It’s something we’ve all done – driving, singing along to the music and having a good time. When Traci was doing the same, she looked in the rearview mirror and caught the eyes of her two-year-old son smiling brightly back at her. She burst into tears.
Traci cried, not out of sadness, but out of joy. She was so incredibly grateful to be having that simple happy moment with her child that so many of us take for granted. It’s something she would not have experienced without a transitional living program like Steadfast House, now Transformation Village.
Vaya Health has partnered with Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM) to make more of those simple happy moments for Vaya members completing rehabilitation services at Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center (ADATC) and provide support for ongoing recovery.
“We want our members to have the best shot at a healthy life and the best shot at recovery,” said Rachel Fowler, mental health substance use care manager at Vaya. “They need the support that this provides in order to have that. It’s critical for people, especially for those that are new in recovery with limited resources and supports to wrap around them. This gives women a place that’s stable, safe and sober so they can spend time focusing on implementing the skills they learned in rehab and working on their outpatient treatment.”
A transitional living recovery home, like Transformation Village, creates a space where individuals can continue to build on necessary skills, find employment and have the support needed to take the next step out on their own. It takes some of the burden and worry off their shoulders to set them up for a successful transition.
“They’re trying to get out of a life of addiction, which involves such massive change,” said Rachel. “And they have to make all of these huge changes while building a life where they can be self-sufficient.”
ABCCM’s Homeless Ministry has two facilities: Veterans Restoration Quarters (VRQ), offering 250 beds to men, and Steadfast House, a woman and children’s facility for 36 women and 14 children. Due to size and need, the newest facility, Transformation Village, replaced Steadfast House in February 2021 and doubled capacity.
The partnership between Vaya and ABCCM came about over a year ago when Rachel, Sara Wilson, senior vice president of complex care management at Vaya, and Sarah Lancaster, Vaya housing manager, discussed ongoing needs for women completing treatment at ADATC and the lack of available resources and housing. If women are even able to get into a halfway house, the startup and weekly costs on top of unemployment and outpatient treatment are often too much of a burden. Sara reached out to ABCCM, and Vaya now covers the costs for ten beds at Transformation Village with the hope to increase the number.
“I think this is a wonderful collaboration between community providers and an amazing opportunity for the people that we serve,” said ADATC Director Erin Bowman. “It will be beneficial for them to have this stability and support as they transition out of inpatient care into the community. The opportunities that this affords women is invaluable.”
Filling the Gap for Women
According to the 2015 census, 42% of single mother households are living in poverty within Buncombe County. ABCCM’s Steadfast House has been at full capacity with over 300 on a waiting list. Transformation Village, a 24-acre campus near the Asheville Outlets, provides opportunity to more women and their children.
“There’s always more men in treatment than there are women,” said Kimberly Wilson, substance use provider account manager at Vaya. “We’re looking to expand that and give them hope, and I think transitional housing is the best way. We’re breaking down barriers, filling a service gap, reducing stigma and letting people know that women need help. They no longer have to be ashamed.”
One of the reasons for less women seeking help often comes down to their children. Many don’t want to leave their children or have anyone to leave their children with while they seek treatment. They worry that their children will end up in foster care or that the Department of Social Services (DSS) will become involved.
“By the time women have reached ADATC, they’re often there because they’ve lost custody of their children,” said Rachel. “That’s been the part that forced them to say, ‘Ok, I’m going to make a change.’ They have to demonstrate that they can work, maintain sobriety and do their treatment for an extended period of time before they can regain custody. This program offers a lot of hope to women with children that they can work on a plan to be reunited.”
In order to move into Transformation Village, women must complete an application process and go through an interview process to be accepted. As part of the application, women speak to their personal strengths, barriers, what they want to work on and their goals.
With the women experiencing so many changes in their lives, transitioning out of a rehabilitation center and into transitional housing can be daunting enough. A Vaya care manager is assigned to work with women while in ADATC and as they move to Transformation Village. There, they also have a Vaya care support specialist who offers support, encouragement and helps the women in their new housing with any scheduling issues or other troubleshooting.
“This partnership is bringing two great efforts together,” said ABCCM Executive Director Scott Rogers. “VAYA provides women and moms with children access to excellent substance use treatment, and ABCCM provides a holistic approach to living skills that develops healthy structures with sober living. Together, these resources and combined efforts are helping each participant embrace choices to fulfill their goals and embrace their greater potentials, whether it be with personal skills, living wage employment or healthy homes and families. This is a public-private partnership that demonstrates how our community resources benefit individuals and families to build stronger communities.”
More Space and More Opportunities to Grow
Transformation Village has on-site kitchen and dining facilities, job training center, culinary training center in partnership with A-B Technical Community College, children’s educational center, playground, community center and medical clinic. ABCCM’s website states, “We are building on our successful programs that move homeless women and children into stability, training programs and career-level jobs that give residents health, safety and education.” ABCCM reports that eight out of ten women have left Steadfast House with a living wage job and permanent housing. The goal is for more women like Traci to receive the support, resources and tools they need to achieve their goals and rebuild a new life for themselves and their family.
“I think this is the best way to combat homelessness and to simultaneously help people maintain their recovery,” said Rachel. “These individuals are trying to do both. It’s not just putting a roof over their head – it’s helping them learn to be self-sufficient.”
To learn more about Transformation Village or hear more of Traci’s story, visit www.abccm.org/transformation-village.