House of Acts Helps Vallejoan Rehab His Life
By Lanz Christian Bañes
Posted: 01/24/2011 07:21:45 AM PST
After months of rehabilitation, Arthur Hitchcock is a new man.
"I can think clearly. My life has just changed," said Hitchcock, 49, as he sat in the living room of a transition home run by the House of Acts.
But Hitchcock's recovery was far from easy.
A native of Portland, Maine, Hitchcock began using drugs at age 7.At 13, his family moved to Solano County and by age 20, he was in prison. He would remain in and out of prison for the rest of his life.
Unable to keep a job and strung out on his drugs, Hitchcock began to wander, homeless, around Fairfield and Vallejo. "I lived in my tent when I was in prison. I've eaten out of the Dumpster," said Hitchcock, a new pair of spectacles on his face. Often, he would hold up the sign that read, "Anything Will Help, Even a Smile."
"Some (people) liked my sign because it's original. I've gotten $20 just for my sign," Hitchcock said. Hitchcock's life changed dramatically five months ago.
"I was on parole, and I got high," Hitchcock said.As a result, Hitchcock was sent to get clean with the House of Acts, a faith-based recovery program in Vallejo. At first, the transition proved difficult."I didn't want to be here. I fought it," Hitchcock said. Still, the counselors at the House of Acts persisted, said Hattie Miles, the organization's founder and director. "I make sure that all counselors, including myself, give him that love and connection -- that life is worth living and you don't have to live that way," Miles said. Now, "they can't get rid of me," Hitchcock said with his gap-tooth grin.
The House of Acts helped Hitchcock get his new glasses and has scheduled an appointment to fix his teeth. Hitchcock has been able to not only get clean and stay sober, but also regain his driver's license -- a difficult feat due to his dyslexia.
"I stress out because I can't read the test," Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock graduates in March, but isn't ready to leave the House of Acts quite yet. "He said he wants to continue staying with the House of Acts and helping out to see what he could give to the community where he caused a lot of damage," Miles said, expressing her pride in Hitchcock's progress.
Hitchcock said he is thankful for the new chance he's got -- a chance that he'll perhaps use to reconnect with his estranged son and daughter.
"Being homeless, there's people out there that care about us. It makes me happy," Hitchcock said.
Contact staff writer Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hometown: Portland, Maine
Occupation: Recovering at the House of Acts
Family: son, daughter
Quote: "Being homeless, there's people out there that care about us. It makes me happy."
House of Acts Members Clean Street
By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 06/30/2008 07:37:12 AM PDT
Georgia Street sidewalks saw the light of day Sunday as five men from House of Acts scrubbed and hosed away a thick layer of dirt.
Hired by the Central Core Restoration Corporation, House of Acts clients and alumni will clean nearly five blocks in downtown Vallejo seven times a year.
Armed with large buckets of soapy water, electrical power hoses and large broom scrubbers, the men tackled the grimy job for the first time Sunday.
House of Acts alumnus Andre Jackson said he and the other four men started working at 4:30 a.m. Sunday scrubbing the medallion in the middle of the Georgia and Marin streets intersection.
"I love doing this because I'm giving back to the community," Jackson said. House of Acts is a drug and alcohol recovery center in Vallejo.
Throughout the day, the men cleaned sidewalks in the 300, 400 and 500 blocks of Georgia Street and portions of the sidewalks on Sonoma, Marin and Sacramento streets.
CCRC vice president Jim Barcewski said members want to do more to help the city, which declared bankruptcy last month due to a large general fund deficit. The CCRC is a nonprofit organization, funded by property taxes, which takes care of a 16-block downtown area.
Some of the House of Acts men told him they were proud to do their part to help the downtown, he said. "They are feeling this is our town and we can help," he added.
House of Acts will be hired to do other aspects of cleaning downtown, including painting over graffiti, picking up trash, and painting fire hydrants. Sidewalks will be washed about every 40 days, Barcewski said.
