Washroom and shower facilities at Oxford House after they were upgraded through the No Room in the Inn collection held in Edmonton Churches last Christmas.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Washroom and shower facilities at Oxford House a they were upgraded through the No Room in the Inn collection held in Edmonton Churches last Christmas.

September 22, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Thanks to the No Room in the Inn fundraising drive, a sober-living environment in Edmonton is much more liveable.

The Oxford House Foundation in Edmonton has a house for five women recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. However, until recently the house had minimal cupboard space, a decrepit deck and two old trees in the backyard ready to topple over.

The electrical breaker panel was misplaced, set up directly above a downstairs toilet. In one bathroom, whenever someone took a shower, water leaked into the walls, causing unhealthy black mold.

Last Christmas the Edmonton & District Council of Churches enlisted the help of congregations throughout the city for donations to No Room in the Inn on behalf of Oxford House.

Congregations and individuals donated more than $60,000. The result has been extensive upgrades to the house.

A new washroom, new bedroom, new doors, windows and flooring, a remodeled kitchen, electrical upgrading, and general refashioning have transformed the house from dowdy to modern. The trees were removed, and a brand new deck was built, making the outdoor surroundings more attractive as well.

OPEN HOUSE

An open house was held Friday, Sept. 5 so churchgoers who contributed last Christmas could see the results of their donations.

Chuck Cathcart, Edmonton outreach coordinator for the Oxford House Foundation, said about 80 per cent of the renovations were paid via No Room in the Inn.

Cathcart estimated about $20,000 in labour costs were saved by having their resident handyman, Richard Neumann, also an outreach coordinator, complete most of the renovations. He is skilled in carpentry, electrical, plumbing and general home repair.

Washroom and shower facilities at Oxford House before they were upgraded.

PHOTO SUPPLIED

Washroom and shower facilities at Oxford House before they were upgraded.

Oxford House was established in 1975 in Silver Spring, Md. Group homes were set up by and for recovering alcoholics and substance abusers. The organization's mission ever since has been to provide safe and affordable housing for individuals in recovery from addiction through a 12-step program.

Oxford House began in Canada in 1995, first in Calgary. There are now 22 houses in Calgary and eight in Edmonton. In Edmonton, starting in 1999, four houses were rented.

"The first six houses were all for men. In the fall of 2008, we saw the need for some women's houses too. We are finding now that there is still a need for more housing, so we're looking to expand some more," said Cathcart.

He plans to continue efforts to raise funds for housing for people recovering from addictions.

SELF-HELP PHILOSOPHY

The philosophy behind Oxford House is that self-help is the bedrock of recovery, and that self-support enables one to avoid relapse.

Unlike halfway houses that have temporary or fixed stays, there is no pressure on residents in good standing to leave an Oxford House. Oxford Houses are for long-term transition.

Therefore, a recovering individual can live at Oxford House as long as he or she does not drink alcohol or use drugs, and pays an equal share of the house expenses. They are told to "blow the whistle" on any fellow resident who relapses. All residents are at risk if anyone is drinking or using drugs.

Another principle is that disciplined democracy is the key to living together. Cathcart said the home is self-run by the residents, electing officers to serve for six-month terms.

WEEKLY MEETINGS

Residents have weekly meetings to ensure the house runs smoothly, he said. This is the time to resolve any disputes, and also a place to work together to keep recovery at the heart of all house operations.

"If there's a problem in the house, we will come over and act as mediators. If they think someone is using drugs, we will come over and do a drug test and clear the air," said Cathcart.

Oxford House is an important link in the recovery process. It provides the time and support the men and women need to develop comfortable sobriety. If they leave before they are recovered, a relapse is more likely.

Over the past 14 years, local churches have, through No Room in the Inn, contributed more than $640,000 in Christmas donations toward various projects for those in urgent need of safe affordable housing.