Originally published in The Journal
MARTINSBURG â€” After a long process marked by multiple delays due to COVID-19, the Ashley House Recovery Residence made itâ€™s official debut with an open house held Friday â€” highlighting the first certified sober living house in the Eastern Panhandle.
According to Kevin Knowles, Business Development Chief for Mountaineer Recovery Center and board member for Semper Liberi, the Ashley House, located on Van Meter Road in Kearneysville, will be able to comfortably house six women while under COVID-19 distancing guidelines and, in the future, 10 women as they navigate the world in their recovery.
Ashley House is part of Semper Liberi, a nonprofit that was developed to help individuals with housing, transportation and job placement following substance abuse recovery treatment and who currently has a memorandum of understanding with Mountaineer Recovery Center to be able to help people after they leave the centerâ€™s residential treatment and are looking for sober living Knowles explained.
â€œIâ€™ve traveled throughout the state and had an opportunity to see a lot of different sober living homes for men and women,â€ Knowles said. â€œI saw good and bad examples of sober living homes and knew we could make Ashley House an example for others in the state.â€
Knowles, who also serves as the State President for that West Virginia Alliance for Recovery Residences, said the first step was to create a strict process for state certifying recovery residences, ensuring the home and its residents adhere to strict guidelines about rules of the house, housing standards and resident responsibilities.
â€œAnd so we put together this process to certify recovery residences and are proud to say, with the Ashley House, we will have the first state certified sober living house right here in the Eastern Panhandle,â€ Knowles said. â€œThere will be lot of programs going on and the women will be working throughout the day, taking turns making meals, attending recovery meetings they are required to go to and having interactions with a 12-step program five to six times a week.â€
Knowles said the women living there agree to a â€œhighly structuredâ€ six-month commitment focused on working with each other and others in the community to enhance their own recovery.
Each resident will be required to pay a weekly fee of $120, which covers any and all bills they could have while living in the home, to help teach budgeting and life skills while the women live there, he added.
Knowles said as a part of Mountaineerâ€™s MOU with Semper Liberi, the nonprofit is supposed to open two sober living homes yearly and is already in the process of opening up a certified menâ€™s house locally to serve the same purpose as Ashleyâ€™s House.
To allow for COVID-19 safety precautions, masks were mandated to be worn at all times, there was no ceremony to avoid groups congregating, only 10 people were allowed in at one time and there were no refreshments served to avoid the removal of face coverings.
Even with the guidelines in place, Knowles said the beauty of the house and the message it sends was not lost.
â€œIts huge! Just think about it, five years ago we didnâ€™t have anything here except Oxford houseâ€¦â€ Knowles said. â€œItâ€™s a huge deal because not only are we able to supply a 28 residential treatment center right here in the panhandle, as well as 18 to 24 months of outpatient treatment, but we are able to help people learn how to build life skills like paying bills, cookingâ€¦ really just learning how to get back in to the community with this certified sober living house. Itâ€™s such a huge deal.â€