The Roanoke Rescue Mission is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Way Forward program.
It aims to combat substance abuse, often in those with nowhere else to turn.
The requirements are strict and the expectations are high, but people in the program say it’s nothing short of life-saving.
Lisa Pero is only the most recent example, coming for help back in October weighing just 93 pounds and on the heels of a 30-year drug dependency.
She says she had multiple felonies, no permanent place to sleep, parents who wouldn’t pick up the phone, and children she had lost custody of.
“I was out of options, is where I was,” she said.
She says she’s been sober for 305 days and counting now, with a recovery community, visitation rights, a newfound faith, and a stronger relationship with her family.
She says she owes it all to the Way Forward program.
“My best day using doesn’t even compare to my worst day sober. And that’s what this program can do – it can give you the hope of happiness again,” she said.
The program runs nearly a year with classwork, community service, church participation, a job and housing search, and more.
Chief Development Officer Tracy Altizer says Way Forward focuses on more than just physical health, like looking at triggers and behavior that led to addiction in the first place.
“Addiction affects the whole individual, and so why wouldn’t you take the time to address the needs of the whole individual?” she said.
The program accepts 16-20 people per month, who must test clean – something Altizer says can sometimes be excruciating.
Pero, however, says it’s well worth it, and that getting out of bed now feels exciting.
“I have a lot of people who are rooting for me and I’ve never had that kind of support before. So I’m really happy! I’m really happy now,” she said.
Altizer says July 27th’s Rally for Recovery at the Berglund Performing Arts Theater will raise money to benefit the program and keep it going for years to come.