When the Board of Directors first opened Dann’s House, led by Greg Stone’s vision, we had only one goal: to provide a home for our most vulnerable neighbors – the people no one else wanted, people who had been on the streets a long time, and have severe Alcohol Use Disorder. We had no plans to provide any services to our residents other than a place to live and be safe, warm, and dry.
We knew that our residents had often been in trouble with the law, and unable to keep jobs or remain housed for long. We knew that programs or shelters that required abstinence from alcohol had never worked for them. Following the Housing First approaches and the Harm Reduction models used by similar houses in Seattle and Duluth, and honoring the memory of Dann McCarthy, we opened Dann’s House in August 2014.
Based on research from the other houses, we had some expectations and hopes for improvements in our residents’ lives. We expected that they’d achieve some stability, and reduce their run-ins with police, and that this would benefit the community by removing them from the street and reducing their use of publicly funded services like law enforcement and emergency medicine. We hoped that they might reduce their alcohol consumption, and that eventually they might take better care of their health. We never expected any of them to stop drinking altogether, to make and keep appointments with their doctors and social workers, or to undergo counselling to address their mental wellness.
Our Case Manager came on board in May 2015, and began to work with our residents, as they became willing, helping them assess their needs, set goals for their lives, and access services. Their responses to the positive effects of being housed have far exceeded not only our expectations, but even the hopes that we dared to entertain.
- All of them have greatly reduced the amount of alcohol they consume. Having the security of a home has reduced their need and craving for alcohol.
- Two of them have completely stopped drinking, and one of those has gone on to independent housing.
- All of them have applied for and begun to receive benefits like Medicaid, Social Security/Disability, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps).
- They are all paying rent (using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development formula of 30% of their income).
- They are all eating better and sleeping better than they were when they were on the street, which has had a significant positive effect on their physical and mental health.
- They have all met with doctors and seen substantial improvements in their health (one has new glasses and another had eye surgery; one is taking medication for a heart condition; one has plans to have a broken tooth fixed).
- Two are seeing counsellors regularly, addressing the underlying causes of their alcohol use, and one of these is taking medication for his anxiety and depression.
- One has a part-time job, allowing him to make a positive contribution to the community.
- None of them are being picked up by police or ambulances and brought to jail or the Emergency Department. This leaves law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel available to take care of the rest of the community, and improves the community atmosphere by reducing vagrancy.
After just a year and a half, Dann’s House is not just working. It’s working miracles.