Guiding Light addiction recovery program grows with opening of sixth Iron House

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Guiding Light is able to support more men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction with the opening of its sixth Iron House.

Clients, staff, board members and volunteers gathered for a private blessing and tour on Jan. 28, welcoming two more people to the sober-living apartment building in the city of Kentwood.

The Iron House community provides a safe and secure living environment in a residential community outside the inner city, allowing the men to live more independently as they transition back into the mainstream of society, according to Guiding Light.

The new four-unit apartment building is able to accommodate seven men. In total, 42 men can be housed in the nonprofit’s six Iron House locations where 24 men currently live, Recovery Director Brian Elve said.

Officials say the new house comes at a time of increased demand for addiction recovery services. Since the beginning of 2021, Guiding Light reports it has experienced increases in the number of inquiries and program enrollments for its Recovery program, which takes a holistic approach to addiction recovery.

“We have kind of a campus there,” Elve said. “Four of our properties for men in recovery are all right there, so it leaves us some room to be a bit more creative since the recent house is kind of a run-off. And one of the things we’re trying to experiment with is if a man comes through our program and he is married with kids, could support him instead of having to send him right back home.”

The program began in 2013 at 540 Andover St. SE. Designed for community-oriented sober living, the Iron House community is exclusively for men who have finished four to six months of intensive residential treatment, Guiding Light said, which takes a holistic approach to addiction recovery.

Related: Recovering drug, alcohol addicts from Guiding Light Mission to live in Kentwood apartments

Combining several techniques, the program includes combinations of evidence-based practices, life-coaching, therapy, support groups, spiritual direction and other resources to equip patients to stay sober and reengage with their community.

Founded in 1929 as the West Fulton St. Mission in Grand Rapids, Guiding Light, located at 255 Division Ave., continues to grow as a robust recovery and re-engagement community to help those in recovery fulfill their potential.

“We’ve had a lot of success in what we are currently doing,” Elve said. “It’s kind of one of those things, sometimes we need to make a couple of mistakes and learn from it. It is a big commitment; we have never really done anything like family housing or taken men back in that have used or lost a job, so both of those are a little bit outside of our norm.”

Officials say the Iron House model has proven to be a key component in setting clients up for success to achieve long-term recovery. Guiding Light has found 76% of men who move to Iron House reach at least one year of abstinence-based sobriety, according to a press release.

“Housing is so difficult to find,” Elve said. “Even though these men are currently doing well, meaning they have full-time jobs and they’re making a decent wage, a lot of them come into this with quite a bit of debt. Instead of having them lean on social services, they’re doing this all on their own since we don’t charge as much as the regular rate for a two-bedroom apartment.”

Not only has Iron House been a significant part of residents maintaining their sobriety, Guiding Light said, it has also generated profits to ensure Guiding Light’s programming can remain free to participants. Funds from Iron House and The Job Post, Guiding Lights’ two social enterprises, for example, have benefited clients while aiding in the financial sustainability of the nonprofit’s programs.

In addition to assistance-based sobriety, Iron House residents focus on cultivating crucial life skills like employment, buying groceries, paying their bills, and engaging with each other in a communal living environment.

“I think one of the things that’s unique about them is that we don’t have a timeline for the men,” Elve said. “There’s not a time to be out of the program, like if someone ‘had’ to be out of this in two years. We keep adding to the housing as long as there’s a need, we eek buying more properties. It’s neat that we can hold them under our umbrella and kind of get this right over the long run.”

Residents in the Greater Grand Rapids that would benefit from recovery program, can call (616) 451-0236, ext. 23.

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