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One woman's 'courage to change' leads to expansion of women's residential recovery program

Deborah Merritt, member of City Gospel Mission's board of directors, stands to the left of Lucretia Bowman, Vice President of Recovery Services, during the groundbreaking ceremony of City Gospel Mission's women's residential recovery facility.
Jolene Almendarez
/
WVXU
Deborah Merritt, member of City Gospel Mission's board of directors, stands next to Lucretia Bowman, Vice President of Recovery Services, during the groundbreaking ceremony of City Gospel Mission's women's residential recovery facility.

Lucretia Bowman says she used to be a criminal stuck in a cycle of crime rooted in her trauma. Roughly five years after being released from prison, she and her husband invited five women struggling with addiction to live with them and work toward a faith-based recovery. It's been about 25 years since then, and on Wednesday, she and a community of supporters broke ground on the expansion of City Gospel Mission's women's residential recovery program.

"So, whatever the trauma is, you can come here. It doesn't have to be about drugs or alcohol. It's life-controlling pain [that needs to be addressed]," says Bowman, founder of Having the Courage to Change and vice president of City Gospel Mission's Recovery Program. "And you can come here and live here with us in this community. We will help you walk through that pain, love you through it and help you get on the road that you need to be on."

The $6 million, privately funded project creates space for 32 more women in community living space with access to programs and other assistance to get them on the path of independent, sober living. It will be 15,000-square feet and include meeting, classroom and counseling spaces. When completed, the entire residential facility will house a total of 68 women.

City Gospel says 77% of 2020 participants in the program were sober and in stable living within one year.

Lucretia Bowman, Vice President of City Gospel Mission's Recovery Program, shovels the first pile of dirt at a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday. An expansion of the multi-residence building will house 32 more women seeking addiction services. Eight other supporters wait to shovel dirt while wearing hardhats.
Jolene Almendarez
/
WVXU
Lucretia Bowman, Vice President of City Gospel Mission's Recovery Program, shovels the first pile of dirt at a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday. An expansion of the multi-residence building will house 32 more women seeking addiction services.

Amanda Graves graduated from the program eight years ago and also spoke at the groundbreaking.

"I came through the program addicted to heroin," she said. "And this space at this program gave me all the resources and the love that I needed to walk in my purpose today."

In addition to community members, Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, and council members Scotty Johnson and Meeka Owens were in attendance to congratulate the organization on the project.

Kearney said the project initially sparked resistance from the community who had concerns about parking and the size of the new project. But City Gospel employees and neighbors worked to find a middle ground, reducing the number of beds offered and noting that participants won't have vehicles.

"The City Gospel Mission changes lives for women, for children, for men, for families, and this is going to be transformative for our women," Kearney said. "I am just so happy and City Council is so supportive. We appreciate you, you are really making our city better."

The project is expected to be completed in May 2023.