THUNDER BAY - When Krista Froome, who is originally from Dryden, Ont., decided to seek treatment for her addictions, she was forced to travel seven hours away to Brandon, Man. While she successfully completed the program, being so far away from family made her recovery all the more challenging.
“It’s hard when you finally get your life back and you are just so excited to rebuild relationships, you want to be able to see your family and tell them all the good things that are happening, but you have to wait two or three months to do that,” she said.
Women will no longer have to travel so far to receive treatment with the opening of Adult and Teen Challenge’s Hope House, the only long-term recovery program for women in Northwestern Ontario.
As a graduate of the program, Froome will be one of several staff at Hope House helping women who are facing life-controlling addictions.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know that we are going to help,” she said. “I feel that Thunder Bay needs this so much. There are so many broken women out there and to be able to help them is a complete blessing. We would not have been able to do this without the support from the community.”
Hope House has been in development for more than seven years and it is now prepared to start accepting women into the program.
Located on Johnson Avenue above the Adult and Teen Challenge Thrift Store, the 10-bed facility will provide women struggling with life-controlling addictions a safe space to recover and gain new skills to live better and more productive lives.
“It’s been a long walk,” said Jennifer Ahuja, program director for women’s ministries at Adult and Teen Challenge Hope House. “We are pretty experienced with running the program because we have a men’s program that has been running for more than 10 years. But starting a center from the ground up there is a lot of thought and preparation that goes into that.”
On Sunday, a ceremony was held to officially open Hope House, but in the weeks leading up to the opening, women were already coming to ask for help.
One young woman was there on Sunday wanting to learn more about the program. Ahuja said the woman told her that she has tried treatment several times in the past but kept failing.
“I was able to introduce her to a graduate of our program who has gone through a lot of the same stuff she has been though and she is now living successfully and now a staff member at the house,” Ahuja said. “Just to see her face light up when she hears her story and sees that there is hope for is just the most rewarding thing ever.”
Hope House offers a 12-month residential program where women live in the facility for up to a year in a very structured environment.
“The biggest thing for us is that the space is welcoming and inviting and makes the women who come here feel like they are at home,” Ahuja said.
Women also participate in a work therapy program in the Adult and Teen Challenge Thrift Store where they gain skills to use following recovery.
Ahuja said the work therapy program plays a significant role in helping people battling addictions regain their dignity during recovery.
“A lot of people struggling through addiction lose their work ethic, they lose their will to even just get up in the morning,” she said. “So being able to have something to do that they know is contributing and teaching them skills and have the dignity of being able to be part of their own recovery is a huge motivator for them.”
The program is funded through community support and through a partnership with New Life Ministries, which operated a women’s home in the city until it burned down in 2017.
“It’s been such a huge honour just to see the support from the city coming behind us to get this all completed,” Ahuja said. “It’s really exciting to have this space that can be a safe haven for women struggling with addiction in this area.”
For Froome, having this program in Thunder Bay to service the entire region will go a long way to allowing more women access to treatment and still be close to family.
“It’s like overwhelming in a good way,” she said. “To really be able to give back into the community in a good way and get people off the streets.”