The REAL House for Women…

The REAL LIFE Community Center has been a constant refreshment to the greater Richmond City area, which has been consistently plagued by underground violence, drug-use, homelessness, and overarching rates of recidivism.

Apart from providing the community with programs related to drug-treatment, mental-health, and employment opportunities, the REAL LIFE Community Center is also able to help clients with housing, specifically, those individuals who were recently released from incarceration. This as been brought to fruition in the form of the REAL LIFE Men’s House, which has been home to many men since April 2017.

Recently, the REAL LIFE took even larger steps forward towards helping the women they serve! They opened their first residency for women, due a staunch supporter of REAL LIFE, Alan Halverson! In conjunction with the goals sought after by the men’s house, the REAL LIFE female provides current female clients with a safe space to grow and learn, maintain their sobriety, and work towards their future goals of self-progress and employment, with a roof over their head and a clean bed, all in the name of recovery and working toward a thriving life! Below are some warm comments provided by the first residents of the REAL LIFE women’s house.

After 39 days at the time house, one lady stated that she is so happy and grateful to be a part of such a loving community. She states that REAL LIFE has shown her that she can achieve everything that she wishes, with determination and patience, she can finally be responsible and be in control of her own life. REAL LIFE has taught her how to deal with life on “life’s terms,” and has shown her how well she can function while sober. Her favorite part about REAL LIFE is the communal-bond that is shared with everyone involved, whether they are a client or a staff member, everybody is there to support one another. She has had her faith in second-chances restored, thanks to REAL LIFE and its wonderful team and supporters.

REAL LIFE client Angela had been a part of the REAL LIFE community for two weeks at the time of writing. She says that REAL LIFE has changed her life through her learning to change negative behaviors, and showing her that her life is far from over. As a resident of the REAL LIFE female house, Angela expresses her appreciation of the REAL LIFE team as people who not only care about her and her recovery, but understand. Angela says that the best thing she has learned from REAL LIFE thus far is that she never has to go back to living the way she had, and that she has all of the support that she needs right at home.

Another woman, says that REAL LIFE has provided her with the tools to fix the problems that had prevailed over her for so long. She is working on her recovery so that she can be a better woman and a better mother, and attributes the team at REAL LIFE for strengthening her personal dedication towards her heartfelt goals. She not only loves how supportive her female-house roommates and the REAL LIFE staff has been, but has also learned to believe in herself. “I am worth the fight,” she said, and she is absolutely right.

Lastly, Michelle, a REAL LIFE client since June 2019, says that REAL Life has changed her life for the better. She says that the team at REAL LIFE has given her the support and tools that she needs to make better decisions for herself. Her favorite part about REAL LIFE is the programs that are offered, as well as the people that are involved. Whether these individuals are staff members, outside program-leaders, or community supports, REAL LIFE  has built a strong network throughout the Richmond City and greater Richmond-area, men and women of all professions and walks of life who share the common goal of helping those who need help. Michelle’s final words regarding the best thing(s) that she has learned from REAL LIFE is “that I can recover, and that I can do it myself!”

Lastly, I would like to provide a few words about my personal experience of being a part of the REAL Life community during this past summer. I had originally heard about REAL LIFE and had subsequently met Dr. Scarbrough through a course at Virginia Commonwealth University. After assisting in several volunteer projects with the center through this class, I came to understand that REAL LIFE was so much more than a volunteering opportunity. Although, of course, the additional help and support is ALWAYS appreciated; I came to see that the amazing men and women who staff the REAL LIFE Community Center are affecting REAL LIFE change for their clients. I inquired further about potentially interning at the center and was ecstatic when I was brought aboard. I worked the front desk for the majority of the summer, typically three or four days a week. Here I participated in front-of-house dialogue with current and potential clients, as well as participating on smaller projects for the REAL LIFE team upon request. I was able to form some legitimate bonds with many of their current [male] clients, some of whom would help out around the center when they were able. During this time, the REAL LIFE female house was officially opened, and it was absolutely spectacular and rejuvenating to see the energy projected by both staff members and community supporters, alike! The conversations I shared with the clients and staff members were life-changing and absolutely inspiring. They are truly very special people, and I look forward to seeing just how far they grow. CONGRATULATIONS on opening the new REAL LIFE women’s residency, and best of luck to everyone. YOU. CAN. DO. IT.

~ Ben Madnick, VCU Student, REAL LIFE Intern