Hot water and a special kind of soap will be brought in to remove the many gobs of gum that have been ground into the sidewalk, particularly in front of convenience markets, bus stops and other areas where people loiter, he said.
The CCRC had already hired House of Acts to begin regular clean-ups of the city's six downtown parking lots and nearby alleys.
Barcewski said the CCRC has reorganized its budget so that less money is spent on administration and more can go to projects designed to improve the downtown.
The downtown now has about a 50 percent vacancy rate, he said. "Our hope is that as we do more to the downtown we'll attract more to the downtown. That's why we're doing this," he said.
• E-mail Sarah Rohrs at email@example.com or call 553-6832.
Women Can Now Seek Help at the House of Acts
ANDREA WOLF/Times-Herald Staff Writer
February 3, 2008
Mohini Pinkney thought she could have just that one Long Island Iced Tea. She had been clean and sober for five years and thought she was in control. She figured there was no harm in having a drink with the guys after a long shift at her construction job.
"Almost immediately after having that one drink I was getting drunk every day after work," Pinkney said. "I told myself it was OK because I worked hard."
She drank until she blacked out. And then one day she awoke with blurred recollections of being jumped in a local park, her phone and other possessions gone.
"That's when I knew I needed help, so I went to detox and had heard a lot about House of Acts from a guy in the program, so I came here," Pinkney said.
House of Acts, an alcohol and substance abuse treatment originally only open to men, has opened a new women's recovery home in South Vallejo.
The center was originally founded by Hattie Smith-Miles, who transformed the home in which she raised eight children with her late husband into a place of hope for a lot of men whose lives had been wrecked by dependency.
During the 1980s, Smith-Miles, known simply as "Miss Hattie," saw the destruction that drugs and alcohol was creating in her South Vallejo neighborhood.
"In 1989, 17 people were killed in the city and 16 of them were because of drugs," Smith-Miles said. "It was really bad around here, and I thought I needed to do something to help my neighborhood."
So she prayed.
One day, while at work at her legal service job, she was praying for an answer to the drug infestation plaguing her community.
And she opened her Bible and found the answer in Acts 26:18, "To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."
"The spirit of the Lord came over to me after I read that passage, and said you will do this and call it the House of Acts," Smith-Miles said.
These words inspired her to open a rehabilitation home for Vallejo men struggling with drug dependency.
"You can't just sit and talk about the problems in the world unless you try to do something about it," Smith-Miles said.
Smith-Miles went to Diablo Valley College to get her counseling certification, scraped together personal funds, and in 1989 she converted her home on Grant Street into the House of Acts.
Grant Street was a big problem during the 1980s and 1990s, with drug deals going on every day in front of her home, Smith-Miles said.
"I would have to go out to the men leaning on my fence and say, 'Young man, you can't deal drugs here today. You have to move on,' " Smith-Miles said.
Now, about 20 years later, she has opened five more men's homes and in October she opened the first women's rehabilitation home in South Vallejo.
"I would hear the men talk about their wives or girlfriends who were also abusing drugs and needing help, and I saw the need for me to open up a women's home," Smith-Miles said.
Four women are currently living in the home, and residents are required to make a 12-month commitment to the house, with three months aftercare once they leave.
Residents must be clean for three to five days before entering the House of Acts and cannot leave the house, receive phone calls or have visitors for a 45-day probation period.
Counselors are on staff to provide group and one-on-one counseling on anger management, codependency and family issues, relationships and recovery, domestic violence, job preparation and cultural diversity awareness, Smith-Miles said.
"They support each other in the house but also aren't afraid to call each other out on their stuff," Smith-Miles said.
Deloria Talley knew in November something had to change. She found herself staying in a motel, away from her family, and binge drinking alone until she blacked out.
"I stayed out there for five days and it stopped being fun after two," Talley said. "When I realized what I was doing to myself I turned myself into detox."
"I had a lot on my plate and I didn't have an avenue to release stuff," Talley said. "So I drank."
