Soul’s Harbor helps men right the boat after addiction
A measure of success for Soul’s Harbor, a transitional community for men in drug and alcohol abuse recovery, is how much in demand its services have been since moving to a long-term housing model in 2015.
“We can serve at a capacity of 20 men, and we are currently at capacity,” says Erin Newell, executive director of the nonprofit organization. “We have a waiting list that averages five men at a time.”
Newell says the program offers men who have completed substance abuse treatment a place to stay for anywhere from six months to a year.
“We provide them with shelter, food, clothing, education, employment opportunities and case management. The end goal is graduation, which means they complete all of our requirements and have remained in good standing for six months up to one year. That includes living a sober life, independently, and having gainful employment.”
Newell says the program holds the men to a strict standard in an attempt to further their recovery and return to living on their own.
“They are randomly drug tested and breathalyzed and must remain clean and sober,” she says. “They have to attend Monday and Thursday community meetings and education classes that range in topics from financial literacy, life skills, parenting skills, health care and nutrition. They must obtain gainful employment during the first week they’re here or enroll in school. They do eight hours of sweat equity a week — jobs or tasks around the facility that help keep it running. They have to abide by curfew.”
If a resident would like to pursue education, Newell says, case managers work closely with Northwest Arkansas Community College to get them enrolled. Area businesses like House of Webster, TRG, Staffmark and Creek Kooler support the organization’s
mission by working with case managers to provide employment for residents.
Soul’s Harbor receives no state or federal funding, so grants and local contributions are critical to their survival — as are their fundraisers. Their threemile relay, Soul Run, is coming up on Aug. 19. Newell says the type of event has a special meaning to the organization.
“We wanted to create an event that mirrored the team aspect that we have at Soul’s Harbor,” she says. “Our men work together, and our staff work with our men. Each member of the team will run one mile and pass the baton on to the next person. This run cannot be completed by one single person — it can only be completed by a team. We’re looking forward to giving this opportunity of team building to family,
friends and youth groups. And corporations! There are so many in Northwest Arkansas, and this is a great team-building event for co-workers.”
Newell says that the race will also feature a one-mile fun run for children 12 and younger. Participants in the race will receive a navy blue Soul’s Run hat sponsored by New Life Graphics.
In October, the organization will host its biggest event of the year — the fourth annual Boots, Burlap and Lace: Dinner with Soul at Horton Farms in Centerton.
“This is probably one of the most beautiful places in Northwest Arkansas,” says Newell. “You can go and just experience nature and kind of be in the middle of it. It’s a sparkling location that presents a wonderful backdrop for a night of fun.”
Guests to this gala event are encouraged to dress in denim and boots and dine on home-cooked barbecue.
“A lot of the galas around this area are fancy, and we love those,” says Newell. “But this one is a more relaxed atmosphere.”
An outdoor photo booth, silent and live auctions
and a wine pull add to the fun (and fundraising). The keynote speaker for the event is Andrew Coughlan, a U.S. Army veteran who was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and Army Commendation Medal with Valor for his tour in Iraq.
“I’m so excited about our speaker,” says Newell. “I can’t wait to hear him share his experience about what we as humans have to give and support each other.”
Newell says that if community members wish to support the mission of the organization but are unable to participate in the fundraisers, there are many other ways to lend a hand. Donations of twin bed sheets, twin comforters, toiletries and food — milk, coffee, bread and lunch meat especially — are always welcome. The organization’s 7,500-square-foot garden can always use volunteers to tend and harvest it. And meal preparation — on site, in the shelter’s kitchen, or prepared at home — is a wonderful way for groups
to get involved in the organization.
Newell says the importance of Soul’s Harbor cannot be stressed enough. The organization cites a Community and Family Institute Homeless Report on its website that estimated that there are 2,462 homeless individuals in the Northwest Arkansas area. The study found that 72 percent of the men they interviewed for the study reported using drugs other than alcohol in the month prior to their interview.
“We’re the only transitional community exclusively for men in the state,” she says. “There’s nowhere else for them to go. Many people say, ‘Well, they can get a job and work, and they should be fine.’ But money doesn’t equal recovery. Soul’s Harbor is the only place they can go to get the help they need to get back on their feet.”
Soul’s Harbor residents sell the harvest from the organization’s garden at the Rogers Farmers Market. “From our very own garden, we harvest tomatoes, beets, carrots, squash, kale, collards, herbs, peppers, and we just planted watermelon,” says Executive Director Erin Newell. “In addition to the produce, we also make and sell fresh juice.”