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How Caritas is breaking the cycle of addiction: 'We see lives changed everyday'

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Posted at 7:07 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 08:34:31-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- For the past five decades, the organization known as Caritas has been helping thousands of people yearly dealing with homelessness and addiction by using the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous in the metro Richmond area.

Now they’re doing it all under one roof after opening their doors last December with a new center located at the former Philip Morris tobacco warehouse in south Richmond.

“We took a dilapidated 120,000 square foot manufacturing facility and turned it into this beacon of hope for our community,” said Karen Stanley, president and CEO of Caritas.

Stanley took CBS 6 on a tour of the brand new $28 million facility. She says it features an emergency center for men and women, a furniture bank, and employment program, as well as sober living apartments where people can stay live for up to two years.

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“It’s such a beautiful building. We didn’t skimp anywhere. We wanted to show dignity for the people we serve and for our staff because we work hard. It’s not easy work,” said Stanley.

When the shelter is fully operational and is not impacted by COVID restrictions, it can house up to 300 people. And its staff, about 25% of it, have been through one of the abstinence programs Caritas offers and use the second chance they’ve been given to help others.

“That common thread that we all have of that broken feeling and the hopelessness, that’s universal for all addicts and alcoholics and it enables us to kind of touch on a spiritual level,” said Benjamin Carr, transition manager of the Caritas recovery residence.

He originally came as a client in 2017 before becoming a full-time employee. Carr said the new building couldn’t have come at a more critical time as fatal drug overdoses in the city has climbed almost 20% during the pandemic compared to last year, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“Now we have to face it on both fronts. So, we have to combat both substance abuse disorder, but we have to do it in a manner is safe for both our participants as well as our staff,” said Carr.

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Caritas also hired local artists to paint murals throughout the building. Stanley said it brings beauty and hope to people that are in a really in a tough part of their life and make it a welcoming place.

Artist Heide Trepanier said she hopes her piece does just that.

“This is about weathering change and being able to come out on the other side of something and feel good about yourself. So, just honoring the people that go through that,” said Trepanier.

Caritas primary mission has always been to break the cycles of addiction and allow individuals to reclaim their dignity.

Over the years, they’ve helped well over 100,000 people overcome their substance abuse to start again. Stanley said they will continue to help as many more as they have to in Richmond.

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“We see lives change every day and we get to just experience that with them and walk alongside them and it’s miraculous,” said Stanley

If you or someone you know needs helps with substance abuse and are looking for more information about all the programs and services Caritas provides, call 804-358-0964.

Watch Rob Desir's "Our RVA" reports Wednesdays on CBS 6 News at 4 and 5:30 p.m. If you know someone Rob should feature, email him at Rob.Desir@wtvr.com

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