Women battling substance abuse have another option

Melody Bechard, left, and Barbara Woodside hope to provide a safe and welcoming place for women trying to rid themselves of substance abuse at the New Hope Home.

Through years of working with the homeless population, Calaveras County resident Barbara Woodside has heard plenty of stories, but the tale of a particular young man with substance abuse issues sticks with her.

The young man was fighting to recover from substance abuse. He would attend Woodside’s church and dinners with Woodside, and did everything in his power to turn his future away from a life of illicit substances.

Despite all of the young man’s hard work, he wound up back with a girlfriend and eventually fell back into his spiral of substance abuse.

Woodside attributed his fall to a lack of residential services, a trend that she and her partner at the time, Calaveras County resident Melody Bechard, began to notice as they continued to visit the homeless.

“We started working with the homeless several years ago and we found that several of them had addiction problems,” said Woodside. “So many were trying to get straight, but they would just get back at it because so many of them would stay with friends and wouldn’t have a place to go.”

Through her experience, Woodside was rearing to do something, but Bechard said that a trip to a couple of sober living homes in the Concord area is what really pushed them to partner to pursue a sober living home.

“We saw men that were on the road to recovery,” said Bechard. “But what we learned about this one was that it was true family; it was a bunch of men that go together and truly looked after each other. It was peer watching peer through the recovery process.”

“That really cemented it for me. I had just lost a family member and it just showed me exactly what he would have needed,” she continued.

The women decided that a sober living home would do wonders for the people of Calaveras and Amador counties, and the groundwork for the New Hope Home, which opened on Nov. 15, started to formalize. Woodside and Bechard feature into the home as its co-directors.

“It is social justice,” said Woodside. “We just felt that we needed to be more involved with social justice.”

The pair went to various government and community organizations to drum up support and eventually was given the green light, but to move forward, they had to select a property.

“You can’t get the funds without the house, and you can’t get the house without the funds,” Woodside said.

That’s when the Grace Fellowship Church stepped in. The women were allowed to lease the church’s Victorian home adjacent to the church outside Jackson. The multistory, multiroom home made for the perfect open-air location to promote sober living.

The first step, obtaining a home, was complete, but step two required the house to be repaired, a daunting task. Years before, the house was badly burned, which would necessitate almost two years of restoration and renovation. However, when there was a need, the community did its part.

Numerous community members and organizations stepped in to help mend the charred home, including Stanley Lukowicz (owner of the National Hotel), the New Life Christian Church, Church of the Nazarene, Grace Fellowship Church, Walmart and City Church contributed, and Excel Electrical rewired the entire home. Somewhere close to 40 New Life Christian Church members lent their hands in any way they could.

The community support was unbelievable to Bechard.

“Really, I’ve never seen an outpouring of love from people who just want to give,” said Bechard. “If you see the furniture that is in that place, you’d be blown away. It’s the best of the best.”

The new home received such a large amount of donations that Woodside and Bechard actually had to pick and choose the furniture that they wanted for the home, a problem that anyone starting a sober living home would like to have. The remainder of the furniture was returned to contributors.

“It was not just churches; there were people who just wanted to know how they could help,” said Bechard.

On any given day during the renovation and restoration effort, views of the house from Highway 49 would be met by scores of people on their hands and knees scrubbing and restoring the old Victorian building. The men and women who couldn’t offer their labor supplied ample prayers for the project.

Prayer will be a big part of the sober living experience, too. Although residents don’t have to be Christians or follow the faith to be accepted into the home, it’s apparent that the home is Christian-inspired. A walk through the home shows walls adorned with Bible scriptures and a wooden cross overlooks the interior.

The operative word is “home”; the co-directors have always designed the place to feel like a home, rather than a facility or center.

“They are missing that gap between going to recovery and then going home, and a lot of them have burned their bridges,” said Woodisde. “So to go to a sober-living home allows them to feel loved again, to get life skills and to get them back into society, instead of where they fell to begin with.”

The home can house six women at a time. Manager Barbara Gunter will also live on the premises. Residents will receive life skills classes, and Bible study will be consistently held. Alcoholics Anonymous principles and random drug tests will be interweaved into the program that is currently being developed.

“Some of these women have lost their children, so we want to get them to the point where they can get their children back,” said Bechard.

Although there is still plenty of work to be done, the women are ready to get the house booming with women who are ready to make positive changes in their lives. The location is currently accepting women, but has yet to bed anyone.

The prospect of watching someone who just recently left rehab to make changes for the better speaks volumes to Bechard and Woodside.

“It’s just overwhelming to know that we can be a part of this,” said Bechard. “We’re looking forward to watching people grow and to see people’s lives change. There is nothing better.”

“It’s exciting. If we only help one or two people, we’ve done something,” Woodside said. “But we’re hoping to help many and get them back on their feet.”

The New Hope Home is privately funded and is accepting donations. Contact Woodside at 404-6088 or email to newhopeamador@gmail.com to contribute.


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