Beth Allard-Clough

Beth Allard-Clough

November 3, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Chad used to drink a lot. As a result, he neglected his responsibilities to his now nine-year-old daughter. It was his love for his daughter that led him to quit drinking, seek treatment and join Catholic Social Services' Alpha House for Men, a recovery house for men with addictions.

"I would drink and I would isolate myself, and I couldn't live life in those terms," Chad, who didn't want his last name to be used, recalled in a recent interview. "I was on a path of destruction. If I wasn't at Alpha House, I would either be in jail or dead."

Chad, 45, says the fact he is at Alpha House means he can be with his daughter and can be part of her life, which was impossible before.

Catholic Social Services' Alpha House programs support men and women who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions. It offers residents affordable housing where they can maintain sobriety while preparing to reintegrate into society and live independently.

CSS has two Alpha houses in north-central Edmonton – a nine-bed facility for men and a six-bed facility for women, where residents can stay for up to a year while they get back on their feet. When safe and appropriate, Alpha clients are also able to have their children live with them at Alpha.

This year the Sign of Hope campaign is hoping to raise $3.1 million by Dec. 31 so programs like Alpha House can continue helping people like Chad improve their lives. Alpha House receives 65 per cent of its funding from Sign of Hope.

Campaign chair Beth Allard-Clough, a long time CSS volunteer and mother of three, says she has "total confidence" that the Sign of Hope campaign will meet its goal "because this is such an amazing cause."

"I believe that this charity is the unsung hero in our city and province because it helps so many people – 60,000 clients a year," Allard-Clough said, noting that in addition to the Alpha program, many other programs rely heavily on the Sign of Hope campaign.

REINTEGRATION

"What Alpha House does is help you find your way to reintegrate back into society, get back to integration with your family and integration with the work that you do," explained Chad, who has been sober now for almost four months.

"In the early stages, it's incredibly difficult (to stay away from alcohol)," he said. "It's a 24-hour-a-day obsession. As time goes by, it becomes less and less. Being in the program helps you live a normal life."

Program manager Joanne Harris said at Alpha House residents learn accountability.

"They are accountable to the staff at the house plus themselves and their roommates," she explained. "They learn to follow structure; they are required to go to four meetings a week, they have curfews, they have chores to do, they are responsible for keeping their suites clean, they are responsible for cooking for themselves, doing their laundry."

For the most part residents police themselves. "It's really about self-management, self-policing and accountability to all the other members in the house," explained Chad. "If somebody is using drugs or alcohol then it is my duty and responsibility to report him."

HIGH DEMAND

Since January 2013, Alpha programs have helped 28 men and 16 women in Edmonton reintegrate with their families and society. However, the demand for the Alpha programs is so high that about 20 potential clients are turned away each week.

"At this point it would be great to expand because there is such a need for beds but I'm not sure when that will happen," said Harris.

"Right now 65 per cent of our funding comes from Sign of Hope." More funds would allow the program to upgrade its facilities and improve resources, she said.

"When clients first come in, a lot of them don't have money or food or clothing."

"Alpha House is a wonderful place," added Chad. "I only wish there was 10 times as much space available because so many people need help."