CHAMPAIGN — The Rev. B.J. Tatum has seen how a year-long residential program for men suffering from drug addictions can change lives for the better.
He also knows how much women — some of them moms with drug problems — need the kind of SAFE House he and his Urbana congregation started for men back in 1994.
So women are soon going to have a SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Environment) House of their own in Champaign.
"When we opened the men's SAFE House, women's addiction wasn't as prevalent as it is today," says Tatum, senior pastor at Canaan Baptist Church, Urbana. "That's why we're opening the women's SAFE House."
The house, set to open Oct. 14 at 502 E. Church St., C, can keep 10 women for a 12-month program, and it's already got 10 women lined up for the first year and a waiting list, the pastor says.
His church has also lined up families who have been screened and selected to care for the women's children while they spend their year in the residential program, Tatum says.
The women's SAFE House will operate on the same holistic program as the men's SAFE House, he says.
"Pain is the problem, and how one responds to the pain. Addictions push pain out of sight. You need a program like ours to help them recover from this damage, and it takes work, it takes time and it takes a power greater than yourself."
In all recovery programs, there's a higher power people must believe in, Tatum says, and that power at SAFE House is Jesus Christ.
"Ours revives their passion for living, gives them a new perspective on life," he says.
The process takes a year, Tatum says, because the first six or eight months can be taken up for some people just opening up and dealing with all the pain that turned them into substance abusers to begin with.
Like the men's SAFE House program, the women's program will incorporate a structured regimen of education, worship, group therapy, personal counseling, volunteer work and personal enrichment.
Children of women entering the program will have regular contact with their mothers, Tatum says.
The host families will have a support group, too, "because they're going to need support also, in terms of being able to do things, so it's a whole system of support we've identified for the children," he says.
While the temporary separation of moms and kids may sound hard, Tatum says, a system of host families through the church makes it easier for women to seek help because they don't want their children turned over to the state's foster care system.
Women coming to the SAFE House will be asked to pay $100, but beyond that, there's no charge for the year. The program is entirely supported by donations, Tatum says.
Donors and church partners to help foot the cost would be welcome, he says.
His church purchased the house but has a mortgage to pay off, and the cost to run the women's program will run $130,000 to $140,000 a year, he says.
"These are not ladies who are members of our church," he says. "This touches everybody, so to donate to the program is to affect the community."
Tatum recalls disturbing trends decades ago projecting about three-quarters of African-American men would wind up dead or in jail and most African-American families would be headed by women, and his church's decision to work actively to make a difference. SAFE House was part of that, and it won't end with the new house for women, Tatum says.
The church is also making plans to open a SAFE House for children and teens with drug problems within a year, he says.
Donations for the new women's SAFE House can be sent to: Canaan Development Foundation, 404 W. Main St., Urbana, IL 61801.