News

Guiding a transition at Lucille Raines Residence

By Bill McCleery
The Indianapolis Star

Peggy Karnes, 66, first got to know the Lucille Raines Residence when she entered the facility as an alcoholic trying to regain control of her life. That was in 1989.

Today, Karnes works at the facility as its program coordinator. The facility, focused on people overcoming drug and alcohol addictions, is operated by the United Methodist Women organization of Indiana and celebrated its 30th anniversary April 30.

Karnes recently spoke about the residence, its goals and her own experiences there.

Question: Could you explain the overall function of the Lucille Raines Residence? How does it work?

Answer: Lucille Raines is a transitional housing facility. We have 49 residents here, men and women. By the time they get here, they have been through some kind of treatment. They are employed or they're on Social Security. They're all self-supporting. We do want them to go to meetings while they're here, and Executive Director Carolyn Marshall's and my function is primarily to have an open door for them so they can drop in anytime.

We are the only three-quarter house like this in Indianapolis. We are not a shelter. We have 49 beds. We are always full, and we always have a waiting list. The city of Indianapolis could use lots more of this type of housing.

Q: Who was Lucille Raines?

A: Lucille Raines was the wife of a United Methodist bishop, Richard C. Raines. He was getting ready to retire, and when the United Methodist Women opened this facility in 1977, they wanted to do something in her honor. So they named it after Lucille Raines. We still hear from members of the Raines family, and we get donations from the Raines family occasionally. We recently ran into one of her granddaughters.

Q: Tell us more about your own experience as a resident here.

A: I was here from 1989 to 1991. I am a recovering alcoholic. That's what brought me here. I'm also bipolar. A lot of us here are diagnosed with conditions other than substance abuse problems. I tend to think I was bipolar when I was born, and the alcoholism just kicked in when I was in my 40s. I had consumed alcohol casually before then, and then alcoholism just kicked in.
The average age of becoming alcoholic is 42. What happens is, people at first can function pretty well, but all of a sudden the disease catches up with them and it goes rampant. The alcoholism destroyed my life. I'd been on the streets. I have been homeless.

I managed to lose my children pretty much. They're back in my life, but there were holidays where my children didn't even know where I was. My oldest two were grown. They were 16, 14 and 8 when I left their dad. From that point on, it was downhill. I never lost custody of my kids, but they went to live at their dad's, and I can't blame them for that.

Without the Lucille Raines Residence, I don't think I would have made it. This is an environment where there are other recovering people around who are supporting us. Without being in an environment like this, I don't think I could have done it.

Q: With the United Methodist Women's involvement, does faith play a prominent role at the Lucille Raines Residence?

A: I'm always happy to say that the United Methodists do not impose themselves upon us. If you're familiar with a 12-step program, our residents are working a 12-step program, and it's spiritual program. We encourage them to find God wherever they find God. In many cases, it is at The United Methodist Church. But in many other cases, it's outdoors with God.

I myself am someone who loves to be outside, and I feel closest to God when I'm there. The thing we want for these people is for them to be able to leave here and live a normal life, whatever normal is. And we want them to know God because I don't think that without that belief, they can do it. But it's theirs. It's their belief.

Q: How much does it cost to operate the Lucille Raines Residence, and where does the money come from?

A: The United Methodist Women have supported us financially from the very beginning. We also receive donations from other sources.

But we are not a shelter. All of our residents are paying rent. They're paying $100 a week to live here. We've had a couple that have developed critical illnesses here, and we've been able to keep them even though they didn't have any income at all. HIV and hepatitis B are running rampant in this community.

We have two of our (deceased) ex-residents out in the garden here. We had services for them. Their ashes are out there. One gal came here directly from prison, and we had a lovely service for her. (The facility's annual operating budget is $383,000, according to Marshall.)

Q: How do you get referrals to people who might benefit from living here?

A: By now, this place is 30 years old, and people know about it. People who come to us have gone through treatment programs. We also have meetings in this building, and we probably have 1,000 people coming and going from this building every week. There's a meeting down there every day of the week but one.

If residents have good recovery, they become sponsors and they're mentors. We always have a waiting list. We have eight to 10 on the waiting list right now. But it's a long-term facility, so some people even stay longer than two years. Personally, I think two years is a good length of time. After that, I think they begin to nest, unless there's another reason for them to be here.

We can brag about the fact that we always have at least 20 people living here who have maintained more than a year of sobriety. I venture to say you're not going to go to any (other treatment facility) in town and find that.

For more information about the Lucille Raines Residence, log on to www.gbgm-umc.org/lucilleraines/ or call 317-636-3328.

Bill McCleery serves as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star. This story first appeared in the April 7, 2007 issue of The Star and is reprinted here by permission. The Indianapolis Star c2007.