Welcome House – 50 Years Of Service
“My story is not unique or unusual. It’s about falling to depths never expected. It’s about all hope being gone,” said Jamie Boyle, CEO and president of Welcome House. Jamie talks the talk and walks the walk, every single day: the walk of sobriety, the walk of redemption, the walk of hope being right around the corner, found just by taking the first step. His journey from the disease of addiction to recovery and eventually leading Welcome House was typical for many men; thinking he could manage it, not managing it, self-destruction, and, admitting that finally, he, alone, could choose to be accountable and responsible.
Welcome House has been opening residential recovery doors to men with the disease of addiction since 1941, when Johnny P. brought the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous to Kansas City from Chicago. The first AA group meeting was in the Victoria Hotel at 9th and McGee. In 1970, seven men, and some friends with extensive recovery experiences, decided to start a new group, Performance III, or PIII. Finding the men who needed help was not an issue for PIII, but finding places to commit to the life of sobriety was nearly impossible. The group went from renting rooms in rundown hotels to renting a three-bedroom house to call its own. In 1971, acquiring the house next door and being able to accommodate 16 men, the Welcome House was officially a vital local resource for recovery.
Fast forward through several moves, expansions, and building improvements, and Welcome House now resides at 1414 East 27th Street and has a (pre-COVID-19) capacity of 82 beds. Men are admitted on the basis of having a sincere and serious desire for recovery,” said Jamie. “Our tools, our interventions, our programs won’t help the man who isn’t ready to help himself,” he added. The Core Program, the heart of Welcome House, is staffed by men who have the education and training and experience to recognize addiction and assess the readiness of the man who is seeking help. Each of the staff has been there before. Once admitted, the hard work begins. The program includes: an active 12-step program, building healthy and positive relationships, adopting healthy lifestyles, attaining skills to obtain employment and become financially stable, and the tools to lead productive and meaningful lives.
How is The Core Program accomplished? According to Jamie, it works by, “Giving men the message of sobriety and recovery, meeting them where they are in their lives, and finding the right time to give them the message that Welcome House can provide the paths to stay engaged in the program.” The Core Program provides the tenets of lay counseling and recovery coaching; Welcome House University; employment; recovery aftercare; relationships; and health and wellness. It is also about creating personal connections inside the recovery process. “Personal connections are the way out of addiction,” emphasized Jamie. “Opportunities for success are found in one-on-one interactions. When someone is a relatable mentor, it improves the chance that the person seeking recovery will open up and work with the tools of the program.”
The length of residency at Welcome House is a robust nine months. While there are some exceptions for unique circumstances, nine months is the amount of time best suited to a sustainable recovery, and no one stays past 12 months. “We are realists, though,” added Jamie. “We are unsuccessful more times than we are successful. Let me repeat that. We are unsuccessful more times than we are successful.” There is a very long pause after that claim. “But,” Jamie’s face brightened again, “In the next 50 years, we will still be delivering the mission and improving the outcomes. There will be innovation and change, we will embrace what works, we will keep our minds open, and we will continue to use our tools.” In the meantime, the board and staff will continue to fundraise so that clients have only the financial responsibility of $24 per day which serves as skin in the game.
Not wanting to overshadow the intention of covering the importance of 50 years of Welcome House successes with his own story, Jamie insisted that he must acknowledge all of the men who have come before him. From Johnny P., to the PIII, to each and every man who has had to confront the disease of addiction, he is grateful to them all. He is also a joyous, bright light in a Chiefs jersey who was jubilantly heading off to a luncheon after our conversation. In perfect reflection, Jamie said, “I am not powerless. I might need help, but I can change that and be accountable and responsible: every day, at Welcome House.”
Also featured in the March 6, 2021 issue of The Independent
By Anne Potter Russ
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