The 47-year-old Vallejo native said it has been difficult to not be in charge while living at House of Acts, and her control issues have earned her the nickname "the Warden" by her house mates.
"I've always been in control of my own life and it has been hard to sit back and release that," Talley said.
The women said adjusting to living with each other, sharing household duties and relying on each other to get through the day took a little getting used to.
"We can tell just by looking at someone when something is wrong or bothering us," Talley said. "And we make each other sit down and we work through it together."
Linda Jones was introduced to the House of Acts by her parole officer after finishing her sentence in Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla for a controlled substance conviction. As soon as she was released she immediatly returned to using drugs.
"I came in here blind, I didn't know what I was supposed to do or even how to take the first steps to recovery," Jones said. "When I first came in I was real quiet and didn't feel comfortable talking about my problems. But now it is cleansing to get it out."
The four women have a strict daily schedule that includes morning exercises, group meetings, preparing meals together and sharing household chores.
"I was surprised when I found myself getting a long so well with everyone here," Pinkney said. "I always have just been more comfortable hanging around guys. I didn't know women could be so supportive of each other."
The women said the focus on spirituality and kindness of the counselors is more effective than the aggressive "attack therapy" some rehab centers use.
"This is a really kind and nurturing environment, which has helped me deal with things a lot better than if I had someone yelling at me," Pinkney said.
Smith-Miles said it is important to recognize the difference between men and women and their needs during the recovery process.
"Men bring more of a dynamic of being out there. A lot of the men at House of
Acts have been in prison or in gangs, a lot have abused their families," Smith-Miles said. "The women are generally softer spirits and many have suffered domestic abuse or had other kinds of family problems."
Smith-Miles said the program focuses on repairing damage caused to families by someone's drug abuse so there is a better chance of families being reunited after the person leaves House of Acts.
"It's a completely different person when someone is on drugs," Smith-Miles said. "That's not their daughter, or son, or husband or wife. The real person can be unrecognizable."
While Smith-Miles has kindness for House of Acts residents, the women said they all know "not to mess with Miss Hattie."
"Miss Hattie is a really strong woman; she energizes all of us to keep going," Pinkney said.
Pinkney hopes to go back to school once she's done with treatment and be more of a part of her six children's lives.
"I want to be a good mother," Pinkney said. "I want my children to know me as more than just someone who is in and out of their lives."
Both Jones and Talley said House of Acts saved their lives.
"This is my last chance.
I hit a real bottom this time," Talley said. "I am just grateful they haven't given up on me."
Contact Andrea Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 553-6835.
Photo: House of Acts founder Miss Hattie Smith-Miles talks to house residents, who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, about making the choice to stay clean for themselves. (Stacey J. Miller/Times-Herald)
Photo: Mohini Pinkney shares her list of 15 steps to managing your anger with her peer group at the House of Acts. (Stacey J. Miller/Times-Herald)
(c) 2008 Times-Herald. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.
Non-Profit Founder Recognized by California Mayor For Invaluable Service
Hattie Smith-Miles, founder of the House of Acts Substance Abuse Treatment Program, to be honored in a first-of-its kind community recognition dinner by Vallejo Mayor
By Dante Lee
Posted: November 13, 2013 05:13:13 AM PST
Vallejo, CA (November 13, 2012) -- Hattie Smith-Miles, community leader, social entrepreneur, and founder of the House of Acts, a local non-profit, substance abuse treatment program, will receive an unprecedented honor by Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis on Friday, November 16, 2012 at the Mayor's Community Recognition Dinner sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, held at the Dan Foley Cultural Center starting at 6pm.
The event will highlight one volunteer, one non-profit organization, and one faith-based organization of the year, as award recipients. The goals for this public display of recognition are to show points of parity and let the community and other stakeholders know that social issues are too important to ignore. And by strengthening community partnerships the city can make more substantial investments toward the betterment of Vallejo.
