by KRISTEN SENZ
Sometimes you just need someone to believe in you.
When you’re in the shadow of addiction, the obstacles to a new life can seem insurmountable. But a public-private partnership that provides gainful employment and surrounds people in the early stages of recovery with a community of support is making a difference.
“Folks that have a job and a place to live, those people recover at a quicker pace,” says Greg May, director of integrated health at Centerstone, a nonprofit mental health and substance abuse treatment provider. “We created a situation where anyone can apply.”
Through contracts with the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments, Centerstone hires seasonal and year-round workers to maintain the City’s public spaces and infrastructure. These jobs pay a living wage, and the only qualification is a desire to work. Felony convictions, face tattoos—these don’t raise red flags, says May. Being in treatment is not a prerequisite, he adds, “but if you have a need, we’ll get you into treatment.”
The Bloomington Health Foundation (BHF) has granted $90,000 in support of the Centerstone Supported Employment Program since its inception as a small pilot in 2017. “We’re just honored and humbled to partner with others in support of this program,” says Heather Robinson, BHF interim president and CEO.
Curry Auto Sales helped secure vans to bring workers to job sites, in coordination with IU Health and BHF. “What I’m doing is just one little piece of it, but it’s a piece,” says dealership owner Cary Curry. “I always say, if everybody embraced one little piece of a need, then we could conquer the need.”
No-shows and disciplinary issues have been rare, says May, and success stories abound. A mother was her children. A man was offered a full-time City job. A worker experiencing homelessness got a new lease on life.
Christina Murphy, assistant manager of adult and family services at Centerstone, is in long-term recovery and oversees daily program operations. She’s helped it grow from five participants and a Centerstone employee supervisor to six crews totaling 28 workers with supervisors promoted from within.
“It’s really a big ol’ support system, because we’re all there for each other and can understand the struggles and how hard it is,” says Murphy. “Having someone in your life who believes in you is really helpful. They can believe in you until you learn to believe in yourself.”