By Sara Schilling – Tri City Herald (original story ran December 20, 2015)
Recovering drug addict Carla Cook says she’s grateful to have been selected to participate in the Elijah Family Homes program with her sons Spencer, 11, left, and Ryder, 9, and granddaughter Delonnie Nave, 10 months. The family is living in a Richland home that has provided a sense of stability and independence, Cook said. TRI-CITY HERALD
Editor’s note: The Tri-City Herald once again is highlighting area nonprofits and their greatest needs this holiday season.
Carla Cook is looking forward to Christmas.
For the first time in a while, she has a place of her own to decorate with a tree and lights.
And it will be filled with kids and grandkids as Christmas Eve slips into Christmas Day.
That will be the best part.
“I’m excited,” Cook said.
She has Elijah Family Homes to thank.
Cook is a client of the nonprofit, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
The organization provides housing help to low-income families with at least one adult in recovery from substance abuse.
The three-year program also includes support such as intensive case management.
“There’s nobody helping this group of people, this population, with long-term transitional housing. There’s permanent housing when they’re ready for that, and there are shorter programs for emergencies. But there’s not that stepping stone in between,” said Ellen Kathren, executive director.
That’s where Elijah Family Homes comes in. The organization started as a ministry of Christ the King Catholic Church in Richland and now is an independent nonprofit.
This holiday season, it hopes for cash donations to provide rent support to more families. That need tops Elijah Family Homes’ holiday wish list.
The group works with 11 families, including Cook and her two sons, Spencer, 11, and Ryder, 9. Cook also has two adult daughters.
She used meth for 20 years, and it upended her life. She’s been homeless, locked up, apart from her kids.
But, for the past three years, she’s been clean. She’s in a recovery program. She has a job and custody.
She’s on her way to a much different — and better — life for herself and her family.
Elijah Family Homes has made a big difference, she said. Cook’s history and financial situation made it difficult to find longer-term housing.
Elijah Family Homes subsidizes rent on a sliding scale. It owns some properties, including the Richland home where Cook lives, and also works with landlords.
Clients like Cook must be at least one-year clean and in a recovery program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery.
They attend monthly meetings with the rest of the nonprofit’s families, and also submit to random drug tests and work closely with a case manager.
Cook has taken part in classes on gardening and budgeting since she joined Elijah Family Homes in the fall.
Now that she’s in a more stable place, she’s beginning to make plans. To dream.
“I’m no longer focused on not living in chaos. That’s taken care of,” she said. “I have goals that don’t seem so far off now.”
They include a full-time job with benefits. And a house — one she buys, that’s hers.
On a recent morning, she sat in the living room of her rental home. It was decorated with family photos, and it was filled with family as well.
Cook’s boys were there, and so was her granddaughter, Delonnie, 10 months. Kathren and Ryan Washburn, Elijah Family Homes program administrator, were too.
They talked about program graduates who’ve had success, including one who just closed a few weeks back on a home.
“Wow,” Cook said, sounding hopeful, inspired.
“For me, I have a sense of relief. Of freedom. Stability. The opportunity to be a mom,” Cook said. “There are still struggles. We have a long ways to go. I have created a lot of destruction. But you just cannot believe the difference. It’s phenomenal.”