Permanent Supportive Housing for Women Recovering From Substance Abuse in Charleston, West Virginia
In December 2017, the nonprofit Recovery Point West Virginia, which runs 5 long-term residential recovery programs in West Virginia, teamed with developer AU Associates to open 24 one-bedroom apartments in Charleston. The apartments offer permanent supportive housing for women recovering from substance abuse. They were built on what was formerly a parking lot belonging to a vacant office building and are adjacent to Recovery Point West Virginia’s emergency shelter, which houses its recovery program.
Recovery Point West Virginia, founded in 2011, follows a “social model” of recovery to help participants get sober; like 12-step programs, the model encourages people who have recovered from substance use disorders to use their experience to support those who are still struggling. The organization’s substance use disorder program, free for participants, fills a major need in a state that had the country’s highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016. In fact, expanding such peer-based supports is among the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ recommendations in its proposed opioid response plan. Although more research is needed, a recent systematic review published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment argues that peer-delivered recovery services exert “a positive impact.” Approximately 55 percent of Recovery Point’s participants stay sober, a success rate that Rachel Thaxton, Recovery Point’s director of development, attributes to the program’s social model and its 6- to 12-month duration.
Permanent Supportive Housing
To be eligible for an apartment, residents must have must have successfully completed a long-term recovery program — through either Recovery Point or a similar rehabilitation program — and remain in compliance. (Recovery Point participants live in a dormitory-style shelter at one of the five program sites.) Thaxton explains that people who are “still in the grip” of drug addiction or alcoholism struggle to sustain independent housing. The apartments provide a stable environment for women who have achieved sobriety to live in right out of the program. To further support residents’ transition to independent living and give them the chance to obtain employment, Recovery Point pays the first month’s rent. Tenants receive regular drug testing. Although Recovery Point expects residents to stay sober, each apartment is supplied with naloxone nasal spray, which anyone — not just those with medical training — can administer to someone who might otherwise die of an opioid overdose.
Twelve of the units, which cost between $400 and $600 per month and include utilities, are supported with project-based vouchers. Of the 24 apartments, half are restricted to residents earning no more than 40 percent of the area median income (AMI), and the other half are restricted to those earning no more than 60 percent of AMI. Each apartment includes a full kitchen with an ENERGY STAR® dishwasher and refrigerator, a washing machine and dryer, and parking. The apartments on the first floor are accessible to handicapped residents, with reduced-height countertops in the kitchen and bathroom and grab bars next to the toilets and in the showers. All apartments are furnished, including blinds and ceiling fans.
Women who need to split the rent can have roommates who are also “in compliance with a long-term program,” says Thaxton. Their children may visit them, and the apartments are an environment in which women can ease back into their roles as parents. Each lease lasts a year and then converts to a month-to-month lease, but residents can stay for as long as they wish. They can also use the shelter’s services for job training, credit counseling, and support for those seeking to reunify with their children. Residents can also go to 12-step meetings, attend a class, or even have lunch at the rehabilitation facility. Despite initial pushback from the community when Recovery Point announced its plans to build the rehabilitation facility and the apartments, residents have since embraced their new neighbors. “The space would have sat vacant,” Thaxton points out. “Now it has a use and a purpose.”
The apartments, which cost $3.87 million to build, were funded primarily with equity raised through 9 percent low-income housing tax credits. Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati provided $260,000, and River Hills Bank in Cincinnati issued a $690,000 conventional loan. To reduce property management costs, residents contribute sweat equity such as painting and landscaping, says Johan Graham, director of development at AU Associates.
The apartments are completely full, with 24 women living in them. Residents are doing well, says Thaxton. To assess residents’ outcomes, Recovery Point plans to track which participants stay for the full year and how long they stay sober as well as evaluate their reliance on government assistance and rates at which they reunify with their families.
Interview with Rachel Thaxton, director of development at Recovery Point West Virginia, 26 June 2018; correspondence from Rachel Thaxton, 18 July 2018.×
Correspondence with Rachel Thaxton, 18 July 2018; National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2018. “Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths.” Accessed 13 June 2018; West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services. J2018. “Opioid Response Plan for the State of West Virginia.” Accessed 13 June 2018; Ellen L. Bassuk, Justine Hanson, R. Neil Greene, Molly Richard, and Alexandre Laudet. 2016. “Peer-Delivered Recovery Support Services for Addictions in the United States: A Systematic Review,” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 63: 1–9×
Correspondence with Rachel Thaxton, 18 July 2018; Interview with Rachel Thaxton, 26 June 2018; ADAPT Pharma, Inc.. 2017. “What Is NARCAN?” Accessed 6 July 2018.×
Interview with Johan Graham, director of development associate at AU Associates, 28 June 2018; correspondence with Johan Graham, 19 July 2018.×
Interview with Rachel Thaxton, 26 June 2018; correspondence with Rachel Thaxton, 18 July 2018.×
Interview with Johan Graham, 28 June 2018.×
Interview with Rachel Thaxton, 26 June 2018.×