Mrs. Smith-Miles has served Vallejo and other Solano County communities for over 50 years. She has a strong conviction, foundation, and understanding for the needs of both, underserved and underprivileged youth and adults.
Even predating her opening of the House of Acts in 1989, Mrs. Smith-Miles has been dedicated to resolving social issues with prevention, recovery, and raising awareness to alcohol and drug use disorders; access to crime-free, sober living environments; and assisting homeless adults and transitional youth into self-sufficiency. Mrs. Smith-Miles is also a significant partner to the City of Vallejo, "providing services on a daily basis to fill the 'gap of need' which the city is unable to serve", says Mayor Davis. Additionally stating that her contributions to the city make it "a better place to live, work, and grow old, because of her willingness to volunteer and generously give to those in need".
After receiving the Mayor's request, Mrs. Smith-Miles reflected on some of the challenges the program has had over the past year and then said to the staff, "You know, I originally founded this program over 20 years ago with a purpose to combat the disease (addiction) that destroys families, weakens our communities, increases the crime rate, thrives within vulnerable populations, and engulfs individuals with hopelessness. And it is an incredible blessing that our Mayor appreciates and believes in the House of Acts' mission, courage, and commitment to the community. I am overwhelmed with gratitude."
Other Vallejo community leaders that share this same honor of being recognized by Mayor Davis are from the Building Effective Youth Development Center, Vallejo Outreach, and more. For more details about this event, visit www.visitvallejo.com/event-calendar/index.php?event=2864&cat=1
About the House of Acts
The House of Acts is a non-profit 501(c)3, community- and faith-based, residential social model program, located in Vallejo, California (Solano County) of the San Francisco Bay Area. They serve adults and transitional youth within a long-term substance abuse treatment program and sober-living environment, and assist them with their goals to overcome drug addiction, alcoholism, addictive behaviors, poverty, and homelessness. Their staff of intelligent, passionate, and certified clinical counselors have over 50 years of combined experience in counseling, mental health, and drug/alcohol prevention and rehabilitation. By integrating medical approaches to therapy, 12-steps, a highly empathic practice, and providing an atmosphere of healing to lives that have been impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, they are able to help empower our clients to fight the disease of addiction and help them create a foundation for family reunification, workforce readiness, and community involvement. Visit www.houseofacts.org.
Living Legacy Award Winners 2012 in Solano County
Posted: May 18, 2012
In celebration of Older Americans Month, the Senior Coalition in partnership with Solano County, cities, and other senior-focused groups presented 24 awards to seniors throughout Solano County. Seven Vallejo residents received a Living Legacy Award in honor of their contributions to the community on May 23rd.
- Richard Gutierrez was presented the Community Spirit Award for general volunteering work.
- Elaine Rairden was given the Exceptional Caregiver Award for her caretaking work with a foster child and grandparent.
- Shaaron Fox-Bent was presented the Cultural Contributions Award for her dedication in celebrating and embracing cultural diversity.
- Sharon McGriff-Payne was awarded the Building Bridges Award for her work reaching across divided/isolated cultural groups.
- Hattie Smith-Miles was given the Social Innovation Award for her work with advocating for system change.
- Carmen Johnson was given the Generative Age and Productivity Award for being an able bodied elder citizen who is still working.
- LaGuardia "Mac" McEachin was given the Lifetime Impact Award for making a lasting impression on the community.
Vallejo is proud of its seniors and celebrates these examples of the important work of seniors in our community.
After the award presentation, Vallejo Councilwoman Marti Brown had the following remarks:
"This year's Vallejo Living Legacy Award Winners for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the betterment of our community: Shaaron Fox-Bent, Richard Gutierrez, Carmen Johnson, LaGuardia "Mac" McEachin, Sharon McGriff-Payne, Elaine Rairden, and Hattie Smith-Miles.
If you have not had a chance to thank these tremendous leaders and change-agents, please take the time to do so. Even after the award presentations, I remain inspired by their efforts to improve our community and shape the past, present and future of our city and the surrounding region."