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Jim deVarennes founded Sober Living America in 1994 after volunteering at local facilities and seeing families turned away because there was no room for them or they were unable to pay. After seeing one family in particular, come in who had been turned down by other facilities get told the husband would not be able to get a spot in the facility for three weeks and would have to pay $150. The man told them he did not have that kind of money or three weeks he needed help now. Jim deVarennes saw the impact addiction had on this family and knew it was time to do something different. “The first location was a 5-bed facility in Atlanta, which quickly grew to 60 beds becoming one of the largest facilities in Georgia.” (Sober Living America [SLA], n.d.) The facility was opened with little money and little support. In 2002 Sober Living America was formed as a 501c3 nonprofit. Sober Living America is a place where anyone is welcome and everyone is treated like family. The facilities currently focus on providing basic needs, helping people recover from addictions, and career development.
In America, only 11% of addicts receive professional help. This is due to the outrageous costs and limited space in facilities. Sober Living America has opened its doors to addicts looking for help. This nonprofit is free of charge for those with no money and addicts are accepted into one of the facilities the day they decide to fill out an application. “Young adults (18-25) have the highest reported alcohol (80%), illicit drug (22%), and prescription pill (5.9%) use amounts of all ages and demographics combined.” (SLA, n.d.) Sober Living America has started the Friends care campaign to educate young adults on the warning signs of addiction. Many people coming to Sober Living America have no money, no job, and no transportation. The organization knows this and provides transportation to work, church, AA/NA meetings, and the store. Although they do not provide transportation everywhere, each facility is located on a public transportation route.
Sober Living America has 15 locations throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. There are six locations throughout Georgia alone. The great thing about this organization is that the employees and volunteers are all recovering addicts. Employees make around $14 an hour and must be a resident or have gone through the program. (Glassdoor, 2017) Each facility can have anywhere from ten to fifty employees. In 2015 Sober Living America had received its first funding ever which was a $25,000 grant from the Scott Hudgens Foundation that helped open one of its facilities in Georgia. Today Sober Living America receives most of its funding from donations and residents who pay for the pinnacle program. The pinnacle program cost $1,890 a month and includes counseling, recovery, education, and outside activities. (SLA, n.d.) While not everyone has the money or support for the pinnacle program, Sober living America does not want to turn down someone seeking help which is why they have the startup program for those without support. The donations go straight to housing and resources therefor the agency relies on private donors, foundations, sponsors, and program services to cover everything from staff salaries to basic office systems to office rent and supplies. (Guide Star, n.d.) They also provide a blog, chat, and phone number on their website for people to learn about the program prior to applying. The employees, as recovering addicts understand what an addict is going through and are ready to help someone start their journey to sobriety.
Sober Living America has two regional directors that travel to different locations to make sure the programs are running as they should. Berkley Hayes is one of the two regional directors. Prior to coming to Sober Living America, Mr. Hayes was a cosmetologist at cuts by us and great clips. He attended API for cosmetology and worked in the cosmetology field for five years before he changed career paths and started working with the organization. He has now been with the organization for three years first in guest services and now as the regional director. Along with Mr. Hayes, Levi Jones is the other regional director at Sober Living America. Mr. Jones graduated from Dublin High school in 2015. After high school, Levi had suffered from alcohol addiction and decided to start his journey to sobriety at Sober Living America. While in the program Mr. Jones started working with the organization and later became one of the regional directors. He has now been working with the organization for three years. Both directors are driven to keeping the mission and bettering the organization.
Sober Living America has had many successes. Not only did the organization grow from one location in Atlanta to 14 other locations they have also helped thousands of individuals through their sobriety journey. The organization is action based and has created a family like community for residents who all share a common goal, to get sober. Unlike standard addiction treatments who only have a 10% success rate, Sober Living Americas success rate is at 47%. The agency plans to expand nationally through chapters and affiliates or corporate locations by offering their systems and training to non-profits, churches, business leaders, and others. (Guide Star, n.d.) They also plan to gain community support through their development department. Many people have a negative perception of addiction and are uneducated on the fact that it is a disease. Through their Friends Care Campaign, they have educated 2500 students since 2013. The program teaches people the warning signs of addiction, how to help a friend in need, and allows them to have a role in stopping the epidemic.
Sober Living America depends on the success of its residents to stay in existence since all of their donations go directly to the field for housing and resources for families suffering from substance abuse. The fact that they are still expanding shows that the agency has strong problem-solving skills. As a way to give back to the generous donations, residents are eager and willing to work hard in their internships and jobs with the partners. The employees know their population because they are a part of it which makes the program more effective for those participating. The agencies programs are designed to help people be the best version of themselves by meeting them where they are at and providing the proper resources to set them on the right track when they leave. They know that many people often relapse but the staff and residents do not judge people for their past but accept and encourage each other no matter how long it takes for someone to become sober. Sober Living America listens to its residents and has shaped their programs to what they believe is the most effective way to help someone become sober and the results portray this.
- Sober Living America Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2019, from https://www.guidestar.org/profile/02-0618530
Sober Living America Salaries. (2017, November 8). Retrieved April 13, 2019, from https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Sober-Living-America-Salaries-E1157895.htm
Sober Living Atlanta GA | Addiction Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://soberlivingamerica.org/
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