Grants support fresh approaches to complex social issues

OSHKOSH, WI — Imagine someone who has battled alcohol or drug addiction for years. They take steps to get sober by spending a month at an in-patient treatment facility. Released back into the real world, the patient realizes he will have to change almost everything about his previous life as an addict to stay clean. The odds may seem insurmountable.

Photo caption: Amy Putzer, Jennifer Krikava, Julie Fevola and Beth Schnorr are pictured during the Basic Needs Giving Partnership grant presentation on Sept. 12. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs

Staff at STEP Industries, NOVA Counseling Services and the Mooring Programs are all too familiar with this scenario and are working together to offer a better solution to residents in Northeast Wisconsin. Sober Living Housing provides a step on the path to sobriety where substance abuse addicts can live in a supervised and sober environment with structure and rules like mandatory curfews, chores and therapeutic meetings.

“One of the things we find when we do a relapse autopsy, seven out of 10 times (the relapse is) directly related to where they’re living,” said Jamie Loehnis, executive director of Mooring Programs.

After successfully completing treatment, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts often relapse after being thrown back into the same environments as before. This program can significantly eliminate this risk by providing a supportive, substance-free home.

Sober Living Housing is one of three projects that were awarded a total of $45,000 in planning grants this month from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership through its funds with the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation.

Grants recipients were participants in a year-long educational leadership program for executive directors of human service organizations called the Social Innovation Leadership Experience (SILE). SILE is sponsored by the J. J. Keller Foundation and Marquette University, and funded by the Kellers and the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs.

Leaders at Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services and Harbor House also received grant support for their fresh thinking on how to provide women who have been victims of abuse with reliable transportation in order to go to school or work.

Driven to Empower looks to not only help shelter clients with their car repair issues, but also plans to develop opportunities for clients to explore the auto service field as a career and ultimately offer auto services to the public.

“What started as an idea to help survivors of domestic violence with minor car repairs has grown into a vision of a sustainable business we think is unique, and exciting,” said Beth Schnorr, executive director of Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs.

“We envision educational and employment opportunities, and eventually, a service station run by and catering to women.”

A third grant was awarded to the Farmory Project, which provides assistance to unemployed or underemployed veterans in the Green Bay area. The project includes renovating the Armory building to house an indoor farm that will create proceeds from the sale of produce to local restaurants, food service operations and local markets. The plan is to engage veterans and other low-income individuals to learn farming and other entrepreneurial skills to allow those individuals to build their capacity for self-sufficiency.

All of the projects provide examples of social innovation – creating new means to address chronic problems in our communities, said Jeff Snell of Marquette University, SILE faculty and coach.

“Social innovation is a field dedicated to solving social problems as opposed to managing those problems. These projects seek to address root causes of a social problem through novel sustainable solutions,” Snell said.

The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization created by and for the people of Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive. For more information, please call 920-426-3993.

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