The house with the fresh starts: Jeremiah House a recovery place for women with addiction who need help

Friday, March 15, 2013

CARROLL COUNTY -- It's not an easy climb, to the big, blue house on the hill. The place is nestled amid pines at the end of a long, rutted, red dirt road. And it's swerve, bump, and rumble all the way to the top.

But for those who can find it, the house is a sanctuary. The clamor of the highway rolls back into silence and is rebuffed by the strong, comforting arms of the mountains. Every trouble seems a world away.

Carla Peck has traveled the road, and, now, she sits in the kitchen of the big, blue house, looking out over the mountains and clutching a mug of coffee. She's home, and she wants to help others come home, too.

Peck, a recovered meth addict, is part of an effort to transform the house on the hill into a sanctuary for women still struggling with addiction. The project, dubbed the Jeremiah House, is the brainchild of Vickie Poulson -- who, like Peck, has experienced first-hand the destructive power of addiction.

Poulson's father was an alcoholic, and she later married a man who grappled with both alcohol and meth. Poulson's husband, J.R., has been sober for 12 years now.

Six years ago, the couple founded Soul Purpose Ministries, in Green Forest, where they now lead weekly addiction-recovery classes. Vickie Poulson is also a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor, with a professional practice in Rogers.

The Poulsons want to carry this mission even further, by starting a Christian-based addiction-recovery home for women. They began leasing the house on the hill last fall and are in the process of remodeling it.

Once finished, the Jeremiah House will be equipped to shelter up to 12 women. Vickie Poulson said they planned to offer substance abuse and mental health counseling; training in physical fitness and occupational skills; and spiritual guidance. She also intends to pair the girls with community mentors.

"I want them to be exposed to different walks of life," she said, "so that they can see their potential, that the life that they've lived is not all there is. Sometimes, people are raised in that, and its all they've ever known ... They're never exposed to another world."

Poulson said the house would fill a need. Even when an addict seeks help, she said, it is not always available.

"You're up against this huge cost," Poulson said, "Treatment centers -- they have state beds, and if ... you've been court-appointed, you can get a bed. But if you're just a person in a family somewhere and you want to go get help, and you don't have insurance, and you've not been in any trouble, you better have several thousand dollars with you to get in."

For Poulson, getting help for a loved one meant taking out a loan. Poulson said she hoped the Jeremiah House could offer treatment at lower than average cost by providing scholarships, but that will require grant funding and community support.

As part of their ministry, the Poulsons weekly visit the Carroll County Detention Center, where they minister to inmates. It was there, Poulson said, that she really saw the need for a recovery home.

"I saw so many women in there who needed a place to go," she said. "They needed a fresh start. They needed someone on their side, and there just wasn't any, and they didn't have the resources."

Peck said many of these women were trapped in a cycle of drug abuse and prison time.

"They get a little clean time, because they're in jail," she said, "(but) then they get ready to come out, and they have nowhere to come to that is a clean environment. It's the same people, places, and things. They go right back into it."

Peck had to leave home to kick her addiction. She moved to Carroll County from Kansas City several years ago, following her daughter -- also an addict.

"I had been in rehab twice up there," Peck said, "twice arrested, twice in jail ... all (because) I couldn't break that cycle of the man, the drugs, the dealing, the making, the drugs, the dealing, the making."

Now, Peck is five years sober. Her daughter is also clean -- and preparing to give birth to her second child.

"(That) would never have been possible up in the city," Peck said. "She was running the streets, killing herself. My son, he's a work in progress ... I'm trying to show them there's a life without drugs."

Peck will be the house mother for the women at Jeremiah House, living with them full time and coaching them throughout their recovery. But, before that can happen, the house must be completed.

Work is progressing. Poulson said the ministry had already received a great deal of support from other churches and local businesses. Last fall, the ministry received a Giving Tree Grant from the Carroll County Community Foundation, which was used to replace damaged windows in the house. Volunteers have helped to clear and manicure the property's 14 acres, built walking trails, chopped piles of firewood, and re-decked the patio, but much more remains to be done.

"This is a community thing," Poulson said. "It's going to be an answer, but it's (also) going to require money and furnishings and people donating their time."

Poulson said more volunteers were needed to help paint, lay flooring, and otherwise renovate the home's interior. The ministry is also asking people to adopt one of several dormitory rooms at the house, to cover the cost of furnishings. Poulson and Peck said it was vital that the women feel at home during recovery. They said they had visited many treatment centers when planning for the project, and too many felt cold and institutionalized.

"Here, we don't want them to feel like that," Poulson said. "... I want the girls to come in, and I want them to say, 'Wow, I deserve something like this. This is my new home. This is my future ... because when you take that step to go into recovery, it's hard, and when you walk into a place that's nothing but leftovers and second hand, that's kind of how you feel."

Poulson took the name for the house from a Bible verse. Jeremiah 29:11 reads, "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans for a hope and a future."

The passage has special significance for Poulson.

"So many bad things had happened in my life," she said, "(that) I thought that was all I deserved. I thought that was all my life would be. (But) when I read that, and I learned that was God's plan for me ... it just made a huge impact, and I hope that it makes an impact on these girls."

For more information about the Jeremiah House, contact Poulson at 870-654-4059.

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