(Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series highlighting the women living at Gilead House, a nonprofit that provides re-entry housing for women recovering from drug addictions.)
In the former YWCA in downtown Kokomo, 25 women eat, sleep, and receive treatment. At Gilead House, the women are seeking to get their lives back on track after suffering from varying addictions.
The program, which began in July 2018, gives women leaving the Howard County jail a sober environment as many of them, according to director Reba Harris, don’t have a safe place to return to.
Since opening the housing portion of the nonprofit, Gilead House has housed 73 women and provided them intensive drug treatment. The nonprofit also works with other men and women in individual and group sessions for addiction counseling.
However, the facility is up against financial hardships as $130,000 is needed to put in a sprinkler system, as required by the Kokomo Fire Department. Over the past two years, Harris received two variances from the state to hold off on the installation but could not receive a third. A GoFundMe page has been started by local attorney Laura O’Donnell with the goal of raising $150,000 by February.
The extra $20,000, if raised, will help with operational costs. The program is funded through a state grant from Recovery Works, but Recovery Works requires organizations to have a doctor overseeing the programs who have a Health Service Provider in Psychology (HSPP) certification, according to Harris. Gilead House did not, and as of July 1, a moratorium was put on the nonprofit. Harris hopes that will be lifted soon, as a local doctor with proper certification has agreed to oversee the program.
Harris is hoping the community will help raise the money. Without Gilead House, countless women will lose the opportunity to have a real shot at recovery, she said.
Currently, 25 women live at Gilead House. These are their stories, as told by them.
Jordan Taylor, 29
In the two weeks before Jordan Taylor ended up at Gilead House, she overdosed three times on heroin and six times in total in the past year. Today, she has a large vertical incision on her torso that serves as a reminder of those overdoses.
Last month, Taylor had surgery due to air becoming trapped inside her torso. The condition, called pneumoperitoneum, was caused by improper CPR that was given to her by a family member who was trying to save her from an overdose.
She was in the hospital for 11 days and the intensive care unit for several of those days.
“I’m glad I’m back here because I’m a drug addict, and I went through withdrawals at the hospital. I was scared, and the ladies came down and visited me in (the hospital in) Indianapolis,” she said.
Taylor’s struggle with addiction began when she was 13, and over the past 10 years, she’s been in and out of legal trouble.
“I wasn’t even close to having a good head on my shoulders or knew what life was about. I could never say that. I just say don’t be judgmental. You never know what anybody is going through, whether it’s addiction or not. That’s the way I look at it because if I look at a 13 year old using, they don’t know at 29 they’re going to be like me, overdose six times at 29,” she said.
Taylor has never made it more than two years clean. Usually, she makes it about 14 months, she said. With the help of Gilead House, she’s hoping to maintain her sobriety.
Kimberly Hensley, 56
For the past five years, Kimberly Hensley’s life was spiraling out of control after she began using and manufacturing spice.
But before that, an abusive relationship led her to abuse alcohol.
“I had a very abusive husband, so I started drinking. I drank a lot. I would drink first thing when I got up in the morning and all through the day into night when I went to sleep because my husband was very abusive. If I was drunk, it wouldn’t hurt as bad,” she said.
Hensley finally broke off the relationship, and she said she able to stop drinking. However, she and her husband ended up getting back together, and they started doing spice. That’s when, she said, she began getting into drugs heavily. Her children had been taken away from her, and she felt she had nothing left to lose.
She said she smoked as much as she could as often as she could.
“My reason for caring was, well, I didn’t have one,” she said.
Hensley began getting in trouble with the law, and once that started, she said she couldn’t stay out of trouble. She liked the drug so much, she said, that she didn't care about the repercussions.
However, for the past nearly two years, Hensley has been getting her life back on track. Two years ago, her ex-husband died, and Hensley has been clean for 22 months. Still, she said she knows she needs the help offered at Gilead House.
“I know I’m still an addict, and I just thank the Lord almighty for Miss Reba and this place because it’s helping me heal,” she said. “I found out things that I had no idea what was wrong with me, and they’re teaching me. They’re amazing, and I just thank the Lord for them every night.”
Kaylie Salazar, 31
Kaylie Salazar has been battling two addictions: alcoholism and an eating disorder.
After going to jail for petition to revoke a suspended sentence, Salazar ended up at Gilead House where she has been for the past 35 days at the time of the interview.
Harris said Salazar’s situation is a little different. Once the 31 year old got into Gilead House, staff members helped her get health insurance, and Harris’ hope is that she will be able to leave Gilead House and go to in-patient treatment for her eating disorder at a hospital specializing in treating eating disorders. Upon her release of treatment there, should that happen, Harris said Salazar still will have a bed at Gilead House as she continues to recover.
“She’s come a long way,” said Harris. “A lot of the women, of course, didn’t know she had an eating disorder, so we kind of worked with her to say, 'OK, she’d been here for a while.' We wanted her to go ahead and share that, but then it also educated the women on how they could help her and not hinder her … It was a good thing, and I think she’s done so much better now that they know her secret that was a secret to her.”
Salazar said if it wasn’t for Gilead House, she’d be “at home, getting sick, drinking, probably not trying to better my life.”
“It’s been really good here. I’m getting a lot of help. I went to jail for PTR for drinking, but a lot of my addiction with alcohol relates to my eating disorder. I’ve never really go a lot of help for that, so I ended up here on in-home. I’m trying to take care of the things that trigger my alcoholism.”