U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, visited the new Unity House, a sober home and re-entry center, Wednesday morning to hear from women in recovery.
The Unity House is located at 35 N. Washington St., Delaware, and is designed to act as a sober recovery home for women as well as serving as a hub individuals who need assistance when they are released from jail.
The Unity House is a collaboration between Jacob’s Way Sober Living, Delaware County Re-Entry Coalition, Community of Grace and will support Delaware’s Stepping-up initiative, which aims to assist jail inmates who are dealing with mental illness and keep them out of jail.
Matt Walls, the director of Jacob’s Way, gave Portman a tour of the house and showed him where the five recovering women would be living.
“It was awesome,” Portman said. “It was like being home.”
In 2008, then-congressman Portman authored the Second Chance Act, which gave communities grants for drug treatment diversion programs, reentry court and expanded substance-abuse programs for prisoners and ex-offenders. Portman said Unity House is one of the success stories from the Second Chance Act.
“I can go back to [Washington D.C.] and say ‘does the Second Chance Act work?’ Well here’s one example,” Portman said.
Portman also spoke to three women who went through the other two Jacob’s Way sober homes and asked them what made a difference for them at Jacob’s Way.
“This is your home,” one woman said. “and you’re required to set meetings and do chores. You learn to respect your space and respect yourself.”
Another woman said when she got out of prison all she could think about was getting custody of her daughter back, but said, “I needed to learn how to be sober first.”
Portman thanked the women for telling their stories and for giving him something to take back to Washington D.C. — hope.
“[I’m taking back] stories about what’s actually working,” Portman said. “Our jails and prisons are full of people who, if given a second chance would have the opportunity to come back into the community and be productive citizens. It’s good for everybody because it reduces crime and reduces the costs of incarceration and prosecution.”
Portman said he has been working on the issues of drug abuse and re-entry for years.
“Stories of hope and success and hopefully that will enable us to keep the support going for these programs,” Portman said.
Portman then praised the Delaware Community for coming together and collaborating on The Unity House.
“It’s great to be in Delaware County,” Portman said. “This is a community that really comes together. That’s not typical all over the state. It’s very encouraging; it’s a model.”
Walls said the house was donated by First Presbyterian Church as part of Community of Grace. This is the third house of this kind he has started since he founded Jacob’s Way sober living.
Walls said he named the organization after his brother, Jacob, who passed away. He wanted to use his name to do something positive in the community. Walls said the other two houses are in Columbus and this house is the first for Delaware.
Walls said the Unity House is still seeking donations. More information can be found at http://jacobsway.org/take-action/
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.