By LaReeca Rucker/The Clarion-Ledger
JACKSON — Jackson resident Sondra Armstrong has watched family and church members transition from alcohol and drug addicts to productive members of society after their stay at My Father’s House of Freedom.
The treatment facility at 826 N. West St. houses a 12-step outreach program that has welcomed more than 400 men from the metro area.
One of many nonprofits that are struggling financially, the Vineyard Church ministry could close.
Armstrong, a member of Flowood’s Vineyard Church, has helped with fundraisers for the center.
“Because there are so many people out there looking for jobs right now, temp agencies won’t take anyone with felonies,” she said. “The center is really suffering and trying to keep its head above water.”
Some of the men who enter My Father’s House of Freedom have criminal backgrounds.
Participants must commit to a minimum six-month stay and pay a $175 admittance fee. Also, part of the money they earn working – $125 a week – is paid to the center for housing, food and transportation expenses to and from work, and health appointments.
The two-home facility can house 22 men, who attend Vineyard Church each Sunday as part of their recovery.
“In this particular church, there are a lot of people in recovery who have been through treatment centers,” Armstrong said.
My Father’s House of Freedom uses Christian principles to teach addicts life skills, financial management and conflict resolution. They also participate in counseling, Bible study and addiction support group meetings.
Maria Hamblin, a Vineyard Church member, became director of the center five years ago.
She said the church isn’t able to fully support the center and receives no state or federal funding. It relies on private donations, but most funding comes from working participants.
“Up until the last year, guys would come in, and we were able to get them jobs in no time,” Hamblin said. “Now, if we take them in and there are no jobs, it’s a financial drain on the ministry.
“We won’t turn anyone away for the lack of money, but it’s hard to pay our rent and pay our utilities if we are not able to (find them jobs.) Employment is our biggest obstacle.”
Jobs also help participants pay fines they may owe.
“It’s also about the community, because if they are rehabilitated and working, they are able to pay their bills, they’re not in prison and they’re not getting food stamps,” Hamblin said. “They are no longer a burden on the taxpayers. They are also able to start saving money.”
In 1977, Bruce Wimberley, now of Brandon, moved from Kansas with 35 people to plant a church in Jackson. That congregation later became Vineyard Church.
“Our heart is always for the down and out, as well as the up and out,” he said. “It needs to be part of our DNA to help the people who are hurting.”
Wimberley said My Father’s House of Freedom began “by accident.”
“One of our guys in the church who had been a drug addict found a place where he was accepted,” Wimberley said, “and he began bringing other people to his house until it was filled up.”
As a result, the church decided to purchase a facility to house a treatment center.
If the center closes, Wimberley said, the church will continue outreach efforts, but he predicts they will be less effective.
“That’s the reason we have the live-in facility,” he said. “Our guys pay their way, and we can’t afford to have them if they can’t afford to pay their way.”
Participants are valued church members, he said.
“I think we need them as badly as they need us,” he said. “The Christian church was sent to the world not to just hold up and wait until Jesus comes. We really feel like we need to be doing the work of the Kingdom, and that work isn’t just on Sunday morning. It’s in our jobs. It’s at Walmart. It’s wherever we go.”