Every day, Sheila Hall sees women come to Family House Norristown, in the grip of desperation and addiction so bad they’ve either lost custody of their children or are on track to.
And she sees herself, not so long ago.
Today, Sheila is the office manager at Family House, one of several Family Houses around the country operated by the human-services nonprofit Resources for Human Development. But just two years ago, Sheila was a resident at Family House, looking for guidance on conquering her own homelessness and addiction and putting her family back together.
“This place changed my life,’’ Sheila said. “They gave me more hope than at any time in my life. My heart is here, because it started right here for me. This place gave me my life back I didn’t want to go too far from it.
“If there’s any way possible for me to give them the hope that was given to me, I would do everything in my power to do that. Your life can change. You can have your family back again.’’
Sheila originally came to Family House with her daughter, Chanel. Family House is a unique and innovative program that works with mothers and children together in a residential treatment setting – one of only a handful of its kind in the country. RHD has founded and supports three Family House residential facilities, one in Norristown, Pa., one in Philadelphia and another just outside New Orleans.
Chanel was the inspiration for helping Sheila weather the darkest times – and helped set her on the road to recovery.
“I was here 20 days when I relapsed,’’ Sheila said. “Here. I did it right here. My daughter cried. She said to me: I don’t believe you brought me all the way up here to do the same thing again. I’d never seen tears like that from her. I’d never seen pain like that in a 9-year-old kid. And that was my moment – when I promised myself I’d never use again.
“We always say: In order to save the whole family, you’ve got to heal the whole family. That’s what makes this program so amazing – we build families, here.’’
Sheila is going to college (“After 25 years of being a dropout,’’ she says, proudly), her family is together, and she’s come back to work at Family House to help other women reclaim their lives and become the mothers to the children they always hoped they would be. She’s an amazing story, but Sheila is just one of legions of success stories at women-and-family programs throughout RHD.
Since 1982, Family House in Norristown has operated as a long-term residential treatment facility for chemically-dependent women and their children. Family House is one of only a handful of programs in the country that work with mother and child together in a residential treatment setting, addressing addiction as well as parenting skills.
“I’m so grateful to be a mother – and a good mother,’’ Sheila said. “I’m not a perfect mother. But my goal is to be the best mother I can be. I want to be with my children. We’re a family now.’’