July 27, 2008 — St. Croix Mission Outreach is ready to help homeless addicts on St. Croix once they have owned up to the fact that they seriously need help.
The person seeking help must be totally committed to getting straight and not against going off-island for a period of up to two years to receive faith-based treatment, according to Chainie Lang, program director. St. Croix Mission Outreach (STXMO) partners with Atlanta Union Mission (AUM), Inc., a nonprofit Christian drug and alcohol residential recovery program in Atlanta, Ga.
Lang says you can't force someone to get help — they have to want to get clean.
"If they aren't ready yet, we want to at least talk to them one on one and work with them about their situation," said Lang.
Andreas Miller, a graduate of the program, said he tried to quit his own way, getting treatment locally five different times. He said he'd had too many years of drug use and had to get straightened out.
"I turned 50 and knew I had to stop using," Miller said. "I tell everyone this is a good program, but you have to work at it to make it work."
He came back from Atlanta July 7, got a job as a security guard and was in the office Friday to look at an apartment with Marisal Soto, program assistant.
Since the beginning of the program in 2003, Lang said they have helped close to 200 clients get a start in recovery.
Lang said to identify clients they actively work the streets in certain neighborhoods, providing outreach information about their services. They collaborate with religious and secular agencies that work with the addicted and homeless population for referrals, among them St. Croix Christian Church, Holy Cross Catholic Church, Lutheran Church Lord God of Sabaoth, Village Partners in Recovery, Eagles Nest, Light House Mission and Catholic Charities.
Once someone has come for help, they are evaluated based on their abuse history and medical issues to determine if they need full-time residential treatment off-island. If a client is determined have a dual diagnosis — co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse — they must be able to take prescribed medication.
They must be mentally and physically able to do recovery homework and community service. After selection, the client signs an agreement to focus on treatment and continuing care for up to two years.
The program at AUM focuses on spiritual enrichment and individual and group counseling to address life-controlling issues. The program also offers educational classes, 12-step meetings, support groups, chapel and work therapy.
The staff from St. Croix keeps close contact with the clients in Atlanta. In a written testimony Omar says, "I'm striving, keeping and staying focused on my recovery." Another letter writer Jorge says, "I am happy about my accomplishment in this program. It was not easy for me, but I am trying my best."
Lang said after treatment some clients choose to stay in the States because they made the choice to change and people they left behind didn't, and they have a lot more opportunities there.
If they come back to St. Croix, as Miller did, STXMO staff helps them find jobs and housing. Lang said they call around to different businesses and tell about the client's recovery asking them to "give the person a chance to re-enter society." She said Gallows Bay Hardware is one local business that is really good about giving clients a chance.
Continuum care is provided for six months with weekly support group counseling in anger management, life skills and spiritual awareness.
"Treatment isn't a cure — it gives the tools necessary to make behavioral changes," Lang said.
Lang understands addiction: She was addicted to crack cocaine and has been in recovery since 1989.
"I understand because I have walked a mile in their shoes," Lang said. "It was the Lord's way — putting me in a better place helping people."
Lang said their goals include buying or renting transitional housing units, which she said are sorely needed.
"People in recovery need a place to call their own, even if it just a bedroom." Lang said.
Services and airfare are free of charge to clients, provided by government funding and private donations.
STXMO has three paid employees and one full-time front desk volunteer: Ruth Lang, Chainie Lang's mother.
Women from the Lutheran Church and staff of STXMO also reach out by feeding close to 40 homeless people every fourth Sunday of the month at Market Place on Company Street in Christiansted.
For information or to make donations call 778-4357, or stop in the office at 20 King Street, Christiansted.
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