A substance abuse and recovery residence for women, Angel House offers clients a second chance at life.
Located in Gainesville, their 12-month residential program provides women a structured drug and alcohol-free living environment with peers also working toward sobriety.
Executive Director Angela English founded Angel House in 2011. The nonprofit serves 30 women at a time, with 16 living in a group house and 14 in apartments used for transitional housing. Some residents live here instead of serving time, while some transition to Angel House when released from incarceration; some are referred by the Department of Family and Children Services, while others are encouraged by their families to live here.
“We encourage the women to work the 12-step program toward sobriety,” says Angela, who notes that most alcoholics and addicts drink or use because of deep pain.
She recalls one client who came to Angel House after she fell asleep high in bed and accidentally suffocated her child. Another spiraled into alcoholism after her husband of 30 years died. Another became addicted to painkillers following surgery.
Whatever the addiction, the root source of the pain must be addressed in order for healing to begin, so clients are referred to outside agencies for counseling in partnership with other nonprofits, according to Angela “They can get clean, but if that wound does not heal, it will rip open again when something triggers them and they’ll be back on drugs or alcohol,” she says.
Angel House residents pay a weekly fee, which covers room and board and programming. This aspect of the program is important because many of the women have relied on their parents, boyfriend or husband to take care of them, according to Angela, who says they need to learn to hold a job and pay bills in order to be responsible and financially independent.
Case Manager Laura Aiken admires the women who work diligently at Angel House to turn their lives around.
“I’ve been here since 2012 and we haven’t had a girl in here who was a bad person,” says Laura. “All of them are good, giving people with big hearts, but they suffer from a disease. Like someone who suffers from diabetes, they need help and compassion.”
CLIENT IMPACT: JENNIFER
On and off drugs for many years, Jennifer wound up serving a one-year sentence at Rockdale County Detention Center. “I’m so thankful for that year in jail,” she says. “I needed every day of it. If not for that, I would be in the same circle – if I was still alive.”
Taking part in the jail’s rehabilitation program, she learned the basic 12-step program lesson of “accepting who you are and who you were to get to where you need to be,” says Jennifer. So when people in her rehab program recommended she move into Angel House rather than go it on her own when she got out of jail, she took their advice.
“I spent a lot of years doing the same thing—using drugs, being co-dependent in different relationships,” Jennifer recalls. “I was about to be 40 and never got anywhere with my life. I’d started education and then stopped with drugs, started jobs and stopped for drugs. I finally decided I have to do something different or this will be my life for the rest of my life.”
In May, 2017 she entered Angel House, where she lived for 14 months in the group home and now lives in a transitional apartment. She credits Angel House with teaching her to be independent.
“It’s taught me to stand on my own and with that comes responsibility and being dependable,” says Jennifer, who works full-time in customer service at a distribution warehouse. “It’s given me a sense of accomplishment, which has given me self-worth, and has provided me a shared sisterhood with people I can relate to. Addiction is a lonely place. Angel House has given me people I can count on.”
At Angel House, she took classes on healthy relationships. “I’ve learned how to set boundaries, and that helps because when you come from addiction, you come from a place where you don’t have boundaries,” she says.
According to Jennifer, Angel House has changed her life. “I’m a different person than when I got here,” she says. “I was underweight and malnourished. After 14 months of sharing community dinners with women in the house, keeping doctor’s appointments, and taking care of myself in ways you don’t do when you’re in active addiction, I’m much better.”
Jennifer hopes to eventually mentor girls who end up at Angel House like she did. “This place did so much for me,” she says. “I’d like to give back, whether that means taking a resident out to get a hamburger or coffee—or just to listen to someone.”