GEORGETOWN, Ind. (AP) — Dora Wilson lived in darkness for 30 years, addicted to drugs and just going through life with no purpose, no direction. She was unemployed, had no family support, and was haunted by a past that led her down this path to nowhere.

But Wilson, now 47, had something that was better than any program or pep talk — her two granddaughters.

"I didn't want them to have this kind of life," she said. "They gave me the incentive to do the right thing."

The right thing was the opportunity to get clean and be allowed to move into the Providence House in Georgetown — which is part of the Guerin Woods property.

That was in 2015. Now, Wilson is not only clean, but also she is working and has moved into an apartment with her granddaughters. She is finally walking in the sunlight. She is living life.

"God is good," she said. "This place (Providence House) changed my life, and changed their (her granddaughters') generation. I was able to teach my daughter stuff that should have been done when she was 13 or 14 years old, I just didn't know how to do it then."

Her daughter, who was also an addict, has been clean for two years and lives with Wilson and her two daughters. Wilson still has custody of the children.

Providence House has kept many families together who were on the verge of being split up. That is what kept Wilson on the right path early on her journey. She wanted to keep her granddaughters out of foster care, which is where they lived when she went through her 30-day treatment at Turning Point.

"That was a huge thing. I probably would have given up if I wouldn't have gotten them back so quickly," she said. "That gave me incentive most definitely."

Wilson and her granddaughters were reunited at Providence House a few days after she was released from her treatment center. The three lived together, supervised, at the Georgetown facility for one year before going out on their own.

Keeping Families Together

Wilson is not the only success story to graduate from Dr. Liz England's program at Providence House. England, the clinical director at the facility, said Providence House has an 80 percent success rate. The goal when families move in is simple — keep the family unit together and help them become productive citizens.

"Our goal is to help families make lasting changes," England said. "Our focus is on the health of the entire family. A lot of programs do what we do but don't have the residential aspect. Most (families) are self-sufficient once they leave here."

The Department of Child Services refers qualified families to Providence House. When Sister Barbara Ann Zeller, president/CEO of Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, opened the facilities, it was for foster children. But after the state made changes to the foster care system, the group homes were transformed into living quarters for up to 10 families who are accepted into the Family Transition Program.

To successfully graduate from the program takes effort, intense counseling sessions, and the ability to follow rules and guidelines. If there are threats toward the children, that family is dismissed and their file is once again sent to DCS. The children are always first priority.

And there are plenty of rules.

You are not allowed to come and go from the Georgetown campus without permission.

"It's a privilege to be here and there are rules to follow," England said.

Wilson can attest to that.

"It's tough love, and I didn't understand that at first," Wilson said. "I remember crying a lot. But she (England) knew what was best for me. It was not easy. There are a lot of expectations and rules."

But there is also plenty of love and support. The staff takes the families to the Louisville Zoo and other local attractions. They want them to enjoy what life has to offer, while getting the help they need.

"We try to provide them with as normal of a life as possible," England said. "We want to show them that there is more to life than what they are maybe accustom to. We will stay involved with them as long as they let us."

Daily routine

The state gives Providence House $5,000 a month per family. There is no cost to the clients. The adults can work while they are in the program and the children attend school. Providence House will provide transportation. The group homes are equipped with kitchens and play areas for the children. There are currently 10 families on the waiting list. DCS makes monthly visits to the facility.

"We are offering onsite case management and teaching them life skills such as finding employment, taking care of bills, parenting skills," England said. "They get one-on-one counseling and family therapy. We want to strengthen that family and provide them with whatever services are beneficial to them. We want to meet their needs."

The therapists are doctoral students from the University of Louisville and Spalding University who work 15 to 20 hours a week. England is also involved with and oversees the counseling. She visits the group homes every day and works onsite.

"They get wonderful experience in the mental health field," England said of the students. "The luxury is we have zero turnover 12 months a year. They have become an important part of the team here. They are very dedicated to the families."

Wilson said she learned something from each staff member at Providence House. Some families stay six months, but Wilson and her granddaughters were residents of the house for a year.

"Dora really wanted to be in the program and took advantage of the support," England said.

Besides the doctoral students, Providence House has four full-time employees.

"I learned so much here," Wilson said, looking around her former home. "Trust was the big thing ... it was huge. I finally realized they were not going to take the girls from me. They don't put you down but give you incentive to do the right thing."

Wilson recently came back to the house to talk to residents who are currently going through the program. She is now on the other side of the table, and is living life to the fullest.

"This was my last chance ... I was at the lowest you could go," she said. "I was on my death bed when I came here."

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Source: News and Tribune

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., http://www.newsandtribune.com