Serenity Street combines job opportunities; peer and mentor support; and a yearlong holistic residential format for an effective—and gradually more self-sustaining—alcohol and drug recovery program for men.
Serenity Street’s Effective Holistic Recovery Model
In 1996, after Terry Kelley had done well in his family’s real estate development business, he decided to pursue his passion to help men fight their addictions. Over the past 25 years, he and his team have developed a faith-based, effective, and financially sound model for men in recovery. Serenity Street graduates about 50 percent of the men who start its yearlong residential rehabilitation program and 70 percent of those graduates maintain employment, housing, and sobriety long term.
When participants arrive at the residential facility in Columbus that sleeps 14 (including an onsite house manager), they spend the first 60-90 days getting used to new surroundings and building a consistent routine. They attend five Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings per week where each man has an AA sponsor and fellow group members to give them accountability and support. Residents also participate in house meetings, three Bible studies per week, church on Sunday, and outings to movies and bowling. They give back to their community by working in a food pantry on Fridays and helping keep their neighborhood clean. During these first months, participants gradually establish a work schedule by participating in Serenity Street’s for-profit online resale business. The next step is employment outside the ministry. Kelley says, “We have partnered with some employers who understand our guys’ barriers, such as a felony conviction…. If the guy is willing and motivated, they’re willing to give them a chance and overlook those things.”
Helping participants get a job that puts them on a career path is key to increased self worth, earning potential, and ultimate success. While the men usually start in an entry-level position at a place like CleanTurn International or TransForm Construction, companies who choose to employ people needing a clean start, Serenity Street is committed to helping graduates until they find that position where they have opportunity to move up and provide for themselves fully. Kelley is always working to find new partners who offer training in a trade, such as The Westin Hotel, which trains and certifies its employees as chefs.
By partnering with health, dental, eye, and psychiatric care facilities to provide free services to its residents Serenity Street is able to offer truly holistic care. They tutor men working on their GED and are working with local colleges and businesses to provide college-level schooling and vocational training. Volunteers often advocate for the men in court to help them stay out of jail and move forward with their lives. And Kelley and other volunteers offer general life counseling which usually includes helping participants reconcile with family members, including children, who have been estranged due to their addiction.
Unlike many residential rehab programs, participants come to Serenity Street for free. Once they begin receiving a paycheck, the program helps them manage their money by taking a small fee to help support the ministry, giving the men a stipend to spend as they need, and putting the rest in a savings account. When residents graduate, they have this money from savings to buy a car or use as a deposit on housing. Serenity Street also owns a boarding house across the street where graduates can have an affordable transitional home if they want it.
Serenity Street sponsors a fundraising banquet and golf tournament each year to support its work, but Kelley hopes to one day be financially self-sustaining. So, in addition to the program fees and income from rent at their boarding house across the street, the organization recently began a for-profit online resale business. They accept items donated by local churches and neighbors that they clean up and sell online at places like Ebay or half.com. They have been storing and cleaning these donations in the basement of their boarding house, but are currently looking for cheap warehouse space so they can expand the business.
Factors contributing the effectiveness of the Serenity Street program include:
- One year length of program increases chances that graduates will be successful long term
- Serenity Street’s for-profit business provides predictable income in unpredictable economic times and offers entry-level, supervised work for the residents
- A boarding house run by Serenity Street across the street give graduates a safe next step for housing and income that goes back to supporting the program
- Mentor and peer support
- Partnerships with physical and mental health care providers to serve their men
- No charge to enter the program