is a different house on South Main Street for families.
“Transitional housing has always been at the core of what we do,” Madson said. “We saw a gap, nothing here. There were no emergency shelters in Waupaca County, no transitional homes. We just saw the need.”
The program for adults with transitional housing needs may be for those who are homeless, dealing with substance abuse, released from jail or prison or dealing with other life situations.
The program functions as a place to provide clients the skills they need to transition back into the community, and it is one of personal responsibility.
“We don’t want to set anyone up for failure,” Madson said.
Darla-rae Amundson, FFL’s client services coordinator, said people learn about the program in a variety of ways.
Some learn about the transitional housing program through word of mouth, while others do through churches.
“A good portion is through Probation and Parole or Ministry Health, those coming out of treatment,” she said.
The housing program is available to women and men age 18 and older and families of five or less.
All must have an income at 125 percent below the poverty level and be employed, employable or have a legal source of income.
Those who want to participate in the program meet with Amundson.
She listens to their stories – learning where they are from, where they have been and about their struggles and their victories.
They take home an application, and Amundson also asks them to answer a four-part essay question about why they want to be in the program.
The intake interview then includes Amundson, a former client, the co-founder of FFL and a community member.
“We will probably add an element where we go to the house and meet the housemates,” Amundson said.
FFL’s goal is to set people up to be successful, and the intake process takes up to two weeks. It includes background and reference checks.
“Most of the time, we know the background right away, because they are coming out of jail,” Madson said. “The severity of the crime does not impact their ability to be successful. We have had others with misdemeanors who failed.”
She said random drug tests, as well as visits from Waupaca County’s K-9 Unit, have always been part of what FFL does. She also said there have not been break-ins in the neighborhoods shere their houses are located.
“We bring in the drug dogs to be a proactive step. We want the community to know we haven’t found any drugs in the houses,” Madson said.
A 10 p.m. curfew and house monitors are the latest steps FFL plans to take.
“We never have had a curfew in the houses before. With drug use more intense, we’re finding we need a curfew,” Madson said.
When asked if the woman who was arrested would be able to return to the house, Madson said, “If she ever wants to come back, she would have to go through the whole process again. We would have to re-evaluate her.”
Amundson said, “One of the hardest things I had to do was to tell someone she was not ready for the program.”
Madson said those in their programs must be willing to make lifetime and lifestyle changes.
“If you’re teachable, it’s fixable,” she said. “If they’re willing to work, recovery is possible.”