Freedom House celebrated the opening of its men’s long-term recovery residence on Sunday, and the community came out in droves to join in the celebration.
Approximately 250 people turned out to show their support, according to organizers. Throughout the day people gathered to enjoy food and refreshments, toured the house, and dropped by to donate items like toiletries.
Even those who couldn’t attend showed their support in other ways, such as a delivery of homemade pastries baked by inmates at Wildwood Correctional Complex.
Located just off the Sterling Highway in downtown Soldotna, the home is within walking distance of Safeway, Wells Fargo and a number of other businesses. The home’s first residents move in this week.
Jennifer Waller, founder of Freedom House, said that the community successfully raised $300,000 to help her acquire and renovate the location for the men’s residence.
Freedom House originally began back in 2017 when Waller opened up a long-term residence for women recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. In December of 2018, Waller made plans to open an additional Freedom House residence, this time for men, and got the project started thanks to a loan from an anonymous elderly couple, who originally wanted to purchase a house for her.
Freedom House uses a faith-based recovery program to help women — and now men — transition into a sober lifestyle. Waller said that the three core tenets of Freedom House are accountability, the hope of Jesus and community.
Accountability comes in the form of weekly one-on-one counseling and random drug tests in order to make sure that residents do not relapse or give up on their recovery. Residents are also asked to attend a local church once a week. The community comes from the shared-living space, which offers solidarity for those going through recovery, to remind them that they are not alone on their journey.
Paul Echin, who will be the counselor for the men’s house, said that his role will be to act as a “spiritual coach” for the men living there. Aside from just making sure everyone follows the rules, Echin will live in the residence with the men in recovery to pray with them, counsel them, and be there as a helping hand whenever they need it. Even though Echin just recently moved to the area, he is already known to the locals. A number of people approached him during the open house to hug him and thank him for being there.
One person who may have been the most excited about the opening was Johnathon Dalebout, Freedom House for Men’s first resident. Dalebout was previously staying at the Friendship Mission in Kenai and heard about the new Freedom House through a friend. Dalebout said that moving to Soldotna will make it easier for him to find work and to attend his church.
When asked what his plans were for the future, Dalebout answered, “I’d like to continue to learn about Jesus, find a job so I can support myself, and just learn how to live a better life.”
Dalebout is also celebrating 60 days of sobriety on March 28.
The men’s residence will be able to house eight residents and one staff member at a time for a maximum of 12 months per resident. Freedom House already has four men, including Dalebout, slated to move in this week.