Robert Jones came back to Campbell River to visit his daughter and four grandchildren about a year ago. He hadn’t been in town for a while at that point, and what he saw happening in the community caught him off guard.
“I know what addiction looks like,” he says. “I know what dope sick looks like, and I saw it all over when I was there. Campbell River was not like that just a few short years ago.”
Being the executive director for Pathway To Freedom – a non-profit society that operates recovery homes for men suffering from addiction – he knew he had to do something to help.
Pathway To Freedom currently operates four recovery houses in Surrey, and Jones wants to bring two more to Campbell River.
“Shelters are great and all,” Jones says, “but at the same time, these people need actual help. Sure, they have a place to stay, but as soon as they leave in the morning, they’re back at ‘er again.”
While the society’s homes are rigidly structured in terms of being zero-tolerance, what activities take place, what chores are done, what time meetings happen and when meals take place, etc., Jones doesn’t believe in structuring timelines for recovery itself.
“I spent pretty much my whole young life in and out of recovery centres,” Jones says, “and 28 days is not even remotely close to enough time. I went to a 28-day centre once and there was a group of us that all went in at the same time, and we swapped phone numbers and stuff when we left. Three of those guys died within the first week out, and I quickly stopped answering the phone when the others called, because they wanted to go out drinking.”
There certainly is structure in the Pathway To Freedom houses, though, right down to when residents are allowed to use electronic devices like phones, and what time – and on which days – they need to ask permission to be out after 11 p.m.
There’s also a strict no-substances policy.
“I don’t give tests on Mondays or Wednesdays or Fridays,” he says. “I give tests when I feel like it. If someone had a thought of using, they won’t, because there’s no telling when Rob Jones is gonna spring a test on you.”
And they’re not pay-to-play facilities, either. Pathway To Freedom is government funded, and there are often funds available to them for taking in the men they house.
But not always.
“I’ve got seven guys right now that don’t have funding, and they’re probably not going to get it,” he says. “That’s okay. That’s not what it’s about. I’m here to help these people. I got into this after owning a construction company. I don’t need money.
“I just want to help,” he continues. “That’s my hometown. And enough is enough. Are we going to come to town and open a couple houses and make everything all hunky-dory and roses? Probably not. Probably not. But we can only do the best we can, and I’m actually pretty good at what I do.”
While Jones says he would love to have the new facilities operational by April of next year, the organization is still in the exploratory phase. He has, however, written to the city to express his interest and gauge their support for the idea.
“At this point we would just be looking for your support in this process and the knowledge that we would not be stepping on your toes, so to speak, by moving forward with this plan of ours,” the letter reads. “We have already secured the funding to get started, so that isn’t an issue. We just want to make sure that moving forward we would have your support and blessings in going ahead with our application for a business license and so we would be able to get the process started as soon as possible.”
Council, upon receipt of the letter, was enthusiastic about the prospect of two new recovery houses coming to town. Currently, there is only one such facility in the city, Second Chance Recovery House, which has room for six men in supportive recovery and four crisis stabilization beds.
“It’s clear that a lot of the homelessness issues we’re having are actually addictions issues,” says Coun. Ron Kerr. “So the thought of having more recovery houses locate here is quite exciting. I think this is a very positive thing for Campbell River.”
City staff was directed to work with Pathways To Freedom on moving forward with their proposal.