‘I got a second chance here’

When Raquel came to RHD Wister Street, she suffered from depression and had lost custody of her four-year-old daughter.

“Every day, we had to get Raquel out of bed and work to motivate her,” Program Director Nicole Brown said. “She started working hard toward her recovery and going to programs. She wanted to start doing better for herself to get her daughter back. She even paid money out of her limited resources to get a psychological evaluation to present to the court for the custody case.”

Six months before she left Wister Street, Raquel went to court to address the custody issue. She began visits with the daughter and eventually was able to leave Wister Street and move into her own housing. Three months later, the courts awarded Raquel full custody of her daughter. Today she’s working, living independently, and credits her success to the support she received at RHD Wister Street.

“Wister Street gave me the motivation, encouragement and support to keep going and to keep fighting for my daughter,” Raquel said. “The people at Wister Street are my family. Even though I’m no longer there, they continue to support me whenever I need help. Because of Wister Street, I’m in a good place mentally and physically and my daughter is healthy and happy.”

RHD Wister Street provides responsive and trauma-informed services to men and women with mental health and criminal justice histories to help them realize new possibilities and support them on their journey to return, reintegrate, and contribute to their communities. RHD Wister Street is the only co-ed re-entry program in Philadelphia with 24-hour care.

“Part of our mission is to instill our clients with dignity and to show them whatever they lost, they can get back,” Brown said. “As they go through the process, it’s amazing to see them achieve their goals and reclaim their lives. “Almost a decade ago, RHD started plans to execute the transformation model throughout its behavioral health care-focused services. We wanted to make Wister Street more like home and more safe and secure. We are very proud we have been able to achieve this. We are continually tweaking what we do to respond to the unique journey each resident experiences.”

Wister Street is home to fourteen residents. Eight men and six women receive services for a minimum of two years, but in some cases residents are there as long as four years.

“The passion our teams bring to the recovery process is unique,” Brown said. “We meet people where they are, validate them and treat them with respect and dignity at all times. This is our charge. We want them to transition to a place where they are going to be successful and manage their recovery and understand how to be independent to their fullest ability.”

When clients first arrive at Wister Street established peers help them get acclimated. Then new residents develop a vision statement and set recovery goals with care coordinators.

“I got a second chance here,” said Yvonne. “They give us freedom and treat us with respect.” “Wister Street gave me a helping hand,” said Michelle. “Without Wister Street, I may not even be here. They cared when I needed it most.”

To stay focused on recovery, individuals at Wister Street engage in meaningful daytime activities, such as school, work, recovery programs and family visits.

“People come here having lost everything. We want to make their stay something they can take with them forever, and they can reflect on as a good experience,” Brown said. “We are proud of the work we do at Wister Street. It’s been my passion, and the team’s passion, to serve others.”