The Van Ness Recovery Home opened in 1973 as a refuge for those in the gay and lesbian community to receive substance abuse treatment. In its almost 40 years, the Van Ness has since expanded to treat all individuals looking for a safe and supportive rehab to recover from addiction.
The Van Ness Recovery Home sits on a sunny, residential street in central Los Angeles, and offers members of the LGBTQ community inpatient and outpatient treatment, based on the 12-Step philosophy. The Van Ness home also offers health education classes and community outreach programs to its clients.
The Van Ness Recovery Home in those early days served primarily gay and lesbian men and women who wanted a place to rehabilitate that also treated them with dignity and respect. But as current program director, Kathy Watt (also a former resident at Van Ness) stresses Van Ness is not only a place to get off of drugs.
Van Ness is not only committed to getting residents sober, but it wants to build them up to be self-supporting, productive people. Almost 90% of residents at Van Ness had experienced homelessness in the six months before being admitted to the Van Ness house.
People come to Van Ness with little more than the clothes on their back. They face challenges particular to the LGBTQ community like a high incidence of HIV and STD infection, poverty, and legal problems.
For these reasons and more, Van Ness strives to create a supportive community where people feel accepted and wanted. But, at the same time, residents need to learn how to get themselves on track to lead long, healthy, substance-free lives.
Residents at Van Ness represent the broad, diverse communities found in Los Angeles County. From black and Hispanic, to male and female and those transitioning from male to female, and vice-versa, Van Ness prides itself on its open door, non-discriminatory policy which also accepts people unable to pay for treatment.
The Van Ness house itself houses close to 20 people at any one time. The rooms, tastefully furnished and styled, house two residents at a time.
Rooms have plenty of space to keep belongings and feature en-suite bathrooms. The rest of the facility consists of group meeting rooms, living rooms and a beautiful backyard area, complete with a swimming pool.
What it Takes
Potential residents to the Van Ness house can get referred by friends or someone from a 12-Step program. Intake assessments can be done either over the phone or in-person.
Given the limited amount of spaces at the house, applicants get put onto waiting lists. People who continue to follow-up with Van Ness staff about openings are encouraged to start attending 12-Step meetings, and to keep contacting Van Ness staff.
Once a bed has opened up, a person is told “welcome home” as they enter the house. If a resident shows up intoxicated, the in-house staff at Van Ness take steps to help them detox on the premises. The withdrawal process can last for anywhere between three to seven days.
All residents get their own “buddy” to help them adjust to life at Van Ness. Treatment follows a tight schedule. Residents must complete at least 88 hours of treatment a week, at a minimum.
These hours can be taken up either by attending meetings, taking art therapy classes or participating in the group walk during the morning. During the weekdays, new resident’s days get divided between the morning and afternoon.
In the morning, new residents attend meetings, build up their recovery networks and look for work. The evenings consist of various alternative therapies, like the art therapy class mentioned above or watching a movie dealing with gay, trans, or sobriety issues and then writing an essay about it.
Other days of the week, residents study the Big Book of AA and take addiction education classes. All HIV positive or otherwise ill residents get consistent care and assistance from Van Ness staff in the form of arranging appointments, taking them to said appointments, as well as educating them as to what medications and treatments they are taking.
Once a resident has demonstrated a commitment to sobriety and has been in residence for more than four months, the Van Ness house staff begin preparing them to conduct job or school searches. Residents receive new clothes and learn computer skills and how to tackle a job interview.
After, hopefully, finding a job, residents begin to take steps to prepare them to leave the house. First off, residents begin paying rent at the house, a $100 a week. They get help formulating budgets and create an “exit plan” with the help of their sponsors.
They map out a typical day as being a sober person. With all their time accounted for beforehand, residents can avoid encountering triggers and prevent going through relapses.
The Van Ness Recovery House is remarkable for many reasons. Aside from being one of the first treatment centers specifically for gay and lesbian men and women, its commitment to inclusivity and diversity has beckoned to its doors individuals surrounded by darkness who saw no other light than the one above the Van Ness front door.
Price for 30 days at Van Ness Recovery House: minimum $100/ after finding employment