Week 20: A Visit to the Market Street Mission
“Life is meaningless without purpose and hope”…. these were words spoken by one of the former residents of the Market Street Mission, sharing his story with our group of volunteers. His story was unique to him but also familiar to other stories of addiction – a progressive spiral that moved from drinking to marijuana to increasingly powerful drugs, along the way experiencing homelessness, jail sentences, a multitude of court-mandated rehab centers, isolation from family….
The ‘bottom’ – the turning point – is different for each addict. Unfortunately, for over 100 people in the U.S. a day, that bottom is death. For our speaker, the bottom came when a 30-bag-a-day cocaine habit ended with an epiphany after almost dying from another overdose. Eventually he ended up at the Mission’s Recovery Program where he found a place of acceptance, spirituality, hope and possibility.
The Mission is an all-male, Christian-based recovery center founded in 1889 and built in the middle of what was once known as Morristown’s “Rum Alley.” The original program focused on providing meals, lodging, clothing and temporary work for alcoholic men. Up until about 10 years ago the majority of residents in the program were middle-aged alcoholic men. Both the age and addiction have changed in the last decade and now the facility is primarily filled with twenty to thirty-somethings battling addiction to Opioids (Heroin, Morphine) and Cocaine.
The Mission focuses on three key tenets: meals, shelter and hope.
- Meals – they serve 220 meals a day – 3 meals a day for the residents of the Mission (those in the program) as well as hot breakfasts and dinners available to the local homeless population.
- Shelter – they provide temporary residence for the men in their recovery program and open their doors each night as emergency shelter for homeless men.
- Hope – their Life Change Recovery Program is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation/recovery program with a unique format of support, education and spiritual care.
Everyone in the Recovery Program starts the same way – the first 30 days living in the Mission, sleeping on a mattress on the floor of the chapel each night alongside homeless men there for emergency shelter. They are also assessed and evaluated to determine needs, go through orientation processes, are assigned chores, and participate in group counseling, AA and NA meetings. Regular bible studies and chapel services are key pieces of the program.
As each resident in the program moves through the various stages the focus and scope of their program widens. With each stage, they physically move up through the floors of the building from one floor to another until they graduate from the program. Along the way they have mandatory intensive counseling (individual and group), participate in regular bible study and chapel services, and take classes on things like anger management, fatherhood, relapse prevention, finance, chemical dependency, etc. Educational skills are evaluated and training is offered for building necessary skills (including completion of their GED if necessary). By the end of the program they are working outside the Mission and attending offsite NA and AA meetings as well as church services. These are some of the ways the Mission strives to ensure their program residents are able to function on their own once they graduate. Program graduates are given assistance with resumes, interviewing, finding jobs, finding places to live, and connected with additional services they may need (like Medicaid, SNAP, etc.).
It is a very comprehensive approach to recovery. The Mission also offers a variety of outreach programs and events such as backpacks for low-income school children, toys for Christmas, a winter coat drive and give-away and family counseling workshops to help their residents reconnect with their families and the community. They also run a very popular Thrift Store where donated household furniture, appliances, clothing and other items are resold. The monies raised support the Mission’s programs.
As our group of volunteers toured the Mission, we met several of the program residents and each spoke about what the Mission meant to the changes in their lives. It was remarkable to hear how the mission ministered to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs and to hear how they have been transformed and were now focused on helping themselves and others.
“Brokenness is a vessel for change….” our speaker had said at the beginning of our evening, “Addicts are overcomers. They persevere and conquer… if they do that with the Grace of God and face it outward towards others, that’s powerful. They can do great things.”
He went on to say that it was at the Mission where he found acceptance for who he was, not as an addict, but as a human, and found the structure, love and support that helped him redefine his life. I left my visit thinking about human potential and the ability to fuel change and strength in others. This is one of the wonderful legacies of the Mission.
For more information on the Market Street Mission or to make a donation, please visit: http://www.marketstreet.org/