By Mark Powell
Where Moms and Kids Stay Together
Opportunity sometimes arrives disguised as a setback. What seems like an unexpected ending may, in fact, be the beginning of a new chapter. That’s exactly what happened to Project Hope for Women and Children in Huntington.
It started as a transitional housing facility through the City Mission. Then the organization lost its HUD funding, leaving behind a vacant building. Yet the needs of mothers struggling with addiction remained. All too often, they faced the agonizing choice between getting the long-term treatment they needed or remaining with their children.
“No mom should ever have to pick one over the other,” says Project Hope Executive Director Jessica Tackett. “That’s where we enter the picture. Here, moms can look after their kids and receive treatment at the same time.”
That’s what Project Hope provides. It’s operated by Marshall Health, the medical outreach of Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. It received grant money that transformed the deserted structure into a $1.8 million, 15,000 square-foot renovated facility.
Project Hope now has 18 apartments. The apartments come fully furnished and equipped with one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. Shared laundry facilities are on site and support staff are available 24/7. Each woman may live with four children up to age 12. Daycare is available for children age two and up. Men and other relatives can’t live with them but are encouraged to visit and participate in family counseling.
“Living with their family while getting help is really important to these women,” Tackett explains. “For starters, it removes excuses such as, ‘I can’t go to treatment because I can’t find someone to watch my kids,’ or ‘I can’t get a ride to treatment.’ With those burdens removed, women can more easily focus on their recovery.”
Frequently, residents bring few belongings when they move in. Some arrive with only a plastic trash bag filled with clothes. So, each new arrival is met with a welcome gift: a laundry basket filled with soap, deodorant, cleaning supplies, diapers, wipes, toothbrushes, and razors. Their apartment contains necessities such as towels, sheets, bedding, pots, pans, silverware, dishes, and cups.
The women help each other. A residential staff of eight employees is also on hand to work with them on budgeting, grocery shopping, and cooking. The program lasts four to six months and provides group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, basic living skills, and job counseling. It consists of three phases. With each subsequent phase, women are prepared for reintegrating into the community. Each woman is set up with community partners after discharge to connect them to peer support, similar to “big sister” programs.“
Seeing women able to look you in the face once again and smile makes it all worthwhile,” Tackett says with a smile herself.
Project Hope for Women and Children was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.