BRISTOL, Tenn. - A local faith-based organization is trying to reduce the number of women abusing drugs in the Tri-Cities region.
More than 20 million Americans have used illicit drugs, according to the most recent data by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Handfuls of Purpose offers women a place to stay while they recover from drug addiction.
They opened a recovery house in Abingdon in 2011, called Hannah's House. It was so successful they opened another house in Bristol in May 2014, called Janie's House.
We talked to a women who's been in the program since January and she said it turned her life around. Jennifer Free, 32, told us it's been a long road to recovery. She has spent years battling an addiction to drugs, nearly three of those years were in jail.
"[It was] something passed onto me, and for a lot of people even, it's passed along like that as well and it's very life altering," said Free.
She moved into Hannah's House when she got out of prison in January. Now she lives and works in Janie's House with 12 other women. Sixteen women in total can stay there.
Free told us it's been a fresh start.
"Showed me a new way of life, showed me a new way to be, that I didn't have to be like my parents," she said. "Or I didn't have to be the person I was before, that I have choices as opposed to before where I thought I didn't have any kind of choice."
Handfuls of Purpose CEO, Linda Meadows, told us they teach women the tools they need to break the cycle of addiction.
"What I wanted to do is to provide a place to at least give some sober time so that they had a chance after they came out of prison or out of detox," said Meadows.
She told us this keeps the women from re-entering situations that perpetuate drug abuse.
Meadows said the women also learn how to support themselves by getting jobs and paying rent.
"That is one of their responsibilities here in learning to live sober, is that they learn the responsibilities of paying rent, utilities, things like that," she said.
The rent payments don't come close to covering the $150,000 a year it takes to operate Janie's House.
They're hoping to cover the remaining costs with donations of food and clothing. Meadows said people can also sponsor the women and help them pay their rent.
"Some of the girls can pay maybe $300 and some don't have anything," she said.
Jennifer Free said it's a cause worth helping out.
"Without this place it wouldn't be possible," Free said. "I would be out there, probably one of them people under the bridge. I've been there many a time and without this place I know I would've been pushed back out there into it because I didn't know how to live."
If you'd like to donate to Handfuls of Purpose, you can drop donations off to Janie's House at 1225 Jani Hammit Drive, or call their office at (276) 669-9221.
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