PICO BLVD — One year ago, Andreau walked through the CLARE Foundation’s door with a bag on her back with four pairs of pants — none of which fit — and nothing else.
Today, she’s a senior resident living at the CLARE Foundation’s newest facility, a 40-bed detox and sober living house that caters specifically to women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
She has keys to the new building, and is charged with helping other residents through their battle against old demons that have, in many cases, ruined their lives.
“I was not a trusted member of society,” Andreau said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Andreau’s story is emblematic of what the CLARE Foundation works to accomplish with its clients, and of the organization’s hopes for the all-female facility on the 800 block of Pico Boulevard.
The Women’s Treatment Program aims to pair women with gender-specific treatments to guide them out of addiction and achieve self-sufficiency.
It houses 18 residents on its first floor for short-term detox stays, while the 22 beds on the second floor are reserved for women working their way through a six to nine-month program to get them ready to re-enter society.
The facility hopes to help 275 women a year through residential and other programs offered at the site.
“Within these walls, hundreds of women will gain sobriety,” said Dorothy Richards, a board member with the CLARE Foundation.
CLARE first decided to offer gender-specific services in 2003. The program evolved organically as staff realized that women and men have different needs, said Debra Poorman, manager at the CLARE Foundation.
“Women have different problems in recovery,” Poorman said. “They don’t have as much money and they have a hard time finding housing.”
This program helps women rebuild their self-esteem and, by month four, sets them up with Chrysalis, another nonprofit that helps the women acquire job skills.
“We work from the inside out,” Poorman said.
Women stay in the program as little as 10 days to get off of drugs and alcohol and as long as nine months to work the full program.
The first residents of the facility moved in roughly two weeks ago, Poorman said.
It’s been a long journey to get them there.
The facility has been in the works for almost six years as the nonprofit sought the $2.5 million it needed to renovate its building on Pico Boulevard, ultimately receiving major funding from Los Angeles County and the state as well as cash from the city of Santa Monica and the Annenberg Foundation.
“It was fully subscribed before the project began, which is a miracle in the social services world,” said Nicholas Vrataric, executive director at CLARE.
The building has been all things to all people, including office space and a youth recovery program. It was up to Ralph Mechur, an architect and member of the local Board of Education, to remodel the space to make it fit the needs of the program.
“It’s a puzzle,” Mechur said. “You’re basically trying to understand the services they want to provide and seeing how we can make that work within the constraints of the existing building.”
The building was originally constructed in the 1960s, Mechur said, and it came with its own challenges like water and termite damage.
He also had to meet strict environmental standards with solar cells to provide electricity, a solar water heater for the showers and sinks and sustainable flooring that Mechur called “bio tile.”
The green amenities do a double duty of meeting grant requirements and keeping the facility’s operating costs low, only $670,000 a year including staffing.
The result is a compact, clean facility with doors to rooms facing an inner courtyard. The beds are dressed in bright, cheerful sheets with flowers, and the walls are hung with unique paintings and art.
It offers office spaces, group and meeting rooms and an industrial-grade kitchen where women can prepare their own meals.
Caitlyn, another resident staff member, joined CLARE in July. The program has been a boon to her and other women who need support through their recovery, she said.
“Being a woman in recovery has its own issues,” she said. “Here, we have a home of women who understand you.”