‘Hope’ coming to Suffolk, aiming to help women struggling with addiction in faith-based recovery program

Published 11:30 pm Monday, April 25, 2022

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Hope is on the way for women who are searching for a faith-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Suffolk that organizers describe as more of a recovery program than rehab.

By a pair of 7-0 votes at its April 20 meeting — Roger Fawcett was not at the meeting at that time — City Council approved a rezoning of 1.9 acres at 1654 Holland Road from residential low-medium zoning to office-institutional for Hope Center Ministries to locate its center.
It also approved a conditional use permit because the facility is not a by-right use in the office-institutional zoning district.

Planning commissioners had unanimously voted in favor of both requests.

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The facility will house up to 32 women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction anywhere from eight to 12 months. Residents accepted to the program will have to receive a medical detox and must be medically discharged by a doctor before being admitted. No more than 33 people will be living in the facilities, including the residents and the night monitor.

Suffolk’s Hope Center will employ three people, including director Rachael Culbertson, a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy graduate who, as she did before the commission, shared with council members her story of addiction. She will be responsible for managing the finances, making sure the facility is maintained and handling any risk management issues. It will also employ a recovery coordinator responsible for recruiting and training all certified volunteers, and a night monitor who will live in the facility with residents and help other staff members with 24-hour coverage for the facilities.

The Suffolk location will be the 35th for the center, according to Hope Center Ministries director Jordan Hale. It operates in 13 states, and the city’s site will mark its fourth location in Virginia.

“If you go look at the facility, it’s really a great location,” said attorney Grier Ferguson, representing Culbertson as the applicant for the rezoning and permit. “(U.S. Route) 58 is a dynamic area. … There’s a lot going on out there on that strip. And I think a lot of it is, let’s get some of the houses right off of 58 and put other uses. This is a perfect use of that.”

Ferguson said while there are residents in the area near where the center will be, it’s shielded well from other residents and there are nearby lakes. Three homes are adjacent to the property, but the property “sits way back” and said the people in those homes would not know that anyone was there.

The single-family detached home and detached garage on the property will be renovated to provide five bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a half-bath and a communal bathroom with three toilets and three showers. Both buildings will have a washer and dryer.

The renovated detached garage will have a storage room, waiting room and a combined chapel and classroom, with the bedroom there only for longer-term residents there at least 10 months and who have earned more independence.

One community leader will be in each of the five bedrooms. That person will be a resident who has proven leadership skills and has been in the program for at least 60 days.

Up to 30 volunteers will work with residents as they advance through Hope Center’s three-phase program but will come at different times, as parking there can handle just six vehicles. A night monitor will watch cameras from the center and the director will be watching from home. Both will have video screens by their beds in case someone goes outside during non-permitted hours. Residents will also face random drug testing.

Hope Center’s program uses a Christian-based 12-step program as residents work through a Bible-based curriculum. It is funded up to 67% by its vocational training program, allowing residents to pay a smaller amount, with the rest of its yearly funding coming through fundraising, grants and donations from local churches and the community.

Hale said it has about a 70% success rate, but stressed that it is not a medical facility. It does, however, have relationships with such locations in the Suffolk region. Success, Hale said, is not just sobriety, but rather having a relationship with Jesus.

Patty Johnson, Hope Center’s Virginia regional admissions coordinator, said about 98% of the people who come through the program in the state are referred to by the courts, usually people with probation violations, drug-related or use crimes. There’s a vetting process for the program, and those who want to come into the program have to ask for it since it is ministry-based. She would welcome the opportunity to work with the city’s newly established drug court.

Culbertson said Family Harvest Church off of Manning Road will be the sponsoring church for the local Hope Center facility. She said $125,000 has been raised to bring it to the city, and the group spent more than $35,000 putting the application together for the rezoning and permit.

“I knew right away that this is something that we need,” Culbertson said, “and that I was called to bring this to our community, which is in such bad need of some kind of resource.”