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Addiction Center Finds A Home

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Christin says he wants to avoid the stereotype that the center will bring loitering addicts or criminals to the area. Its peer-led, live-in structure means the Healing Place won't draw a lot of traffic, he says. Few may realize it's even there.

Reggie Gordon, director of Homeward, praises the Healing Place program, which is similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous. Drug addiction is the most pressing problem facing local homeless-services agencies, he says — "It's like the elephant in the living room." Yet some leaders of those agencies fear the addition of another nonprofit will further sap the limited funds available, Christin says.

Their fears aren't realistic, he says. While most agencies get money from funding organizations like the United Way, grants and a wide base of donors, the Healing Place's strategy is different.

"We're going to a handful of people and asking them for a lot of money," Christin says.

The Jenkins Foundation already has given the center $150,000 toward the $1 million Christin estimates will be necessary to get started. Longtime supporter Jim Ukrop is trying to recruit some of the city's "heavy hitters" to fly to the original Healing Place in Louisville, Ky. Visits in the 1990s by prominent city leaders, including then-Mayor Tim Kaine and Ukrop, helped build support for the center in Richmond, Christin says.

Ukrop says they were impressed by the center's 65 percent recovery rate and low cost — about $18 per day, per person. The Louisville center also says it saves local government about $3 million annually in emergency room visits and jail costs, because it gives police another, better place to take addicted homeless people they find on the streets. The center has since been copied in five other large cities.

Christin says he also hopes to open a small detox center in conjunction with Medical College of Virginia Hospitals later this spring. —

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