A house that welcomes men who have experienced homelessness and have been going through alcoholism treatment in Traverse City, Michigan uses a model of care that does not require abstinence from alcohol.
Dann’s House is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that has a staff comprised of professionals and volunteers who are specially trained to follow the harm reduction model.
The basis of the model fundamentally is to prioritize harm prevention instead of complete sobriety.
It follows the premise that society has always encompassed cases of homelessness and substance abuse. Thus, aiming to lower the detriment of such situations is better than aiming to eliminate them altogether.
While harm reduction recognizes that abstinence may be the ideal outcome for individuals who have a substance use disorder, it accepts alternative improvements.
For the residents of the house this means that, in addition to shelter, they get to receive professional support as they go through alcoholism treatment but at the same time they get the green light to drink as much they wish — the staff at Dann’s House does not impose limitations on how much alcohol the residents consume.
However, they are very cautious about making sure that the men are not engaging in any kind of illegal or violent activity.
Every member of the staff is a person who has experienced homelessness or struggled with a substance use disorder in the past. Their training and accommodations were funded by startup grant of $35,000 from the Michigan Department of Community Health as well as aids coming from organizations such as Rotary.
The house is governed by a board of directors and has been supported by private donations and contributions from local community members or businesses.
Additionally, the men who reside there are expected to contribute to the cost of their housing. However, the rent each occupant should be paying is calculated with consideration to how much they earn. Those who do not have any income are expected to apply to receive assistance from the government, while the residents who already have earnings are expected to allocate 30 percent of their total income to the nonprofit.
All of the residents of the facility are employed and partake in volunteering efforts. According to the representatives of the nonprofit, the men have all managed to cut their alcohol intake in half, at least. They have also been able to keep their health in check by having regular appointments with different healthcare providers.
The staff reaches out to check in with each one of the residents a few times every day and provide them with the assistance they need — from healthcare orientation and objective planning to transportation or simply companionship.
Members of the Dann’s House board, which includes officers from the Traverse City Police Department, have stated that the model of alcoholism treatment implemented by the house has assisted the residents and improved the safety of the region.
Although the house only allows male occupants, the representatives of the nonprofit have stated that they intend to establish a similar site to welcome women going through similar situations as the current residents.