Love Heals, and Homes Help
June 29, 2017
There is a special place in Nashville called Thistle Farms. At Thistle Farms, we daily proclaim the truth that love heals. As a woman healing from childhood sexual assault, human trafficking, drug addiction and prostitution, I walked through the doors of Thistle Farms believing that if I could stop using drugs then all of my problems would be solved. I had no idea how deep rooted my trauma was. Recovery from addiction was only the first step. Housing paired with trauma informed care were instrumental to my healing. At a standard rehab facility, housing is short-term and costly. Becca Stevens, Thistle Farms’ founder, recognized that so much more was needed for women survivors to find independence. I could hardly believe it when I came to Thistle Farms and was told I could live rent-free in a beautiful home with other survivors and focus on my recovery for two full years. I was also able to work at Thistle Farms’ social enterprise, where I continue to be employed today, in order to save money for my future. The security of knowing everything would be paid for during the whole two years allowed me some breathing space to heal. I didn’t have to worry about eviction, the electricity being cut off, where I would wash my clothes or take a shower. I knew that I had a comfortable bed to lie in, and this allowed me to focus on becoming the woman I am today.
Even with this solid foundation, finding affordable housing in Nashville, one of the U.S.’s “it cities,” continues to be a huge challenge for women who graduate from Thistle Farms’ program. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to house sit for a friend for two more years after graduation. So, I had an additional two years to really get things together. When it was time for me to get an apartment I had four years under my belt and I also was in a position at work that paid enough to have some options. My sisters at Thistle Farms, though, very rarely have the luxury of additional time and often have extreme difficulties in finding housing. Even with a full two-year recovery program, steady paychecks, and the opportunity to save, there simply is not enough safe, affordable housing that is conducive to a recovery lifestyle. Nashville’s rental vacancy rate decreased from 11.1% in 2006 to 3.7% in 2014 and rental prices have risen nearly 9% in the past year. Though we as survivors do recover and are gaining our independence, a lack of available, affordable housing can force us to live in situations that do not support the life-long healing and recovery process. I am so grateful for Thistle Farms and excited to see the 50+ organizations across the country that are implementing its housing-first recovery model. However, these organizations cannot do it alone. They need the partnership of their communities to ensure that people who had once fallen through society’s cracks and have now begun found their way to independence are not subject to more roadblocks. It is because of this community that I can honestly say that for the first time in very long time I feel innocent. To allow myself to give and receive love is so restorative and feels like redemption. I am a living witness to the truth that love is the most powerful force in the world!