As a response to the growing need for sober housing for those exiting incarceration, REAL Life open a recovery house for men in May of 2017. Opened initially for men released from The REAL Program inside of the Richmond City Justice Center, we now also serve men exiting incarceration from other jurisdictions, as well as those in the community in need. Those residing in The REAL House will continue their rehabilitation and recovery through the same behavior modification model utilized within The REAL Program.
“The REAL House is a dream come true for us,” said former Sheriff C.T. Woody, Jr. of Richmond. “This home allows men who do not have a place to go after release to have somewhere to lay their head, and continue their rehabilitation. One of the major obstacles to recovery is finding housing post release. Those that have nowhere to go when they leave a jail are that much more likely to return to their old ways and wind up back in jail. This house will allow them to have a safe place to stay while they continue their recovery in a structured environment, continue their rehabilitation if they’re addicted to drugs, and find a job so that they can take back their lives and become contributing, responsible members of society.”
Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, former Sheriff’s Office Program Director and Founder of REAL Life, added: “Finding our men [and women] housing is one of the toughest parts of my job. We already have great relationships with many recovery programs in the community, however, adding this option is a needed answer due to continued housing shortages we face almost daily. The REAL House will also provide community space downstairs our activities, events, and our alumni meetings.”
Upon entering The REAL House, most of the men have nothing except what they are released from jail with – which is the same clothes they were arrested in and whatever was in their pockets at the time of arrest. As such, we meet the men where they are with their specific needs to ensure they are able to start off on a positive note and able to immediately pursue success. They are met with orientation from the live-in house manager and receive a hygiene pack and food voucher. We access the need for cell phones and bus tickets and immediately work to get them to social services to evaluate services they may qualify for. We then assist in their job search; most often our residents are able to obtain a job within a couple of weeks.
During their time in the house, they are required to do at least 10 hours of community service each week, attend 3 recovery based meetings (typically AA or NA meetings), attend REAL Life events each week, and ensure the cleanliness of the house. In addition, they must do their phase work, which is the behavior modification portion of the program in order to understand what led them to engaging in negative lifestyles/behaviors and then teaches them to life differently. They are also subject to regular and random drug screenings.
After six months in the house, the men should be ready to move into independent living, such as an apartment of their own. They will have a bank account and money saved, which will enable them to do so. Upon completion of The REAL House, men are expected to them come back to mentor those coming behind them.