Our Mission

Our mission is to assist individuals who have been impacted by incarceration or homelessness, or who are battling a substance use disorder, to overcome barriers and obstacles faced within the community that hinder their prosperity and ability to have a thriving future.

Our vision is to walk alongside our clients to see them grow into a prosperous and thriving life, while highlighting the barriers associated with those exiting incarceration and overcoming addiction, in order to reduce the negative stigmas and stereotypes.

Our History

REAL LIFE was founded in 2016 by Dr. Sarah Scarbrough as a response to the growing number of challenges faced by men and women exiting incarceration in Richmond, Virginia.

As Program Director in the Richmond City Justice Center (RCJC), or the City Jail, from 2013 to 2017, Dr. Scarbrough and her staff continued to receive multiple calls each week relating to the obstacles faced by returning citizens who were a part of The REAL (Recovery from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles) Program, the nationally and internally recognized behavior modification program, when they were incarcerated.

While The REAL Program highly prepared someone for success upon release from incarceration back into the community, the number of challenges post-release hindered success for many. Obstacles such as lack of cell phones or bus tickets hindered many people’s ability to even apply for a job. Lack of safe and stable housing often resulted in individuals either sleeping on the street or going back to the crack house they previously lived in. While these are just a few of the many obstacles faced by many, they are severe enough to put someone back into the same situations they found themselves in prior to their incarceration, contributing to starting the cycle of addiction and incarceration, yet again.

As such, REAL LIFE was founded to address the aforementioned needs as best as possible. Operating with volunteers for the first two years of existence, REAL LIFE was only able to assist individuals in need in a small manner, such as through helping with resumes or providing cell phones or bus tickets.  And, the help was only available to those who were exiting incarceration in Richmond. However, over the two year period, we continued to realize the need was much bigger than what we have the manpower and infrastructure to manage; this includes the needs of those we were currently helping, as well as those who were homeless, battling a substance use disorders, or exiting incarceration from other jurisdictions. We were receiving many calls from individuals in needs, probation officers asking for our help, counselors in various jails and prisons – all asking for our help. We knew REAL LIFE had to do more.

As an initial response, we opened a recovery house for men in April 2017. This enabled us to provide much needed housing for those without funds to access housing elsewhere, whether it be independent living or at other recovery houses. The REAL House provides up to nine men at a time, that otherwise would be homeless or living in very undesirable and unsafe conditions, an opportunity for a fresh start through a structured and safe environment.

Yet, we knew the house was just the first step, as it was not near enough. There were many others in dire need of assistance. As such, through strategic planning and discussion together with the Wheless Family Stewardship Fund and other community partners, we established the REAL Life Community Center (RLCC) in December 2017. This was REAL LIFE’s first opportunity to be able to serve anyone who desired change.

Our primary objective of the RLCC is to serve individuals with a desire to overcome their substance use disorder, homelessness, former incarceration, or other adverse situation, and to sustain their sobriety, in order to help equip them to achieve a thriving life.  The unique attribute of the Community Center is providing clients with a path to thriving, not just recovery.  It is the idea of recovering to something greater than what was lost. We do this by providing a pathway to a thriving future through cultivating stronger families, gaining meaningful employment, and improving personal interaction skills, while building a foundation of faith.

Individuals who desire a catalyst for overcoming addiction and sustaining sobriety, leading to a pathway to a thriving future are welcome to the Center during hours of operation. Clients meet with their assigned case manager in order to develop a holistic planned designed specifically for them, which walk them step by step to a thriving life.


Board & Members

Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, ex-officio member
Founder and Director

Jamal Brooks
VCU School of Social Work

Anand Francis
Capital One

Allison Hallberg
Integrated Health Services

Anthony Mingo
Virginia Family and Fatherhood Initiative

Elaine Minor
Richmond Police Department

Laikyn Severson
Divaris Real Estate, Inc.

C.T Woody, Jr.
Former City of Richmond Sheriff, Community Volunteer