‘No situation is hopeless’
HER Magazine sat down this month with 31-year-old Desiree Skeya, executive director of The Hope Movement, a program with a mission to help women move forward from an addictive lifestyle. No stranger to addiction herself, Skeya is almost seven years sober from an addiction to methamphetamine, a habit that left her facing 40 years to life in prison in 2011 for manufacturing meth and for possession with intent to deliver. After trying and failing multiple times to stay sober, she entered into a faithbased treatment program in July 2011 and turned her life around.
The Hope Movement accepts applications from women 18 years of age and older who have a history of addiction, have successfully completed a rehabilitation or substance abuse program, and are now clean and sober. Participants live at The Hope Movement House for a determined period of time. Visit http:// www.thehopemovement.net or email de[email protected]hopemovement.net for more information.
“No situation is hopeless. For myself, there were many times that people said, ‘That’s a lost cause. Desiree is never going to change.’ But look at me now, and that’s only through Christ. We are faithbased and we believe that transformation only happens when you are fully devoted to Jesus Christ. There’s just no situation that’s hopeless or lost. We believe that here,” Skeya said.
How did your addiction begin?
Desiree Skeya: I met an older guy when I was in high school, tried meth with him. When I was 18 years old both my biological and my adopted father died six months from each other and it just really went downward from there. It was a downward spiral. I started using meth every day. Bad choices, not really having the foundation of faith, not having a good support system. I moved to Hot Springs for treatment, went to treatment, got out and started using again, and then April 17, 2009, I ended up in jail for two Class Y felonies. But, when I was in jail I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior and got out of jail and my charges were dropped. But, because of not having good living circumstances, I went right back to it.
What was rock bottom for you?
DS: Jail. Just sitting in jail, not having my family — they were pretty much done with me at that point, and with me living in Hot Springs and them being in Mountain Home and hearing different stories. Just realizing, ‘Man, this is where my life has ended up. I’m facing a lot of time in prison for hanging out with bad people and making bad choices.’
How long did you spend in jail?
DS: Almost seven months. But then, on July 20, 2011, I went into treatment at Recovery Point Ministry and that just changed my whole life. I’ve never looked back and God has just continued to bless me.
What is The Hope Movement?
DS: The Hope Movement is for women who struggle with addiction. To come to The Hope Movement though, you have to complete a program before coming here, so that can be the 12-week program in the jails. We just had a lady that graduated who came from Shalom. We have a lady who’s coming on Dec. 26 from RPM. The vision of The Hope Movement is to help women move forward from an addictive lifestyle, become fully devoted followers of Jesus as they discover abundant life through Christ, and we stand on the Bible verse John 10:10
The Hope Movement recognizes and assists in providing needs such as anger management, they do faith and finance, we have two that enrolled in college, so GED is an important one. They start a bank account when they get here, work readiness, Christian counseling, and they receive that once a week. Just helping and molding them to become self sufficient women when they leave here.
They also do a nutrition class. We help them to become healthy physically, mentally and spiritually. So, mentoring, they have mentors that come over. They also go to YMCA three times a week, that’s part of the classes they have to attend.
How many ladies are currently in the program?
DS: Five. It can hold seven. And we’re smaller than a lot of places — you saw the bedrooms, bathrooms and closets — we just felt like that was important for them to have their own rooms and bathrooms.
How did you become the executive director?
DS: I was a probation officer for Judge Ohm, a district court probation officer, and Greg (Bearss) tells the story that they bought the house and they were coming to the point where they were ready to move the ladies in but they just weren’t really getting what they wanted in a director, so Greg when to Judge Ohm and said, ‘Hey, do you know anybody?’ Judge Ohm knows a lot of people that would be a good fit. So Judge Ohm told him, ‘I have a lady here that I think would be a good fit. I don’t want to lose her, but I think she could be a good fit.’ Greg said no, that she didn’t really have the qualifications that he thought he wanted.
So, he then talks to Casey Bright. Casey runs Quapaw House. He said, ‘Casey, can you give me one of your people? Just let me have somebody,’ and Casey said, ‘Well, I don’t think any of my workers would be good for that but I know a lady who I think you could train up.’ It was me. Judge Ohm and Casey Bright gave Greg the same name within a day, so he always says that it was a sign from God that this is who he needed for the job.
I didn’t apply for the job, I didn’t know anything about the job, but I am extremely blessed that God saw fit for me to have this job.
What are your day-to-day duties as executive director of The Hope Movement?
DS: A normal day, when we get a new lady, we’re trying to get IDs, social security cards, birth certificates, we’re helping them find a job, taking care of medical situations or conditions that they haven’t taken care of in a really long time. Fundraising, I do a lot with fundraising, I do a lot with the community to get the resources to help the ladies. Taking them to work, taking them to their classes, you name it. Taking them to the college, preparing them to get ready to be enrolled in school. Practice tests, drug testing, helping them to budget money. Just a little bit of everything.
Why do you enjoy your job?
DS: Being able to see them really, when the light goes off, know that they’re worthy and they’re loved and there is a better way of life. I know firsthand. But when you don’t know that, and a lot of these women come from broken homes, so not really knowing what it is to truly be loved, and just when that light goes off and you see them talking with their children about Christ and you just see a transformation. When you see that transformation that only God can do in their lives, that’s what keeps me coming back, to see them have restoration with their families, to see them have restoration with their children, to see what Satan meant for harm and to see God turn that around. That is the beauty of my job.
How long do the ladies live at The Hope Movement House?
DS: It’s very individualized here, because we might have someone who went to a 12-week program in jail and then someone else who comes in who has been in treatment for nine months. They’re going to be at different levels so they can stay here anywhere from six months to 12 months. We would never kick anyone out — we want them to be able to be self sufficient and stable when they leave here. So, if you don’t have a driver’s license and you’ve been here a year, it’s probably not going to be good for you to leave because to make it out there, you need to be able to drive. If you’re leaving here and you’re going to go back and live at your mom and dad’s house, that’s not — we want them to have their own place, have a vehicle, have a driver’s license. We want them to move forward.
Are they allowed to have their own vehicles while living at the house?
DS: They can have a vehicle but, how that works is, we’re really just teaching them to be accountable and self sufficient, so if they have a vehicle here, it’ll be searched, and we have to know where they’re going at all times. We have some ladies that come from, for instance, Judge Wright or Judge Ohm, so that means they have to have a staff member with them. We do have two vehicles here at The Hope Movement that we allow the ladies to drive once they’ve been here three months.
Is there a waiting list to get into The Hope Movement program?
DS: I have seven applicants I’m going to see Thursday at the jail from other programs. The process is that you have to complete a program and then we meet with them and determine when they can come here. But, we’re limited on space and since there’s not an exact time on how long an individual is here, it’s hard to say, because we don’t want to rush them out, we don’t want them to fail when they leave here.
Will the program ever expand?
DS: Of course we would love, later down the line, to grow, but not grow necessarily in this house, but with other houses. The importance here is that we can have one-on-one time and helping them feel as a family. Having dinner together, that’s something a lot of them have never had. They do morning devotion together, they do nighttime devotion together. I think it’s good to have the closeness of a family.
Candice Davis, left, Desiree Skeya, Michelle breezley, and Kimberly Gillespie.