CASTLE ROCK — A church-based recovery group that turned a Kelso drug house into a home for recovering addicts last year has opened a similar home here for women and children. It's one of three they hope to open countywide by this summer.
The Faithful Servant Transitional House for Women officially opened last weekend, though a few women moved in while renovations were wrapping up. It can house up to 12 women and children and had a waiting list before it was even officially approved, officials said.
The Castle Rock house, not far from Exit 49 off Interstate 5, is the second of a growing Faithful Servant venture. Organizers hope to open two more houses in Longview by this summer, for a total of four.
"It's amazing," said Glen Sensenbach, who opened the first house in Kelso and is the organization's executive director. "God's really moving."
The house isn't an official treatment center, but all residents must be enrolled in the Celebrate Recovery 12-step program at Columbia Heights Assembly of God church. Each resident pays $250 rent and contributes $150 in cash or food stamps to the group meals. Residents also must agree to share chores, attend daily Bible devotionals and abide by house rules — including a zero tolerance policy of drug or alcohol use. Residents agree to drug tests. Anyone found using has 30 minutes to move out.
The goal is to provide a safe place for recovering addicts to get back on their feet and learn new skills away from former friends and other drug users who might jeopardize their recovery.
Frieda Halliday, for example, said she'd be "in a shelter or on the streets" if not for the new Castle Rock house. The 51-year-old's life spiraled out of control after a divorce three years ago, she said.
"I'm just thankful I have a roof over my head the opportunity to serve others," she said, while rocking another resident's baby.
Like the Kelso house, the Castle Rock home is run by a couple also in recovery: Jeannie and Chris Jensen.
What brought the Jensens to this assignment?
"God," Chris Jensen says firmly.
Both have struggled with addition and briefly moved to Texas after the construction industry took a hit a few years ago. Texas wasn't a good fit, they said, so they prayed and prayed some more. Eventually they felt lead back to Washington and say everything else just fell into place after that. The Castle Rock house, for example, was owned by Jeannie Jensen's late father and her siblings have agreed to rent it to Faithful Servant for the program. Men in the Kelso program helped renovate the house to get it ready.
The first Faithful Servant house opened for men in South Kelso last year. In the first year, 62 men were housed there and 44 are considered successful graduates. That means they're stayed clean, found work and continue with the religious recovery program, Sensenbach said. Groups in Everett and Seattle are now interested in opening similar houses there based on the success, he said.
The woman moving into the Castle Rock home last week said they hope to build on that success.
Jackie Virga, 44, moved into the house with her 17-year-old daughter, also in recovery, and her 5-year-old granddaughter from an older daughter. She said she was thrilled to find a place they could all live together, adding she heard about the house through her granddaughter's father, who lived in the men's house.
"There are shelters out there, but nothing like this that gives you a 24-hour support system," Virga said. "It's nice to have a fresh new start."