When you are in recovery from addiction, having a home that provides a sense of stability, consistency, and organization can provide great benefits to your overall well-being. Just ask Theresa Brown, a former resident of the Avivo apartment complex that was renovated thanks to the BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation/HomeAid Twin Cities and build partners The Kingdom Builders, Crystal Kitchen Center, and Soderberg Apartment Specialists.
The Avivo apartment complex is home to women and their children who participate in Avivo’s family treatment program. Housing is critical for mothers to focus on recovery, go back to school, and find employment.
“When you suffer from an addiction, you always keep repeating yourself — making the same mistakes over and over again,” says Brown. “That’s why experiencing the remodeling of the apartment I lived in showed that change is possible, and this is a huge concept for a recovering addict to accept. You have to work for it, but change can happen. The feeling of newness that the renovation provided was wonderful.”
Avivo is one of the largest behavioral health and workforce development nonprofits in Minnesota and has been around since 1960. An important part of Avivo’s family treatment programs is the housing the organization provides so mothers and their children can focus on recovery.
Approximately 96% of the 15,000 individuals Avivo serves each year live in poverty or extreme poverty. They may struggle with addiction or mental illness, experience homelessness, or cannot find work that pays living wages. About 68% of individuals the organization serves are women.
“One of the many things that makes Avivo unique is our substance abuse treatment program that serves pregnant and parenting mothers,” says Kelly Matter, president and CEO of Avivo. “We are one of the only providers in the state where mothers may enter treatment with their children, ages infant to 17.”
That’s why the quality of the housing provided to these women and children is vital. So in 2018, the BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation and three build partners completely renovated all of the units in Avivo’s eight-plex apartment building that is family recovery housing. Specifically, the remodeled apartment building is home to 40 women and their families each year.
“That’s why experiencing the remodeling of the apartment I lived in showed that change is possible, and this is a huge concept for a recovering addict to accept.” – Theresa Brown
As Brown explains, the apartments were in bad shape. “The appliances functioned and were clean but were really old and the bathroom fixtures were not the best,” Brown says. “The entire apartment badly needed to be renovated.”
Avivo simply couldn’t afford to do the renovation of the complex so that’s where the Foundation stepped in. The building and remodeling team stripped all eight apartments down to the studs and plywood flooring and then completely remodeled the units, which included installing new bathroom and kitchen fixtures, cabinets, plumbing, walls, trim, flooring, electrical fixtures, and appliances.
Brown agrees that living in clean, updated, and freshly painted apartments instills hope, and a sense that the women can take the next steps to living lives of recovery.
“Living in a nice space makes it so much easier to maintain and focus on recovery,” says Brown, who has since moved out of Avivo’s housing and is continuing in the next phase of recovery. The women in Avivo’s outpatient treatment program stay in the transitional recovery housing for nine months to over a year.
“For Avivo, we are grateful that we have an asset that reflects the quality of our mission and we can fulfill our mission better with up-to-date facilities that don’t require constant attention and expense,” Matter says.
The builders, remodelers, and trade partners that helped make this housing a reality are proud to see how this work impacts real lives.
“Hearing some of the stories of the people that have come through the program and how this housing has blessed them, it puts a smile back on my face,” says Lee Juvland, owner of The Kingdom Builders.
Brown shared her journey of living a sober life and establishing a stronger relationship with her daughter at the Foundation’s 2019 Hearts in Housing Gala. Her story resonated with many in the room, and over 400 attendees raised to their feet, roared with support, and thanked Brown with a standing ovation at the event.
“We believe everyone deserves the chance to live well and work well,” Matter says. “The remodeled apartments are amazing. The women who live here, many for the first time, experience that they deserve a nice place to live. This gives them a feeling of self-worth, which is really important to the recovery process.”