How REAL LIFE homes are helping real Richmonders regain control of their lives

Posted at 1:55 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 18:22:20-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Scattered around Richmond, there are homes set-up to help people who have been recently released from jail or prison get their lives back on track.

The eight transitional homes are operated by REAL LIFE.

“REAL stands for Recovery from Everyday Addictive Lifestyle. There are so many different things that are addictive that people face that don’t involve drug use," pathway navigator Thomas Young, Jr. said. “It’s something that I tell clients when they come to us, if you’re ready for change, if you’re truly ready for change, this is the place for you."

Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, a former Richmond City Jail program director, founded the organization in 2016.

“We work with folks who are trying to overcome adversities from former incarceration and those who are battling homelessness and substance abuse disorder," Dr. Scarbrough said. "We work with them primarily through housing them in recovery housing and then helping them on their pathway towards thriving.”

Maurice Washington, a REAL LIFE program graduate, lives in eastern Henrico.

Washington and other graduates are often asked to dedicate six months living in one of the organization’s transitional homes.

Five of those homes opened in the last year as demand grew after men and women were released from jail early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was everything I needed," Washington said. "I was able to accomplish all my goals.”

After attending multiple daily meetings, like Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous, meeting with case managers, and attending job searching classes, Washington was asked to stay with REAL LIFE to become a house manager.

He also recently wrote a children's book called The 12 Step Ladder.

His book is about the essential keys to life.

“If I can help, I want to help! I want to be a part of this program as much as I can," he said. “This has helped me a lot as far as managing a lot of people. It’s going to help me more in the business world as well so I looked at it as an opportunity to grow more.”

Xavier Cooper, the newest resident, said he noticed a difference in himself within a couple of weeks.

He credited REAL LIFE’s holistic and comprehensive approach.

“It helps me to understand things I wanted to know or didn’t know I wanted to know," Cooper said. “Patience, you know what I’m saying? Not rushing I know it’s going to help me get on track.”

Dr. Scarbrough said they have statistics that show they can keep thousands of REAL LIFERS with whom they've worked, and the hundreds they’ve housed over the last five years on track.

“We have a one percent re-incarceration rate for folks that come through our program and a seven percent relapse rate," she said. "If you look at statistics through the city from the city jail it’s about a 70 percent re-incarceration rate. So that’s a tremendous difference.”

“To see them work, get that paycheck, come here and lay their head down in peace and get up with a sense a pride it makes it worthwhile," Young said. "Is it easy to get there? No! But for those who do it works.”

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