CHAPTER 2: SURVIVE TO THRIVE

Last month in PASO Magazine, we explored the foundation of a relatively new program called RESTORATIVE PARTNERS. We’ll now look at this important work being specifically done in Paso to help women suffering from addiction to rebuild their lives. I know you still have last month’s issue so might I suggest you read (or re-read) that chapter beginning on page 40 before starting this one.

Restorative Partners, Sister T, PASO Magazine

Courtesy photo
Sister T of Restorative Partners

Addiction doesn’t play favorites. It’s ruthless and it’ll take whomever it can snare. Here in our county, it’s hard to imagine there are women who are trafficked. It happens. Often to gain control over them, drugs are introduced and from then on, addiction owns its slaves until there is an intervention. And even then, it probably won’t “hold” unless there are follow-on programs for the few who have a chance to break free.

Children, soccer moms, stressed dads, the homeless, unemployed, the privileged and the not-so-luckys are all prone to drug and alcohol abuse that leads to escalating crimes. That’s bad enough, but what is far worse is the ripping-apart of families — principally, children who are taken away and put into the foster system.

Too often, the father in the picture is long gone and the moms are deemed unable to care for the children. They are so close to the edge that only a slight nudge can knock them spinning out of control. When these are piled up on the back of a ‘usually younger’ woman, it’s simply being boxed in with nowhere to go and no way out. Awful! For everyone! And, it exists right here in our safe pueblo!

Most people agree that humans are born with an innate hidden-gene to be good and caring. It’s “life” that shapes the course of that path toward either end of the bell curve. Each of us undoubtedly knows folks on both ends.

When Sister Theresa Harpin began Restorative Partners, one of the first things on the list was having children of the women she served, to be in reunited families. Fund-raising to pay for children’s transportation is always on-going. Children-Jail-Addiction: three words that don’t belong together, do they? How in the world does one get people coming out of jail for substance-abuse and a criminal lifestyle back together with their families and start over? Bigger still — how does one keep the cycle from repeating itself — and, how are people and resources to be found who can put those programs together?

As the committed-to-sobriety men and women are scheduled for release, they have to be ready and that requires help. The call for help went out.

Everyone has uttered the words,“There but for the Grace of God, go I.” Soon, big-hearted, dedicated and caring people began to come out of the woodwork. Their saying became,“There but with the Grace go I.” Mentors, funds-raisers, retired professionals, community members, Cal-Poly faculty and interns signed on to help Sister Theresa and her work.

Sister was much more at ease in her comfort zone of South SLO County. She knew her way around, knew the people and she knew the issues and challenges of her mission to ‘get in the face of addiction’s victims’ and do something about it. Up here in Paso, it was foreign territory.

Two homes in Los Osos — one for men and one for women — were acquired and began to operate as sober transition homes. However nothing was in North-County. Homes are more than roofs. They are places to heal trauma in a safe environment and begin to trust in relationships again while maintaining a job, developing a career and managing a household. That’s a lot on a plate, don’t you think?

As Restorative Partners’ message began to spread, Atascadero was a likely North SLO County place to start (closer to SLO) but nothing became available. Then, as it so often happens, Paso got involved.
Just a few months ago, a five-bedroom home close to downtown became available. It was perfect for women and small children who would live in a clean and sober environment with a House-Manager and Program Coordinator.

The women who enter have 30 days to get a job, pay rent, and be able to shop and get to work. Local gardeners, carpenters, security teams, electricians and an on-call handy-man appeared and made the home ready.

Imagine the building’s requirements of being a house with five women and a gaggle of small children all converging to begin their lives anew! The goal is to stay for no more than six months, find a more permanent home, and make space for a new woman to continue her journey. With full-time counseling and supervision, it’s happening! The first woman to do that has moved on with her children and a new lady has moved in. It’s a good start.

As nice as that is, it’s just one piece. The rest is the support structure to provide tools to guide and assist individuals through their journey from incarceration back into the community. This is where “the reality becomes real.”

Programs are in place for sober living, alternatives to violence, spiritual counseling, self awareness (I don’t have to live like that anymore), employment development, physical wellness, legal assistance and many more. The programs balance on the scale with the day-to-day necessities of food, laundry, job-training, transportation, private and study time, how to be a mom and everything one can think of. Paso men and women are part of this fabulously caring team!

The Paso piece of Restorative Partners is challenged. As part of the overall program, the needs are immense. However the rewards and the successes are even more so! I don’t have anywhere near enough space in this article to cover it all.

Maybe you’ve been there or are that someone or the loved-one of a person who is caught in the web of addiction, is in jail or who needs help. Maybe you can help.

Do you have a spare sewing machine or a running car to donate? A job opening that needs to be filled by a woman who is dedicated to continuing her life-altering situation? Maybe you can counsel or teach or babysit or lead a music therapy class or teach a sewing class or make a financial donation. Who knows? But, this my fellow Roblans, I do know: these are things Roblans do for one another! It’s that innate “hidden-Roblan-gene” we were born with!

For more info, go to restorativepartners.org or call Sister Theresa at (805) 242-1272.
If the feedback from this Chapter is such that we need another chapter in December, we’ll do it!