By Taylor Shunk
The road to addiction recovery is hard enough but imagine trying to stay sober while homeless. Morgan Chambers remembers how a Connections recovery residence once helped keep her safe and sober. “This is the only time in your life when you can live somewhere safe and drug free,” said Chambers. “Not to mention you don’t have to worry about bills, food or finding a ride.” Chambers, now a house manager for one of Connection’s “mommy and me” sober living houses in Milford, dreamed of becoming a teacher. “I didn’t want to work here and deal with seeing different visions of myself every day,” said Chambers. “But eventually I got to the point where I wanted to give back.” She started as a peer resident then recovery coach and finally a house manager. Chambers is the house’s “go-to” person during the daytime hours. “There’s a job description but there really isn’t,” said Chambers. “It’s new everyday…a lot of trial and error.”
“Just the story of what this house is trying to do is amazing,” said Chambers when speaking of the “mommy and me” residence. Connections has two houses in Milford, one in Seaford and one in Lewes. This Milford house is the largest with 10 beds. Women are allowed to stay with two children and free babysitting is offered day and night. 10 women and 13 children live in the house. In fact, during my interview the babysitter showed concern for one of the babies and all the moms jumped in to help. “One of the benefits to living here is that all the kids are really being raised by everyone,” said Chambers.
This type of residence is hopefully the last stop in recovery. The women usually go to an intensive outpatient program or rehab/treatment facility then move into the “mommy and me” house. “You’re trying to stay clean but you don’t know where you’re going to sleep tonight,” said Chambers. “Add in lack of rides and kids…the task is almost impossible.” The house is staffed around the clock and there’s even a driver to take the residents to appointments. They also rely on donations from the community. “We get a lot of donations from churches, local businesses and private donors,” said Chambers.
All the residents attend in-house programs to help them adjust to their new life. Some of the programs include learning how to budget, communication skills and coping skills. One very important aspect is helping the residents find jobs. They’re required to find a job within 30 days and 30% of their income goes to rent. They also purchase their own food and attend culinary classes. “A lot of the women have food stamps so, we also help them budget with that,” said Chambers. The main goal of the house is to help the women live independently. “Many lost everything to addiction or maybe they never learned these skills at all,” said Chambers. All of the residents are assigned chores around the house too. “I even told them they have to keep the house extra clean so we can get a huge Christmas tree,” said Chambers. “It really is a group effort around here.” Many of the residents don’t have families to visit for the holidays. “I try to keep everyone calm this time of the year because feelings will definitely come up,” said Chambers. “Plus it’s important to celebrate their sobriety as well.”
Another way to keep spirts up is the daily morning motivation group that everyone attends, including the staff. “It’s a great time to check in and see where everyone is at,” said Chambers. “They set goals, say what they’re grateful for and there’s plenty of positive affirmations.” Other parts of the day include a recovery group, life skills group and Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The women have plenty of freedom too. “They’re allowed to see their families or whoever but they do have a curfew,” said Chambers.
Helping the residents find affordable is housing is also an important aspect of recovery. “They need stability because they’re in early recovery,” said Chambers. “But we also teach them how to live on their own.” The residents can stay for up to 18 months. “Basically if you’re working, taking care of your kids, saving, and applying for assistance…you’re going to be able to stay here,” said Chambers.
Most of the staff at Connections have also been touched by addiction at some point in their lives. “I want the women to get out what I got out of program,” said Chambers. She doesn’t think of herself as a recovery professional either. “My life is very fulfilling now,” said Chambers. “I just want them to have what I have now.”
If you’re interested in donating please contact Morgan chambers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the much needed items are bedding, toys, diapers, school supplies, toiletries (including feminine products and winter clothing (women’s and children’s.)