Welcome home: Bristol Borough’s new recovery home has a personal touch

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The place settings are all prepared: Six sets of plates and placemats sitting atop two ornate runners with a cloth napkin carefully folded and standing upright in each spot’s cup.

Now, all Drucilla Van Wright needs are women to come to the table.

“I have a ministry of hope and healing,” she said. “That’s where the name comes from.”

That name is Hopee House, which Van Wright founded late this year. An acronym for Helping Other People Endure by Empowerment, it’s a new recovery home on Otter Street in Bristol Borough.

The three-story, five-bedroom house is designed to accommodate up to nine women and a manager on staff at all times. Van Wright plans to house women preferably right out of rehab, for anywhere from three months to a year.

Her home shares many of the hallmarks of other such houses in the area.

Residents of the home will be required to work and pay rent and take drug tests, for instance. Literature about different drugs are tucked away on a shelf in the dining room. On the walls are schedules, rules and regulations, and the 12 steps to recovery.

But the personal touches in Hopee House — like those place settings, which will soon be switched over to Christmas-themed dinnerware, and will host family-style dinners five nights a week — betray Van Wright’s own, very specific, vision for rehabilitation.

“I want to give them a feeling of home, a sense of pride. This is what home looks like,” she said.

“My table at home has placemats and napkins. This is how you’re supposed to pride your house, where your life is revolving.”

Van Wright, herself nearly 24 years sober, understands how that contrasts with an addict’s usual dinner routine.

“Usually if addicts eat, they’re eating on the run. They don’t sit down to eat,” she said.

She pushes a setting and runner away from the edge of the table.

“They don’t give a cahoot about this. They just want to come in, chop up their stuff, get their high and keep on moving.”

Instead, Van Wright’s table settings encourages responsibility and dignity.

“If you take pride in it, in keeping it this way, it gives you a sense of pride you can take with you,” she said

That subtle sense of care carries throughout the home. Many of the pictures, paintings and curtains are from Van Wright’s own house.

New, donated furniture adorns the living and dining rooms. Downstairs are racks of clothing women can wear to job interviews.

Out back, there’s plenty of lawn furniture, including an ash tray — there’s a zero-tolerance policy on, among other infractions, smoking in the house — and an area for a garden.

But it’s all much more than just decor.

Van Wright will teach the women who live here how to garden. There’s an aspect of responsibility there, she explained, and just working in the dirt can be therapeutic.

Hopee House will have cooking classes, too — a skill many women in recovery either never learned, or haven’t practiced in a while. That’s along with guided meditation, opportunities for prayer sessions and other mentally rejuvenating activities.

Then there’s Van Wright’s plan for mentors. Working beyond the traditional idea of a sponsor for someone in a 12-step program, she is seeking women from the community to “buddy up” or mentor a woman in her home.

“Sometimes when a woman is in rehab or a recovery house, they become stuck in the environment they’re in because there’s no way out,” said Van Wright. “We suggest to the mentors to take them out. Just go to the mall, go shopping, go to a movie. Give the women here an opportunity, help them get themselves back.”

It’s a large part of Van Wright’s focus on connecting with people and helping them heal.

“These women need to regain a personal sense of belonging, and get themselves

back together again. Because addiction robs you of that, it robs you of your dignity, it takes away your pride,” she explained.

“Having someone come in and show you special attention will help you reestablish that.”

That extends to work, too. Understanding most women coming in won’t have transportation, Van Wright has already spoken to the Wal-Mart in walking distance. They’ve agreed to give priority hiring to anyone with valid ID showing they live in the house.

She’s working on similar arrangements with nearby fast-food places.

“We’re going to teach them to budget. The only thing they know how to use their money for is to buy drugs,” said Van Wright.

She recalls being asked by one woman how she came up with her rent fees, knowing that people coming out of rehab won’t have a lot of money.

“Maybe you don’t make that much money, but you’ll learn how to use the money you do make,” said Van Wright.

It’s a lot of work for just one person. Van Wright has day and night managers lined up for when residents start coming in, and for now has fixed up the house and created the curriculum all herself.

For her it’s a vision, built on her own experiences with what’s worked and not worked in her own recovery. It’s a calling, one that brought her back to college for a bachelor’s degree in psychology in addiction a few years ago.

In fact, her enthusiasm may have worked against her just a little.

Van Wright has been prepared to receive women since September, but had to hold off until she met additional requirements of the Recovery Housing Association for the group to begin referring clients to her.

Now, with all her bases covered, she’s excited to start helping, one woman at a time.

“There’s a lot of love here,” said Van Wright. “A lot of faith.” ••

For information, call 866.496.0064 or visit hopeehouse.homestead.com.

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