Tacoma Rescue Mission finds success treating homelessness and addiction with New Life Program

By Regence
November 04, 2019
Tacome Rescue Mission New Life Program

Main photo: Education and prevention curriculum are an integral part of Tacoma Rescue Mission's New Life Program

Regence believes that every partnership we cultivate, every dollar we pledge and every hour we volunteer make the communities in which we live, work and play healthier. This post is part of a blog series that highlights how Regence is collaborating with community partners to positively impact the quality of life of people and families in our communities.

For single mom Sophia, Tacoma Rescue Mission’s New Life Program offered a way out of the cruel cycle of homelessness and addiction—and she isn’t the only success story. The Tacoma Rescue Mission (TRM) provides over 300,000 free meals to those in need every year, as well as safe, warm shelter to over 1,200 homeless people in the Pierce County and Tacoma-area of Washington. As a result, hundreds re-enter the workforce, and more than half increase their income while staying at the mission.

One of TRM’s most astounding successes is New Life—a 12-month, faith-based residential addiction-recovery program, where dozens of residents achieve sobriety each year. “Our goal is to create a permanent pathway out of addiction and homelessness,” says Hayley Uliana, Tacoma Rescue Mission’s Communications Manager. “Everyone in the program is set up with a counselor and a case manager.” The program also includes prevention curriculum, high school completion, job-skills training and career coaching.

Since 2016, Regence has invested $110,000 toward TRM’s New Life program, youth programs and family services, as part of a larger partnership focused around substance abuse prevention and education. This year alone, a $20,000 commitment has been made to support the efforts of New Life, given the program’s alignment with addiction prevention and recovery—a key focus area for Regence’s community investment efforts.

Sophia’s journey

Before Sophia entered the New Life program, she had been a student, an employee and a mom. But drug addiction resulted in homelessness and sleeping in a tent. “I tried multiple times to stop. I tried multiple treatment centers. But the more time went on, the more impossible the situation became.”

It was TRM that provided meals and services that allowed Sophia the time and space to heal. “A hot meal is different for someone who’s homeless,” she says. “It’s not just eating. It’s that for two hours you’re warm, you’re safe, you can go to the bathroom, you can talk to the person you need to talk to.” Connecting with people at the mission is what led Sophia to the New Life program, where “my life was saved,” she says. 

Extended treatment is key to successful addiction recovery

The New Life program has a success rate of 54%, which is more than four times the national average for addiction recovery. Each participant is screened to make sure they are ready for the program, and that they will be a productive member of the group. Men live in a dorm-style setting at the mission, and women share apartments where those who are mothers can live with their children.

Tacoma Rescue Mission New Life Program participant
A face of recovery in the New Life Program

Tacoma Rescue Mission attributes its programmatic success to the extended length of time and holistic support that the organization provides. Most recovery programs only last two-to-four weeks, which can result in higher relapse rates. “Many other programs don’t last beyond the initial stages, or address homelessness and food insecurity—which can make it harder to step out of addiction,” adds Uliana.

TRM removes barriers to housing and food—and associated feelings of hopelessness—so “New Lifers”, those who participate in the program, can fully focus on their recovery. “Our participants have accountability to the program and each other for a full year, which is powerful,” Uliana says. “They volunteer in the kitchen and spend time together, which keeps them focused.” Participants also point to the faith-based aspect of the program, which “shows them they can put their hope and faith in something, which isn’t the case on the street where abandonment and betrayal are the norm.”

Tacoma Rescue Mission New Life Program participant for housing
Removing barriers to housing helps New Lifers focus on recovery

Funding recovery

Among the misconceptions around funding recovery is that it’s expensive, when in fact it costs only $10,000 to put one person through TRM’s entire 12-month New Life program—including counseling, room and board. According to Tacoma Rescue Mission, that’s a stark contrast to the $30,000 to $50,000 an unsheltered person in addiction and homelessness can cost tax payers annually as they are cycled through emergency departments, inpatient hospital stays, psychiatric centers, detox programs and jails.