Guiding Light adds sixth recovery house

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Remodeling work will soon begin on the newest Iron House, which will accommodate seven men. Courtesy Guiding Light

A local nonprofit secured another building that will become sober living apartments.

Grand Rapids-based Guiding Light said Monday that it secured a new “Iron House” in Kentwood, its sixth recovery apartment community.

The four-unit building will increase the nonprofit’s capacity to house men as they transition back into mainstream society after completing the foundation phase of Guiding Light’s recovery program.

Remodeling work will soon begin on the newest Iron House, which will accommodate seven men.

The purchase was made possible by a generous gift of nearly $260,000 from a longtime donor who believes in the Iron House model of supportive living as the key to long-term recovery success.

“I’ve long been impressed by Guiding Light’s Iron Houses and wanted to contribute to advance those efforts so more people can be helped,” said the donor, who asked to remain anonymous. “There are too many people who are lost in this world and struggling with addiction. I’ve prayed for God’s blessing on the new Iron House so we can get more people on the right track — free of drugs and alcohol, back on the job and serving our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The addition of a new Iron House comes at a time of increased substance abuse in West Michigan. Recent studies from drugabuse.com, an American Addiction Centers resource, revealed Michiganders now rank as the 10th heaviest drinkers in the nation with nearly 25% of residents admitting to drinking more heavily during the pandemic.

Since the beginning of 2021, Guiding Light has seen a sharp uptick in the number of inquiries and program enrollments for recovery. As the global COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, Guiding Light anticipates the demand will continue to grow.

“As we enter into the second year of the pandemic, more and more men are starting to realize they need help,” said Brian Elve, Guiding Light’s recovery director. “One of the greatest gifts we are able to offer through Guiding Light Recovery and Iron House is the time, space and supportive community needed to recover from addiction and to heal.

“We limit the noise of the world so clients can take an honest look at how addiction has impacted their lives. We help them learn how to be successful living life in a new way.”

The Iron House sober-living apartments, reserved exclusively for men who have finished the foundation phase of the recovery program, are clustered in a safe and family-oriented neighborhood in Kentwood. Clients who live there have completed four to six months of intensive residential treatment that combines evidence-based practices, life coaching, therapy, support groups, spiritual direction and other resources to equip men to stay sober and reengage with their family, friends and community.

In addition to abstinence-based sobriety, Iron House residents focus on honing important life skills. They all have jobs. They buy and prepare their own food, pay their own bills and engage with each other in the communal living situation. They look after and support each other, practicing community.

Guiding Light said its Iron House model is a “crucial component” in setting clients up for success in long-term recovery. The nonprofit said 78% of men who move to Iron House stay sober for a year or longer.

“We want to ensure the men who walk through our doors won’t need to come through them again,” said Stuart Ray, executive director at Guiding Light. “It’s this spirit of sustained recovery that led to the founding of Iron House in 2013 and has prompted us to add to our portfolio again.

“Expanding our transitional housing allows us to continue to provide the secure living environment and supportive community our recovery clients need as they start to live more independently.”

Iron House also is a social enterprise that generates profits that are returned to Guiding Light to support the Back to Work and Guiding Light Recovery programs to ensure they remain free to participants. Funds from Iron House and The Job Post, Guiding Light’s other social enterprise, benefit the clients while also aiding in the financial sustainability of the two programs. The programs are otherwise entirely funded by donations and grants.

More information is at Guiding Light’s website.

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