Grace House provides gender specific treatment to women who have become dependent on alcohol or drugs so that they may lead sober and productive lives.
“I love it here. It’s like a big sorority except we take drug tests.”
Simone G gives me a tour around her home for the last six months — Grace House, the residential treatment program for women struggling with substance abuse.
“This is our kitchen where we eat and have groups,” Simone explains.
Grace House is specifically for women. The companion program, Bridge House, is for men.
“We are a therapeutic community,” Simone explains. “We hold each other accountable and ourselves. And we run the house. We do all the cleaning, all the cooking, all the maintenance, all the leadership, encouragement. And it’s all self-supporting. I work at warehouse, some girls work in the kitchen, the car lot, the thrift store.”
Simone usually has grits and eggs for breakfast. That’s at 6:30 a.m. At 7 a.m., it’s time for silent meditation, which Grace prefers to a morning walk.
“Because its’ so hot outside,” she explains, “and it’s the only time I have — I work at the warehouse all day, so I’m on my feet. So I sit. That’s my 30 minutes to think and pray for the morning and get ready for the day.”
This morning, Simone thought about her conversation yesterday, with her mother. Part of her treatment at Grace House involves the 12 step program. Step number nine is restitution. And that meant a call home.
“They’ve been trying to get me treatment since I was 14,” Simone explains. “I’m 48 now. I was apologizing for hard years. My dad passed two months ago. She told me she forgave me and just keep doing what I’m doing. She said she was proud of me. That makes you feel good.”
We walk down the block to Simone’s job, where she processes donations for the Bridge House/Grace House Thrift Stores. Along the way, she tells me that when she first came to Grace House she was suicidal. She’s had a long struggle with substance abuse.
“When I was 14 it was weed and acid and stuff like that. The pain killer addiction didn’t start until I was 32. That took me down a bad path. Like a lot of Americans you start taking them for a legitimate reason, but it ends up being a lot worse. You can’t get off of them. And we tried. I tried the methadone clinics, and that didn’t work. So I asked my younger brother to take power of attorney over me and have me committed, and a social worker and him got me into here. Some come from jail. I didn’t have to do that, but I came from own jail in my house.”
She continues. “This is the warehouse. I come in every morning, and I work back here sorting clothes and pricing. That goes to our thrift stores where they sell that, and that helps us pay room and board. So we don’t have to worry about rent, electricity, food, a bed. We don’t have to worry about any of that while we’re in treatment. We work to bring money back in the house. Everything is free of charge. And it helps self-esteem. You give back to the community. And it gives us something to do.”
Simone will be applying for jobs soon. She’d like to work in an office. She plans to remain living at Grace House for a while, paying a little rent, until she’s ready to move on. She has her support group there, and her community. Grace House is a refuge for people who’ve lost everything, people who want to recover — not in a rush, but in a way that will last.
“When I first got here, I took it minute by minute,” says Simone. “Now I take it day by day.”
Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Learn more about Bridge House/ Grace House.