To The Daily Sun,
This letter is in response to an article in The Daily Sun about the Belknap House.
Referring to the "River Crew," the homeless group tended by Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith, (Len) Campbell said "with them, we couldn't have a dry shelter. They are alcoholics, and they're not ever going to be anything else." He allowed some may go through spells of sobriety, but added that their likelihood of remaining sober "is between nil and none."
"Families we can make a difference with," Campbell told the council.
In the early planning stages of the proposed Belknap House, they saw the need for an overnight shelter during the winter for the River Crew and other homeless alcoholics who needed a place to stay during cold weather. This was similar to the Concord shelter which allowed homeless suffering from addiction to stay the night and be safe. All alcohol was secured upon arrival and dispensed upon departure, the next morning.
This model did not allow them to stay for an extended period with case management services. It was only to provide winter shelter at night. They did not drink in the facility. The criteria for entry was not contingent on their sobriety. There were rules about not drinking in the facility. Participants had to abide by the house rules for their safety and others.
There is always hope for recovery from addiction. In our program, River Crew Art, over the past four years, we witnessed some successes. Being a chronic illness, it is common for them to experience periods of sobriety and relapses. During relapses it is still important for their basic needs to be met. The Belknap House is conditional on sobriety. This is an important resource for families who are transitioning into a more permanent lifestyle. We support this important resource in our community.
River Crew Art is not conditional on sobriety. Participants need to be functional in order to benefit from the program. Some participants are varied; encompassing recovered addicts, and those suffering from mental illness, and those still struggling with the challenges of addiction. As long as they are able to participate, we accept them.
Our participation in Stand Up Laconia and Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region has increased our knowledge and awareness of addiction through the stories of recovering addicts. Hope is always possible. A common theme of addicts was one of hopelessness. Their life-changing decision to recover and finding community support and programs made them successful in their journey.
Society expects recovery. Most programs are funded based on sobriety. Late-stage alcoholics may be past the point of recovery due to physical and mental challenges. However, we always have hope that they may change to have a meaningful life.
The Belknap House is a great asset to the community serving homeless families. However, we have to recognize other homeless populations whose basic need of housing is not being met during the cold, winter months.
River Crew Art
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