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Transitional home offers men path to sobriety

Men who have graduated from a rehabilitation program in Albuquerque can live in the Harvest House for up to a year, in most cases, as long as they meet eligibility criteria. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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What started as a couple’s dream to help community members has become a reality.

“They will be able to be home, but they will have a little refuge,” says Lt. Joe West about the Harvest House, to be dedicated Thursday afternoon. West and his wife, Lt. Amber West, corps officers with the Salvation Army, run the Roswell operations of the organization and led the transitional home project. (File Photo)

The Harvest House, a transitional home for men recovering from substance abuse, will open this week as a project of the Salvation Army of Roswell.

The $190,000 single-story structure built from the ground up on the organization’s property in northwest Roswell can shelter up to four Chaves County men who have graduated from the six-month rehabilitation program offered by the Salvation Army in Albuquerque, according to Lt. Joe West, a corps officer who runs the Roswell operations along with his wife, Lt. Amber West.

“The purpose is to be able to get guys who are from here to be able to come back to a safe, supportive environment,” West said, “which is often not the case when they graduate after six months. They usually go back exactly to the place where they found themselves getting into trouble.”

The Wests had the idea to build the house shortly after moving to Roswell in February 2015, modeling the concept after a Salvation Army home in Phoenix.

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Joe West said they began praying about what to do in fall 2015 because they were surprised not only by how many men from the area were graduating from the program in Albuquerque, but by how many would start abusing alcohol and drugs, especially methamphetamines, after returning home.

He said has learned over the years, not only in Roswell but from previous assignments in Phoenix and Vancouver, that people often go through many cycles of addiction, detox, rehabilitation and then re-addiction.

Data and personal experience, he said, proves that a major reason for the repeated cycles is the recovering person’s social environment. People without transitional housing are much more likely to relapse.

“They go home to their families and there is a lot of peer pressure,” West said. “‘Oh, you can’t have just one beer with me? I’m your cousin, or I’m your brother or I’m your mom or I’m your dad or I’m your best friend.’ So this is nice. They will be able to be home, but they will have a little refuge.”

Harvest House residents can stay for up to a year, longer if one becomes a resident assistant. Very few people are able to stay sober without some kind of transitional living arrangements, West said, so up until now, many men have stayed in Albuquerque, separated from wives, children and parents.

The Wests received the approval for the project in spring 2017, about a year and half after they made their initial application. The money has come from various Salvation Army units, the local organization’s own capital reserves, local businesses and charity events.

James Ellis of the Salvation Army in Phoenix designed the house, with Roswell architect Donald Daugherty ensuring the plans met local zoning regulations. The contractor was the Rhoads Co.

Neighbors of the property have been supportive, said West. One objection was voiced, he said, but the complaint was dropped after West explained about the background checks and program requirements for the Harvest House residents.

Requirements include that the men must be employed and must participate in periodic drug testing, weekly 12-step Recovery and Reflection meetings and Salvation Army church services. They also must pay a program fee of a few hundred dollars a month. West said the organization will help men find jobs, a task made easier by the fact that they have to work for the Salvation Army while in rehabilitation as their payment, which gives them experience, instills work habits and provides references.

The home is at once a big project for the local organization and recognized as a modest part of the larger community response to chemical addictions. It is the only Salvation Army transitional house outside Albuquerque. Other nonprofit crisis housing in Roswell serves the homelessness, those escaping sexual or physical abuse, or those following a religious study program.

Many people need such help, according to studies. A 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 8.9 percent of New Mexicans ages 12 or older, more than 144,000 people, had a dependence or addiction to alcohol or drugs. But an estimated 92 percent did not receive treatment that year. West said that he typically receives a couple of calls a week, often from concerned friends or family members, about people suffering with severe addictions.

“God just put this in our hearts, and it is an obvious need,” West said.

The ribbon-cutting and dedication will occur Thursday, 1:30 p.m., 1311 N. Washington Ave. Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh and Lt. Col. Kelly Pontsler, the Salvation Army Southwest Divisional Commander from Phoenix, are expected to speak.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.