St. Vincent de Paul launches Lane County sober house, the Phoenix House

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Last month, St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County launched a new program and housing opportunity called Phoenix House. It is a sober living house for adult women who are completing drug treatment and do not have permanent housing.

The hope is that with support and stability, residents can pick themselves up and start again.

“It’s like heaven,” said Jessica Hampton, the house’s resident manager.

She pointed out some of the decorations in the house in the shared spaces and the fact that each bedroom has a private bathroom.

The house is on the St. Vincent Hub campus at 717 Hwy. 99 N., and faces The Hub, a clinic that provides basic medical, mental health and recovery services to homeless clients. Residents pay monthly rent of $300.

“All these little goals”

Phoenix House’s first residents, aged in their early 20s to mid-60s, were selected from a group of about 20 applicants referred by addiction treatment provider Willamette Family Inc. They arrived in suites filled with coordinating linens, artwork on the walls and new furniture.

The Willamette family provide case management and help navigate housing while Hampton, the on-site house manager employed by St. Vincent’s, supports their fellow residents on a day-to-day basis.

She said having a comfortable, safe and private place to recover makes all the difference. Residents are lucky to “not have to worry about little things,” she said.

“You get up and do your thing,” she said.

Tawnee Best walks through the Phoenix House living room while describing her experience living in the sober house on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

The staff chose Hampton to lead the home because of the progress she has made on her own recovery journey.

In recent years, she has been plagued by difficulties and grief and she is open about what she has been through. Hampton had previously been a client of St. Vincent’s Dusk to Dawn, a program a few blocks from Phoenix House. The program is a shelter where people who have nowhere to go can spend the night. There, sobriety is not required.

She struggled with methamphetamine addiction, homelessness, and the loss of loved ones to addiction. Her son died of a fentanyl overdose.

She fully understands how difficult the path traveled by her fellow citizens can be.

A few years ago, while living in another sober house in town, she found a job with St. Vincent de Paul. She worked in respite centers erected at the start of the pandemic, as well as in stores. She was later chosen to help run a remodeled motel that housed over 70 people.

With the help of a sponsor, a support program and Celebrate Recovery Steps, she takes one small step at a time.

“Life is beautiful, even through struggles,” Hampton said. “It’s hard to deal with grief and loss on a daily basis, but I have a lot of support.”

She stopped.

“And I work a lot,” she laughs.

She is looking forward to starting peer support training and getting her first driver’s license soon.

“There’s just all these little goals that you can accomplish living in a sober house that you couldn’t do otherwise,” Hampton said.

The new home is modeled after the Oxford House, a decades-old concept of recovery where a small group lives together around a common goal – often recovery from addiction – in a self-contained community with agreed-upon rules.

“We’re all doing our own thing, but at the end of the day, we’re all like sisters, we’re all in this together,” resident Tawnee Best said. “It’s all about staying sober and sober one day at a time.”

Next month, she will celebrate being sober for a year and a half, her longest sobriety to date.

“And I’m dedicated this time,” Best said. “I have grandsons. They make me want to be a better person.

Judy Bullard, left, talks about her experiences living at the Phoenix House sober home in Eugene.

Another resident, Judy Bullard, agreed with what Best said.

“Yeah, I’m also dedicated to my recovery. I have three children. And they are so happy to see mom clean and sober,” Bullard said. “It’s been a long year. I used drugs for many years and… saw a lot of people die.

Now, she says, she prioritizes her health and takes care of her recovery.

Hope to create a model

St. Vincent de Paul staff hope the Phoenix House will not only provide much-needed housing for women in need, but that the building itself will showcase the potential of multi-unit modular apartments to become a cost-effective future source of affordable housing.

The 1,890 square foot double-wide floor plan features five bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, and shared spaces including a kitchen, dining room, pantry, living room, and laundry room.

A sign directs visitors to The Hub, a neighborhood resource center operated by St. Vincent de Paul and Willamette Family, Inc. on Highway 99 in Eugene.

Jessica Padilla, program manager with the Willamette family, supports the women of the Phoenix House in her Hub office across the aisle. She said that often means listening, being kind and not judging those who come to see her.

“Basically, this is what everyone needs,” she said. “But especially those who are recovering.”

A place like the Phoenix House is “vital” for people in this stage of recovery, she added.

“It’s really essential,” Padilla said. “More places like this would be great – more places for people sober, for people in difficulty, more support, more understanding and more affordable housing.”

For help with drug addiction or treatment for substance use disorders, contact the Willamette family inc. Quick Access Center at 541-762-4300 or visit wfts.org.

Contact journalist Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at [email protected] or 541-521-7512, and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT.

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