Their mission is to pull others from the streets
The Kansas City Star
About the time children start scurrying to Christmas trees to tear open gifts, about 100 people in Kansas City’s northeast will turn into Santas for the homeless.
The people of Healing House have done this on Christmas morning the last few years. Like Bobbi Jo Reed, executive director of the faith-based, alcohol and drug recovery homes for men and women, many had lived on the street with an addiction.
From jobs they have in the community while they participate in the residential program, they’ve saved money for about 200 gift baskets with such things as gloves, stocking caps, socks, personal hygiene items and flashlights that say “Jesus is the light.” Under the bridges, viaducts, in camps or abandoned buildings, the people with Healing House will pray with the homeless folks they find.
Angels, Christmas decorations and pictures of Jesus fill the living room area of one facility. Women drink coffee, discuss their dreams, housekeeping duties and their plans for the day.
“I remember being homeless and thinking nobody even knows I’m alive, and nobody cares I’m alive,” said Reed, the 51-year-old matriarch who started Healing House in January 2003 in what had been an abandoned nursing home on St. John Avenue. In each basket is a letter saying the recipient is precious to God and has a purpose in life. The basket contains phone numbers of agencies offering help. Serving others is part of the recovery process at Healing House.
“You get here and you start helping out,” said Reed, a former addict and prostitute, whom those in Healing House call mom and their children call grandma. “It’s a way for people in Healing House to give back. I want everybody here to have a servant heart. When you start doing that, it starts filling your heart and gives you purpose in life, and they need purpose.”
Healing House helps individuals with programs to overcome the physical effects of addictions. To keep addicts from reverting, the family-like, private facility ministers to individual emotional and spiritual needs.
“Most don’t have faith when they get here,” Reed said. Those with addictions “have made a lot of decisions based on self. We assist people to get clean and sober. But it is important for people to have an intimate relationship with the Lord — to be able to become self-sufficient and to have self-respect and purpose.”
The men and women arrive mostly without life skills so they’re taught to budget, shop for food and prepare it, and clean. “The mission is to prepare people for a purposeful life,” Reed said. “They learn everything while they’re here.”
Reed and other workers also help keep participants from feeling overwhelmed. They start with jobs, not careers that might overwhelm them. They need something that will provide stability in their lives.
About 70 percent of the 1,300 who have gone through Healing House remain addiction free. Healing House has grown from one to 11 residential facilities, including apartment buildings. They gather for meals, prayer, Bible study and group programs at the Christian Recovery Fellowship Hall at Elmwood and St. John avenues. Turning to the higher power helps many overcome their addiction.
The individuals are from all walks of life. They have been housewives, prostitutes, nurses, lawyers and prison guards. They call each other brother and sister and mean it.
“The Healing House is a wonderful place to be if you want to talk about your addiction and have yourself healed through Christ,” one resident said.
Another credits Healing House with changing her life, freeing her of alcohol and crack cocaine and renewing her bond with her children and grandchildren.
“They are all proud of me,” she said.
Reed explains that many have lost custody of their kids. Through Healing House they often get them back.
“Our disease is the only disease in the world that lies to you and tells you it’s OK to just have one,” Reed said.
Healing House offers the means to reverse a downward course and focus on recovery. Like apostles, their mission now is to pull others from the streets, pills, powder and bottles and into a better life.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, a member of The Star’s editorial board, call 816-234-4723 or send email to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.