Friday, May 28, 2010

A Day in the Life Of...

(Submitted by Michelle Davis, Program Coordinator)
Imagine life where you spend 21 hours a week in treatment…That’s right, Monday through Friday 9am to 1pm, you are in Intensive Outpatient treatment group. In addition, you must see your chemical dependency counselor for an individual session once a week. You are also responsible for maintaining contact with your mental health counselor, child protective services, HRDC, Office of Public Assistance, and for attending at least two self help meetings a week. It is overwhelming to just think about. Somehow, our residents hold and keep such strict schedules.

All of our residents have a substance abuse disorder diagnosis, and most are required to complete Intensive Outpatient. The average length of time spent in Intensive Outpatient for the majority of our residents is a 6 to 8 month commitment. After completing treatment, many use the time previously spent in treatment working on their GEDs, attending college, or completing education courses at with the Lincoln Center.

Each day, our families get up, get their children ready, and are out the door to daycare before 8am. Most of our residents do not have a driver’s licenses, so they walk the 2 miles to the mental health center. Each week, residents are responsible for contacting HRDC, case managers (from Mental Health Center, and Second Chance Homes), Child protection case workers (if CPS is involved), probation /parole, and all other necessary service providers. Our residents are responsible for attending at least two self help meetings a week, seeking safety, visitations with their children, visits with Family Support Network for further parenting skills building, Second Chance Homes (SCH) Family Building Meeting, house meeting, and participation in the Yellowstone County Family Drug Treatment Court (if involved).

Residents are also responsible for keeping their children up to date on medical and dental checkups, as well as completing neuropsychological evaluations and following recommendations. Residents attend consumer credit counseling, parenting, nutrition, and sexual education classes. Second Chance Homes also provides life skills classes for our families to help them gain skills to be more self sufficient once they have completed the program.

The majority of our residents have their children with them, so all this work has to be completed by 5:30pm, as most daycares close by 6pm, and child care assistance will only cover up to 45 hours per week. In the evenings, residents of the Main House are responsible for preparing dinner for the whole house once a week, spending dedicated time with their children, and completing a bedtime ritual for the children to be in bed by 8pm. After the children are in bed, residents complete their house chores, and work on various things like treatment group homework, mental health homework, and various applications for other resources available in our community. Then off to bed, to start all over again!

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Hoppin-ings -- Easter with Second Chance Homes

Two of our children were captured in the Billings Gazette on Easter Sunday. They were among hundreds of other children participating in the Easter Egg Hunt that took place at Billings' South Park.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Second Chance to Succeed

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
- Henry David Thoreau

Last Saturday, Second Chance Homes celebrated the graduation of one of our families from our program. The event was held at a community center on Billings' south side. Many current residents attended the event with their children to partake in the festivities.

We sang songs, danced to some Village People and even threw the chicken dance into the mix. Our families also showed off their creativity at the craft table.

The food was delicious and in great abundance! Everyone had a wonderful time rejoicing with our amazing graduate and her beautiful daughter.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thank you, Monday Connections

Members of a local group called Monday Connections chose to sponsor SCH's children for this year's Angel Tree celebration. Each child had a wish list of items including winter coats, gloves, pajamas, socks, etc. Gifts came pouring in to the administrative office just a few weeks after Monday Connections received the initial wish lists.

Second Chance Homes hosted Angel Tree at Garfield School. (Thank you, Garfield, for allowing us to use the facility free of charge.) Costco donated cookies and water bottles to the event, and Santa even showed up!

Lots of children and families arrived to the party, and were so excited to see mounds of beautifully wrapped boxes.

We, at Second Chance Homes, are so grateful to Monday Connections for their generosity, as well as to all of the volunteers who helped make Angel Tree possible for our residents.

Best Wishes and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Visions of sugar plums

Second Chance Homes and Yellowstone County Family Drug Treatment Court hosted their second annual joint Christmas party last Friday at Friendship House. The party is a wonderful celebration of the progress that each family has made with help from these two organizations. Both active clients and graduates are invited to share in the festivities.

The children were fascinated by the karaoke machine. Many of them were amazed to hear their voices boom over the speakers.
We also set up craft tables for clients and their children to make play dough ornaments, paper bag puppets, reindeer food, reindeer clothespins, and decorate their very own cookies! We had wonderful volunteers heading up the tables. One volunteer actually made play dough from scratch!

Santa made a special stop at Friendship House to distribute gifts to all of the children. Each child got his/her picture taken with jolly old Saint Nick!

After a night filled with pizza, laughter, sugar and family, everyone left the party very exhausted but with lifted spirit.

