A small group of people were gathered in a backyard in Jamestown on Friday, some of them celebrating years or even decades of sobriety.
The group, which consisted of board members, supervisors and alumni of You Are Not Alone Anymore Inc., held a small, informal barbecue. Despite the fact that many have not heard of the organization, it will be celebrating 20 years of helping individuals find their way to sobriety this year.
"We opened the Birdie Turner House in October of 1993," said Sue Carlson, a former board member who celebrated 24 years of sobriety Friday. "At the time, I was a drug and alcohol counselor in rehab at WCA. At the time, one of the things that I noticed was that women didn't have good housing. If they went to treatment, they usually went back to their old environments and had trouble staying sober. So after that we started a house for women."
Since opening the doors of the first home in 1993, the private, nonprofit organization has opened a second home, the Les Root House for Men, and moved the Birdie Turner House to a space large enough to accommodate children as well.
"We wanted to be able to establish a residence for these individuals so they could get sober, but we didn't want it to be a burden on the taxpayers," Carlson said. "We believed that the people receiving the benefit should pay for the benefit as part of their recovery. The financial structure, though, is such that the amount that residents have to pay is affordable. Someone could work part time and still afford to live there."
The organization also works to obtain grant money from local foundations, but they are not state regulated and don't accept any government funds. Since the board and any workers are all volunteers, overhead costs for the organization are extraordinarily low, as well. Both houses can be operated and provide housing for up to 15 individuals for less than $40,000 per year.
According to Jeff Axelson, a current board member of YANAA, one of the primary goals of the organization is to get recovering individuals off of public assistance, working toward self-sufficiency and either networked in the job market, going to school or volunteering in the community.
"People who are addicted generally don't have a good system of discipline," Carlson said. "They usually like to do what they want to do when they want to do it, so we're there to help them get their thinking straight. For people who left treatment and came into supportive living and stayed at least six months, though, we discovered that roughly 85 percent of them stayed sober for as long as we knew them."
For the individuals that take part in the services that YANAA offers, their monthly rent includes gas, electric, phone, cable, washer, and dryer. Tenants have to abide by rules that are set by YANAA, however, that are intended to help them along their road to recovery. They must attend meetings regularly, have a sponsor, abstain from alcohol or drug use and not associate with anyone drinking, using or selling drugs. They're also prohibited from any stealing, fighting or disruptive behavior, are not allowed any overnight absences during their probationary period and are required to provide a written request three days in advance of any overnight absences after their probationary period is up.
"These people need support because some of them have court issues or child care issues or even health care concerns," Carlson said. "When they have these problems, if their left to their own devices, they may begin to feel overwhelmed. By coming into one of the houses they start feeling like a family and they start seeing the other side. It's harder now than it was 20 years ago because of the new drugs, but we keep trying and we keep working to do our best."
For more information about YANAA Inc., the services that they provide and the application for residency in one of their recovery homes, visit www.yanaa.org or call 222-0068. Tax deductible donations to YANAA Inc. can be sent to P.O. Box 291, Falconer, NY 14733.