Statistics show that one-quarter of women released from prison are arrested again within 6 months. Two-thirds are back within 5 years. Addiction and incarceration can become a cycle that is hard to overcome. Olivia Smith was touched by the stories of women she met while volunteering in prison ministry. Smith mobilized volunteers at her church, Brentwood United Methodist, to open a home for women in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Healing Housing is a place of love and support by women, for women rebuilding their lives.
This house near Nashville, Tennessee has all the comforts of home: a fire pit in the back yard, encouraging messages in every mirror. But this beautiful space isn’t an Airbnb. Healing Housing is a place for women recovering from addiction.
Mary: “I came in and I was like, I get a grown-up bed! I was so excited. Because in rehab and in other places you get a single bed, and just little things like that were huge. And it just makes you feel like more of a human being. And you know, have more dignity in the recovery process.”
Mary has been in and out of drug and alcohol treatment for 10 years.
Mary: “I was about to leave my rehab and I didn’t have anywhere else to go. My parents had finally said, you know, we can’t let you come back to the house. I was gonna be homeless. Not only did I find somewhere to go, but I found this, you know, wonderful, beautiful, safe place to go.”
Olivia Smith founded Healing Housing after volunteering in a women’s prison and realizing that women were coming out of treatment with no support system.
Olivia Smith, Founder, Healing Housing: “There were plenty of places for a girl to go if she could spend $4000 a month on a sober-living house. There weren’t but a couple of places a girl could go if she had no resources.”
Smith turned to women at her church, Brentwood United Methodist.
Olivia Smith: “We formed a team and began going around to local treatment centers. Every place that we went, it was the same story over and over again. We get the girls for 20-30 days. We do our work with them and we have no place to send them.”
Healing Housing can accommodate up to 14 women. During the six month program, residents have access to employment, counseling, spiritual support and the mentorship of other women who have found success and sobriety.
Angel: “I actually want to wake up early and go to meditation, and just start my day off just seeing everyone. And it’s just… It’s really changed who I am.”
Many of these women have children who inspire them in recovery.
Jennifer: “I overdosed on heroin in front of my kids, they found me, and saved my life. They saw me really sick. So letting them experience Mommy well is important to me; letting them see that God can perform miracles. And you know, me being sober is a miracle.”
Healing housing director Tracey Levine says the women from Brentwood United Methodist Church who founded this ministry have been a vital part of its success.
Tracey Levine: “They bring God’s love with them in everything they do from feeding the women to Bible studies, to prayer and meditation, to showing up with coats when we need coats. We just get to see the faith here, expressed by the people who bring it to our…to our homes.”
Olivia Smith says it feeds the souls of volunteers to see this program, created by women for women, changing lives.
Olivia Smith: “Watching people take those tools and work really, really hard to turn their lives around is a beautiful, spiritual gift that we receive every single day.”
Healing Housing receives no government funding. The ministry relies on volunteers and private donations. Learn more about Healing Housing and ways you can help women in recovery.
This video was first posted on January 9, 2020.