Second Chance Homes would like to give a special thanks to:
Pizza Hut
Our wonderful, talented volunteers
Family Services, Inc.
Friendship House
Yellowstone County Family Drug Treatment Court

Thank you for your generosity!

Monday, December 7, 2009

From Us With Love

It was the 24th annual Festival of Trees event last week at the Shrine, but Second Chance Homes' second year participating. Festival of Trees is a fundraiser for Family Tree Center (SCH's umbrella organization). This year's theme was "Circle of Friends." We feel the base of our tree represents the theme quite well.

Before we even began decorating the tree, the entire staff helped glue and wire each and every ornament (strict set of rules for event). Staff members were great sports--as we were dealing with A LOT of ornaments!!

We had such a blast decorating this year--singing Christmas carols and Bob Marley tunes...

Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When the walls fall down...use duct tape

*Billings celebrated its second annual Cardboard Box City event on Saturday, October 3, 2009. For those of you who aren't familiar with Cardboard Box City, it is a homelessness awareness program particularly directed at youth. Participants are encouraged to collect monetary pledges from the community (money to go to Interfaith Hospitality Network) for sleeping on ZooMontana's lawn for one night.

Some participants were very creative with their box designs--conic and tunneled to deter wind. Others chose a more aesthetic and less practical approach to their home designs--replicates of VW vans, outer space themes, and this year's creativity winner, a farmhouse.*

(Written from the perspective of Laci St. John)
Three of Second Chance Homes' residents, Clare and I (VISTAs) took part in the event. We loaded the van at SCH's main house and headed to the zoo around 4 pm Saturday afternoon. Once we got to the zoo--which was an adventure in itself (our van crammed to the ceiling with boxes, blankets and pillows; Shiloh Road still under construction, and me maneuvering this BEASTLY vehicle?!?!)--we searched the grounds for the perfect spot to set up camp. Then, we piled all of our supplies on the grass and got to work--constructed our new homes, with cardboard and duct tape in place of penny nails and 2x4s.
Upon completion, everybody gathered under a party tent to share meal and prayer. Then, we dispersed for evening activities. Clare and I made our way to the amphitheater and listened to local performances. The wind was beginning to pick up at this point, and the sun had long-since gone down...cold was setting in.

We made our way back to our boxes and found the residents there talking and giggling. They were enjoying a much overdue vacation from their children and therapy, celebrating womanhood and friendship.

It is nine o'clock - I am frozen and ready for bed. So, I hunker into my very sorry home--years ago I came to terms with the fact that I would never be an engineer, this box further solidifies this realization--and prepare for a long, teeth-chattering night.

Crap, it is eleven o'clock and my home has collapsed. It is pitch dark--what to do?? I quickly decide to sleep on top of my box, under a mound of quilts. At this point, there is no shield from the wind. I can't feel my feet, and my nose and hands are aching. Wow! How in the world do people do this in the dead of winter? And every night?...teeth clench and clatter uncontrollably...

I am awakened by the sound of aggressive coughing and vomiting...twelve forty-seven am. One of our ladies has been struggling with the flu and below freezing temperatures aren't helping her recovery. So, we stumble through the endless box city and make our was to the van. After dropping the little lady off at her house, I hesitate before following the road back to the zoo. How easy it would have been to curl up under the covers at home!!

My alarm goes off at 6 am--finally can stop pretending to sleep. A voice over loud speaker booms across the zoo--breakfast and clean-up. I rush around trying to get warm. I am tearing apart our homes and throwing all things random and miscellaneous into the van. Thankfully, the residents stayed warm through the night. The look on Clare's face tells me she had a less-than-enjoyable experience.

We get all of the boxes broken down and the van loaded down. The ladies are so excited and refreshed from the experience. I'm starting to catch a second wind and I remember how rejuvenating the outdoors can be for body and soul (although I'm sure that wears off after a slew of winter nights). Clare and I have developed a more intimate relationship with these women. Later, we hear second-hand that the event was the most wholesome fun one of our residents has ever experienced. I'm not talking this summer, or this year...but in her lifetime! This comment really stuck with me, and after I caught up on sleep and my limbs had thawed, I was able to take time to reflect on the experience.

So, what did I learn?...
Although a seemingly small and fairly insignificant event to most, Cardboard Box City rekindled empathy, compassion, and awareness within me. I also learned that I live blindly in my comfortable life. I could hardly take one cold night in a box--with portable toilets and coffee thermoses at hand.
So, if ever again I run across the opportunity to spend one night in a box, I'll initially decline...but eventually I'll come around--and I hope to see you there, at next year's Cardboard Box City!