Help for women in addiction to expand with new CARITAS center in South Side

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/16/2020, 6 p.m.
In a bit more than two months, Richmond will have a new shelter and treatment center for women struggling with …
Karen J. Stanley, president and chief executive officer of CARITAS, shows off the exterior of the new $27 million, 150,000-square-foot complex at 2200 Stockton St. in South Side that will be dedicated largely to helping women overcome addiction. The center includes space for a 120-bed treatment program and a 28-bed emergency shelter for women. Photo by Regina H. Boone

In a bit more than two months, Richmond will have a new shelter and treatment center for women struggling with addiction and homelessness.

Four years in the making, the new CARITAS Center is heading to completion in a former tobacco factory at 2220 Stockton St. in South Side. When it is opened in mid-to-late September, it will rank as the largest women’s shelter in the Richmond area.

Supported by $12 million in tax credits and more than $15 million in donations, the $27 million project will provide a multifaceted operation to shelter and enable women to kick their habits and gain training to quickly become employed.

The total cost includes the $1.5 million CARITAS spent to buy the building in 2016 and the estimated $600,000 in increased costs the organization will face in the first year to operate the building.

The building will be the new home of CARITAS, the area’s largest shelter program for the homeless, and include a 28-bed emergency shelter for women, a 120-bed treatment program to help female addicts attain sobriety and a workforce training program to help them get on their feet.

In addition, the nonprofit’s furniture bank, which annually helps about 800 low-income families furnish their homes, will take up about one-third of the renovated building.

A view of a kitchen at CARITAS’ new emergency shelter for women. The complex also will contain the nonprofit’s furniture bank that helps about 800 low-income families annually furnish their homes.

A view of a kitchen at CARITAS’ new emergency shelter for women. The complex also will contain the nonprofit’s furniture bank that helps about 800 low-income families annually furnish their homes.

Along with CARITAS offices that for the first time will be under one roof, the complex will include 47 rental units, mostly for graduates of the program, but with at least 15 units available for men and community members seeking sober living units.

The new rental units will replace houses typically rented by CARITAS to provide sober living, primarily for men. The new rental units will enable the organization to give up paying other owners and to add another stream of revenue.

CARITAS also will sell its current headquarters on High Street in North Side once it consolidates.

Karen J. Stanley, who has led CARITAS for 20 years, has her fingers crossed that the move-in can begin soon after Labor Day. The executive director is proud that the project is coming together to add much needed service space at a time when the community is grappling with pandemic-fueled crises involving eviction and homelessness, and during a period when other treatment programs are struggling to serve addicts as a result of COVID-19.

“I believe this development represents good news for the community,” Ms. Stanley said.

It is unclear how much impact the pandemic and the rules for masks and social distancing will have on the planned programming.

To Ms. Stanley, the building is ideal and seemed to be “meant for us.” CARITAS bought the vacant structure four years ago from a development company that architects H. Louis Salomonsky and David J. White are involved with. Philip Morris closed its blended-leaf operations in the building more than 20 years ago.

With 150,000 square feet, the building has enough room to house all of the programs as well as previously scattered CARITAS employees. It is surrounded by other commercial operations.

The new facility will dramatically expand the beds available to provide residential treatment for women, whom Ms. Stanley said have long been underserved in this area.

Before this development, the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority operated the most significant residential treatment operation for women. Of the 146 treatment beds at RBHA’s North Side center, at least 54 are reserved for women.

Still, often there is a 30- to 90-day waiting list to get in, and CARITAS previously had to send desperate women to Raleigh, N.C., and Louisville, Ky., for addiction treatment.

This is the largest project in the 36-year history of the organization.

The nonprofit has been around since the mid-1980s, when a group of churches opened their doors to house the homeless during the winter.

Formally organized as Congregations Around Richmond Involved to Assure Shelter in 1987, CARITAS, which relies heavily on volunteers, has become an indispensable social services organization.

For the first 20 years, CARITAS focused on providing night and day shelter for individuals and families with the help of congregations that volunteered space.

Drug addiction became a major element in 2007 when Ms. Stanley added the title of executive director of The Healing Place, a 214-bed men’s shelter and drug treatment center that operates in a former industrial space on Dinwiddie Avenue, about a mile east of the new center.

Brought to Richmond in 2005 from Louisville, The Healing Place operates a drug treatment program that claims a 70 percent success rate in helping men stay sober. The Healing Place includes a 36-bed shelter and 178 beds for those willing

to engage in treatment. Merged into CARITAS in 2012, The Healing Place for Men will be the model for the women’s program at the CARITAS Center, Ms. Stanley said.

According to Ms. Stanley, “the primary program will be the Residential Recovery Program, and the majority of beds, 120, will be designated for that purpose.”

For those who arrive high but do not need hospitalization, the first step would be placement in a 12-bed stabilization unit called “Safe Off the Streets.”

There also would be a 28-bed emergency shelter where addicted women could speak with peer mentors who are in recovery, even if those provided shelter decline further services, Ms. Stanley said.

Those willing to start their recovery journey would begin with a four-to eight-week program called “Off-the-Streets.” Participants will be required to attend classes, attend Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings and abide by the rules, she said.

Those who complete “Off- the-Streets” enter the three-to six-month Recovery program, which, along with educational programming, requires participants to volunteer doing laundry, cleaning the building or providing security.

The final step, called “Works,” is designed around an intensive five-week job readiness program that would include training in computer and life skills.

Then comes the 90-day transition phase that follows graduation, during which clients would need to find work, Ms. Stanley said. There will be 21 beds for women who reach this stage.

“We have found that 90 percent of the men who go through program are able to find employment within 30 days,” Ms. Stanley said.

As is the case with the men’s program, CARITAS would follow graduates and provide two years of support through the “After Works” program.

There also will be five rooms with space for 18 peer mentors, the cadre of volunteers who stay on site to help those coming behind them, Ms. Stanley said.

And “there will be a visitation suite so moms can spend a weekend with their children,” she said. “We are not allowing kids in the program so the women can really focus on their recovery. This is a way our clients can reconnect.”

CARITAS, which serves about 4,000 people a year, has an annual operating budget of $5 million and about 80 employees.