Clergy Corner, Aug. 24, 2018


Listen to this article

The first time Andre Tinsley set foot inside the Men's SAFE House in September 2017, his life was at a crossroads.

It was September 2017, and "alcohol had taken control over my life," Tinsley says. "I had been alienated from my family, and I didn't know what to do."

Eleven months later, the Champaign man is about to graduate from the SAFE House and return to society.

"I'm a changed man, back on track," Tinsley says, adding that his stay at SAFE House, a 12-month rehabilitation program run through Canaan Baptist Church in Urbana, "turned me completely around."

Tinsley is one of hundreds of men and women who have found new starts in life through the SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Environment) houses, according to director Alan Williams.

The two SAFE Houses, supported by the Canaan Development Foundation, are residential substance-abuse programs that address the burdens people face as they work to break their addictions.

"Some people are dealing with drugs. Others are dealing with alcohol," says Canaan's Vernita Taylor. "Whenever there is an addiction, a SAFE House is a place to go to refuge, for counseling and spiritual guidance."

On Sunday afternoon, members of area churches — led by Canaan, First Presbyterian and Windsor Road Christian, will put on the 21st annual SAFE House Gospel Jazz Benefit. The event, featuring the music of Geroge and Vincent Powell, is set for 3 to 7 p.m. near the pavilion at Hessel Park.

New to the stage this year is singer/pastor Andre Crittenden, who will join a lineup that also includes Windsor Road Christian's Praise Band; Canaan's Victory Chorale, Praise Dancers and Praise Team; Phoebe Lenear; the BBL Academy Jazz Band and Drumline; and Noah I. Brown and Company.

"This is definitely a worthwhile cause," says Champaign's Monique James, a first-time volunteer.

Benefit co-coordinator Shandra Summerville says the SAFE houses are an invaluable local resource because they bring "restoration and hope to families, to communities and individuals that have been impacted by substance abuse as well as spiritual brokenness."