IA: Sober-living houses seek to create family connections

Daily Nonpareil –

“Dads with a Purpose,” a nonprofit with homes in Mason City and Des Moines that aims to provide parents who have struggled with drugs and alcohol the tools and support they need to take part in their children’s lives.

When Mason City native Kevin Valentine was in the thick of his drug and alcohol problems, using rent money to buy methamphetamine and going in and out of jail, he couldn’t have imagined where he’d be now.

Those problems were a constant for him. At the age of seven, when he was largely being raised by his older brother, Valentine said he was taking sips of Crown Royal in the purple drawstring bag. By 20, Valentine said that he tried meth for the first time and it got its hooks into him.

From there it was a string of jail stays and failed treatments while seeing more and more of his family, especially his older children, want to spend less and less time around him.

“I did not see that drugs and alcohol were the problem. Everything else around me was the problem… It was always someone else,” Valentine told the Globe Gazette of Mason City.

Eventually, Valentine was able to get clean about five-and-a-half years ago and while he was in treatment, someone raised the idea to him about a sober-living house that would allow for children to visit. The idea was compelling enough to Valentine that he used the connections he’d made to see if such a thing could work.

Now Valentine is working as the housing director for “Dads with a Purpose,” a nonprofit with homes in Mason City and Des Moines that aims to provide parents who have struggled with drugs and alcohol the tools and support they need to take part in their children’s lives.

“In the past if someone said ‘Kevin Valentine works with a sober-living house,’ that would’ve been a joke all over town,” Valentine said. “I’ve been to prison, in and out of jail, in and out of treatment centers, but what I chose to do is give up my will and follow a different direction.”

In Mason City, Valentine said that Dads with a Purpose works with a group of interrelated organizations such as Beje Clark Residential Center and Prairie Ridge Integrated Behavioral Health Care to give those who might otherwise live in a halfway house another option.

There are currently eight men living at the house in Mason City, and they’re expected to get a sponsor and work a 12-step program, as well as find employment. With that, the residents are allowed to have guests at the house, but only in the common area.

The house supervisor in Mason City is Jason Hoff, who’s been working with Dads with a Purpose for going on 10 months now. Like Valentine, Hoff said he couldn’t have imagined doing something like this in the past when he was going through the worst of his struggles.

“It could’ve been so much different if I had something like this 10, 15 years ago,” Hoff said. “However, I’m just grateful for the program today, what it stands for and what I can give back to some of the younger guys.”

Valentine said that he’s incredibly happy to see people like Hoff find purpose through leading by example.

“Seeing his life change is just amazing,” Valentine said.

That sort of joy is something Valentine has experienced plenty since he started on the path with Dads with a Purpose. He gets to witness countless personal revelations by people trying to do better.

And he gets to do it with family and friends. One of his daughters and her husband do work for Dads with a Purpose as well.

At this particular moment in time, with the holidays in full swing and a pandemic and economic downturn causing a lot of anger and depression, Valentine said that he’s especially happy to get to do this work.

“To have the sober-living house and the camaraderie they create is extremely beneficial and much needed because with this; we can uplift each other and show each other there’s another alternative.”

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