When Jennifer Waller launched Freedom House, she had $800, a dream of creating a safe space for women recovering from addiction and a lot of prayers.
A year and a half later, the faith-based women’s recovery home has raised half a million dollars, helped a number of women successfully transition from addiction to sobriety, and Waller has her eyes set on another project.
This time, she has prayers, a $100 and a whole community behind her.
Last week, dozens of people filed into an empty retail space in downtown Soldotna to inspect the site of a potential sober-living home that would offer men the same faith-based recovery services Freedom House currently offers to women.
“My vision from the beginning was always a brother-sister house,” Waller told the crowd Thursday night.
Nestled between Soldotna Emergency Services and Wells Fargo, within walking distance of the restaurants, coffee shops and businesses lining the Sterling Highway, the potential home site would provide a central location for men trying to get their lives back on track, Waller said.
Waller said she had been waiting for the right time to launch the men’s project and had recently been given the green light by the Freedom House board to see if the community would support the project.
She said she only began advertising the open house a few days before the event.
“We only gave them three days, because the board on Sunday said we want to see if the community is behind this or not. So I sent out emails, put it on Facebook and I’m beyond blessed by the turnout,” she said.
Despite the short notice, about 50 people attended the event.
“I’m so encouraged, so excited,” Waller said. “It was way more than we thought.”
During a night of song and prayers, current and former residents of Freedom House shared their recovery experiences.
“I’ve been grateful from the time that I’ve been at Freedom House because I’ve learned a lot about myself and about this community,” Jules Stepanoff said.
Stepanoff, who had been staying at Freedom House for three months, said she had tried other recovery programs, but never found the direction she needed until coming to Freedom House.
“I’m grateful for all the helping hands, and encourage you to be a part of this amazing vision that (Waller) has,” she said.
Katherine Bliss lives with her 6-year-old son in Freedom House. Bliss left the recovery home after spending five months there earlier this year, but returned to the home after about a month.
She was celebrating three weeks sober and credited Freedom House for helping her become a better parent to her son.
“I was out of his life for three years, so I didn’t know how to be a mom,” Bliss said. “And because of Freedom House, I’ve learned how to be a mom again.”
Sharee Jones, Freedom House’s first resident graduated from Freedom House in August, after two relapses.
“Jen took me back, and I went through treatment again,” Jones said.
Jones said Freedom House has helped her reclaim her life after years of addiction.
“I lost all my kids, all four of them … and tonight we get to spend our very first night together,” she said.
Page Peak, who had been sober for 115 days, was spending her second month at the recovery house. Peak, who was nine months pregnant at the time, said the women of Freedom House have supported her in a time of need.
“I would be alone in that delivery room tonight, or tomorrow, or whenever she decides to come,” Peak said.
Reach Erin Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.