Detroit Transitional Living Program Sustains People in Recovery from Substance Use

Learn how the Detroit Recovery Project provides support services to help people sustain recovery from substance use.

“We not only address drugs, but also all the other issues. This is important to us—we are a community organization; our consumer is embedded in the community and we have to look at the community, too.” Dr. Calvin Trent was discussing the guiding philosophy of the Detroit Recovery Project, where he is vice president, an organization that helps people sustain lifelong recovery from substance use.

“Our real focus is recovery and recovery support services. We specialize in helping people maintain recovery after a decision to stop using. Much of it depends upon motivation, sure, but do you have a place to live? You don’t want to go back to old places and old friends who might undermine your recovery. The services our consumer receives depend upon where they are in the recovery process—early recovery, maybe later than that. They need a place to live, employment, continued education,” said Trent.

Andre Johnson, president of the Detroit Recovery Project, put it succinctly: “If we are to really help people maintain recovery, we have to help them with their living situation. It doesn’t take much to live in the street. We target those who are exiting treatment and bring them into our transitional living program. We have a 90% success rate. People stay for two years, get a job, improve their relations with their family.”

“We now have 22 apartments and we house folks who have used drugs, have had brushes with the law, co-occurring mental health issues. They need somewhere to live and somewhere to work. Otherwise, they go through rehab and then go straight back.”

“When people work with us, they learn the other parts, life skills. That includes money matters: how to open an account and not bring their check to the check cashing place or the liquor store and get it all in cash. We have money managers who work with them and banks will give them a second chance on our word. We also teach them about health and wellness—not to eat bad food all the time, how to take care of themselves. We teach them how to shop for furniture—no Rent-a-Center quick fixes. We work with them to improve their reading and writing. We need a coordination of resources for people to live independently. We need a comprehensive health program that addresses STDs, trauma, substance abuse, and co-occurring mental health issues. Everything needs to be tackled, and that is what we do,” said Johnson.

But Johnson likes where he is right now: Detroit, Michigan, the Motor City. Bankrupt town. “It’s great. Lots of positive energy, lots of synergy. It is broken down along urban/suburban environments, it is very segregated. But we have the first white mayor in forty years. We are seeing a lot of coordination and collaboration between corporations and nonprofits. We know we’ve got to turn this thing around and work together.”

This article was published to highlight the theme of Recovery. Learn about SAMSHA’s efforts in recovery support. September is National Recovery Month.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

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Brian Prioleau
Last Updated: 06/25/2019