Receiving grace: The legacy of Wheeler Mission continues with addiction recovery program.
Original Source: indystar.com
When Trica Moore was 13 years old, she lit a candle in her bedroom before going to sleep, an act that would forever change her life. The room caught fire. Thick smoke filled the house, and her father, a heavy sleeper, perished. Moore could not accept forgiveness for causing the accident.
“It tore me up so bad,” Moore remembered.
Moore was one of 12 children in her family, several of whom were diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia or had developmental disabilities. The family struggled, and her troubled family life pushed her out of school at age 15 and into drinking and drugs — first cannabis, then crack cocaine.
“My family didn’t know how to deal with my addiction,” Moore said. “Nobody knew how to love.” She would spend the next 17 years struggling with alcohol and drug dependency, losing custody of her baby daughter, along with her health and her housing.
“I feel like the world threw me away, like a piece of trash,” Moore remembered.
Nationally, about 38% of individuals experiencing homelessness abuse alcohol, and 26% abuse other substances, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. This substance abuse can dramatically increase health risks for men and women.
After a hospital stay in 2010, Moore entered the women’s addiction recovery program at Wheeler Mission, the oldest continuously operating social services nonprofit in Indianapolis, and her outlook changed. “I had to be willing to open my heart and see different ways that a human can love another human, and it was beautiful. It was awesome,” Moore said.
“When women first come here, they are tired,” said Colleen Gore, director of the Center for Women & Children at Wheeler Mission. “Imagine carrying all the trauma around. They’ve got layers and layers of experiences — the ways they view themselves and the ways they think others view them,” said Gore. “We get to watch those layers come off piece by piece.”
Moore spent 17 years struggling with alcohol and drug dependency, ultimately losing both her daughter and her home before finding shelter and “love and compassion” at Wheeler Mission. (Photo: Photo courtesy Wheeler Mission)
The Center provides services to address emergency shelter and other basic needs, as well as long-term residential programs that aim to address the specific issues that brought each individual to the Center. Wheeler provides access to education, career development, life-skills classes and counseling, as well as physical and mental healthcare. Onsite childcare keeps mothers and their children together, while allowing time for these moms to work through the programs. The goal, according to Gore, is to “help more women walk through that transformation process.”
Women in Wheeler’s long-term residential programs can work in the Restored Creations enterprise, which provides real-world job skills through production management, manufacturing, and sales and marketing of hand-poured candles and other products.
The women’s addiction recovery program, called Higher Ground, reflects Wheeler Mission’s status as a nondenominational Christian organization and focuses on the possibility of completely changing one’s life through a personal relationship with God. That structure provided comfort to Moore. “I’m glad I knew the Lord,” she said. “I didn’t know there was a spiritual program out there.”
Wheeler’s legacy began in 1893 when Mary Howard Wheeler founded the Mission with Celia Smock and Luella McWhirter to help the so-called “friendless” women in Indianapolis who needed support and a place to stay.
Gore cited this founding as key to the Mission’s success today. “I think the common thread is women helping women. It was about relationships then,” Gore said, “and promoting healing through relationships. We’re still doing the exact same thing 125 years later.”
Moore agreed. “If I was failing at something, they would come to me with love and compassion. That is what enabled me to change.”
Women and families represent the fastest growing segment of the homeless population nationally and in Indianapolis. “It is crisis-level in our city,” said Gore, citing the increase in demand for shelter and services at the Center. “We average about 700 calls a month from women or women with children who need a space, and we can’t meet that need.”
To address this demand, Wheeler Mission plans to triple the size of the Center for Women & Children and has launched a fundraising campaign called “Building for Change.” Among other improvements, the expansion would increase the number of beds from 93 to 257 and more than double the capacity for programs, including addiction recovery.
Moore, who now works at the Mission, was once one of those faces experiencing homelessness. But not today. “I’ve seen grace given,” she said.
If you would like to learn more about Building for Change and how you can help Wheeler Mission, visit Wheeler125.org.