Mercy Manor sits on a tree-lined street on Dayton's historic west side. It looks like many homes around the city, but inside, lives are being changed.
Mercy Manor is a transitional housing program for women with histories of addiction, incarceration and abuse. Cecelia Long is the organization's Executive Director; She's a got a strong, yet easy-going way about her. On a tour of the house, she explains how things work and how Mercy Manor's program puts structure back into the lives of the women who live here.
The house has a staff of 5, and there's room for 10 residents. The women who enter the program here have similar stories of drug and alcohol abuse. Some women come here after being released from prison. That's how it was for a woman we'll call Lisa. She says that for years she had steady work, and was known as the dependable one in her family - but then things changed.
"I just got out five days ago," says Lisa. "In a way I was happy to leave prison, but in a way I was scared because prison helped me get sober. I'm not gonna lie, you're still gonna have the craving, but it's not as bad as it used to be. If I was out on my own, I could go and walk to the store and get me something to drink. [In] prison, I didn't have to, I couldn't. Being here at Mercy Manor is very comfortable, it's better than a rehab facility where you sit and you listen. Here you do and you act and you learn."
After breaking several house rules, Lisa was asked to leave Mercy Manor. But 72% percent of the women who come here, do complete the six month in-house program and the two year follow-up.
Stacy says she had a good childhood, but her problems started as a teen.
"I got with wrong crowd at school, and I ended up smoking marijuana, escalated to crack cocaine. Because of my drug use, it kept me out all times of the night, everyday, all day to the point that I wouldn't go home, I wouldn't change my clothes. I was stealing out of stores just to try to live one day at a time out there on drugs. I couldn't do it," says Stacy. "I knew that I had to stop. I don't care what anyone says, I couldn't stop until I got arrested. So when I did get arrested, I was grateful. Thank you, I need help. And I knew it - I knew that I didn't want it anymore. I didn't want anymore dope. I just wanted to get off of dope, bad."
And with Mercy Manor's help, Stacy is staying off of it.
"Every morning at 9 o'clock, we have meditation with Miss Deb, and that's where all of the women get together and read something out of one of the books, and we tell what it relates to us and usually it's right on the head," says Stacy. "That gets your day started. That helps you think about the positive things that you need to do today. It makes me think about staying clean and sober just for today, reaching out to other women. So I can overcome anything I put my mind to and Mercy Manor's just teaching me how to be more responsible, how to connect with the winners, just clean and sober people, people in recovery that's going to the NA and the AA, working the program. And that's what I choose to do, I choose to be with the winners today."
At Mercy Manor, winning is found in working together, and Cecelia Long says reshaping the lives of the women who live here comes when they find inner strength.
"When Hurricane Ike hit and the trees were down, both ends of the street were blocked with trees. And I remember one afternoon I said to the ladies, 'Well, we've been blocked in here for a few days now, it's time to move one of these trees.' And they kept saying to me, 'Miss C, we can't move those trees.' And I said, 'Yes, we can. We're woman, we're strong woman.' And they said, 'But those are big trees,' and even the staff said, 'For once, this is too much, you're crazy.' And we went out and had our gloves on, and we were just ready," says Long.
"Once we got to the corner where the tree was blocking, other neighbors came out to help. And we all said, 'One...two...three..and heave!' Our goal was to move the tree, to at least get it as close to the curb as we could. And we did it. The girls jumped up and down and were saying, 'We did it! We did it!' And I said, 'I keep telling you, we can do this. We knew it had to be done, but others came out to help too.' And that's what we realize is that when we do things as unit, more things can be achieved. That was a prime example of what I had been saying for days. Instead of doing it alone, let's work together."
Removing obstacles like drug addiction and homelessness is what Mercy Manor has sought to do for more than 18 years. More than 300 women have passed through the halls of Mercy Manor, and more women and children have benefited from their outreach services.