There is no single happy ending for a recovering addict. Addiction is a lifelong disease. Temptation lies around every corner, or at least every major life event.“In recovery we say, ‘Keep it simple,'” said NeCola Henderson. “The more simplified and structured your life is, the better the outcome tends to be.”
Henderson knows that as well as anybody. She’s a counselor who helps parents with drug problems through Morrison Child & Family Services. She’s also a recovering addict.
Four years ago, the closest thing she had to a home was a bus stop at the corner of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Failing Street. Today, she’s preparing to move into the new Miracles Club Apartments, which get their first tenants later this month and will be open for a public viewing and celebration at 10 a.m. Friday.
The club, a Northeast Portland nonprofit, was founded in 1993 by three men looking for a drug-free place to socialize. In the intervening years, thousands of addicts, most African American, have sought help and attended 12-step meetings at the club’s offices, a cramped, overheated old industrial space at the corner of MLK and Northeast Mason.
Five years ago, the building’s owner warned Miracles Club leaders that he was looking to sell and that they should find a new home. City Commissioner Dan Saltzman and the Portland Development Commission helped them do more than that. The club’s new five-story building, kitty-corner from the old location, includes meeting space and offices on the ground level and four floors of affordable housing above. Rents on the 40 new apartments, meant as permanent housing for recovering addicts with at least a year of sobriety and limited means, run from $326 to $730 a month.
Taxpayers picked up most of the $12 million tab through grants, loans and tax breaks. Feel free to gripe about this unconventional use of our money, about handouts to people who’ve made horrible choices. I prefer to see this as an investment, a compassionate and smart one, that will save public money down the road. Drug and alcohol addiction causes crime, homelessness, unwanted pregnancies, child abuse, domestic violence and an assortment of other problems that can get very expensive.
“Once you are in the cycle, it’s hard to get out,” said Henderson, who began using heroin at 17 and tried to end her addiction “more times than I can remember” before making it. She was five months pregnant when she entered rehab for good; she was prompted by her desire to be a decent mother and by a drug rehab counselor who happened to see her at her bus stop.The new Miracles Club houses offices, meeting rooms and 40 apartment units designed for people with a year of sobriety under their belts. Taxpayers put up most of the $12 million cost.
“He asked me if I would take a spot in treatment if he could find one for me,” she said. “I guess I was just finally ready.”
Today, her daughter, 3, bugs her daily about when they can move into their new place.
“She has a Dora the Explorer bed and knows exactly where she wants to put it,” said Henderson, 42.
Their third-floor apartment is small and Spartan, yet large enough for the two of them to live and for Henderson’s teen-aged son to visit. It’s across the street from her daughter’s day care, has a balcony that will be perfect for grilling and features a dishwasher, Henderson’s first.
And when she needs some moral support, all she has to do is ride the elevator down two flights.
“I still need to see my girls and go to my groups,” she said. “I still need to stop sometimes to remind myself how far I’ve come and how far I have to go.”