Inside a comfortable living room, the women of DAWNS House divulge their hopes for the coming year, and lament some of their past choices.
"I want to connect with my family more," one girl shares.
"I want to lose weight," another says.
These resolutions are not unlike those heard in any other home—but this home is a little different.
Dawn Holland, residence founder, 44-year-old single mother, recovering alcoholic and hospitality business management major, knew there was a need in Central Oregon for a public, non-religion-based, female-only sober living facility. Since achieving that goal in 2014, the nonprofit has opened a second house and can now accommodate up to 15 displaced women in recovery.
In her own battle with alcoholism and a pill addiction, Holland says she was brought to complete despair and homelessness, living in her car in Seattle for nearly two years. Her inpatient treatment started in Redmond—the beginning of a long battle for sobriety. After 22 detox stays and four Oregon inpatient treatment programs, Holland had all but given up.
"For me, home life was the key," Holland reflects. "Once I found sober living, I found eight other women working on the same thing... It saved my life. After the rehabilitation centers, I would be kicked back with my same drinking friends. Having the daily accountability and support of other ladies in recovery is priceless. Essentially, what Dawn's House does, is teach these ladies how to live and get back into the fold of society."
Holland gives recovering women further incentive to stay sober because they must maintain sobriety to keep their housing. "Residents may have a record or no rental history, they may be in a situation that could make it difficult to find housing. If a woman stays sober, there is no timeline for her to move out of Dawn's House, she can stay as long as she wants."
Criteria for living in the house is 30 days of sobriety (Dawn's House is not a detox facility), completion of chores and adherence to a curfew, finding a job within 30 days, attending outpatient treatment, house and 12-step meetings, and engaging in one's own well-being and recovery. All this is tracked in a weekly accountability log.
Despite the house structure geared to help each woman succeed, Holland notes two residents relapsed recently. "Christmas is a tough time."
On that note, one resident says, "I never thought I was hurting others in my addiction, I just thought I was hurting myself. Being on the other side, seeing the relapse, has been a good eye opener for me. A role reversal."
The need is great and the waitlist is perpetual, Holland says. Each week the home receives at least 15 inquiries for the beds already filled from institutions including the Bethlehem Inn, Best Care Treatment Center, and parole and probation organizations.
With 55 women assisted to date, the reward of helping with reunifications with children and family members and hearing residents refer to the home as a sisterhood, Holland says she's fulfilled. She also celebrates that 88 percent of the women in her housing acquired gainful employment, enrolled in college, gained driver's licenses, GEDs, and successfully navigated health care.
"It isn't just transitional here. It's a home. They have a whole group that is sober and they keep each other on track."
Back in the living room, one woman shares, "Re-entering the world of work is challenging. Recently I was emptying alcohol bottles in a room I was cleaning for my job and I knew if I needed support I could call or text one of the girls and they would be there for me... It's a blessing."
As the interview closed, a cheerful, glowing resident with a swelling belly said her house mates already knew the sex of her unborn child because she let them peek at the hospital paperwork. Surrounded by smiling attentive women, she said, "Sometimes I wonder how many people know about recovery homes... Sometimes I wonder why I am the addict and not my sister. But then again, she struggles with her weight... My disease is alcohol, but someone else's might be cancer."