A former addict's voice booms through Rockford's North Love Baptist Church: "I learned how to distribute drugs."
The church is linked to Reformers Unanimous, a faith-based addiction counseling program that began in Rockford eleven years ago. It has since spread all over the country and will soon expand to a new building in Rockford to temporarily house and rehabilitate more women. Monday night, aldermen will discuss how else the center can be used.
"We are asking for a special use permit because that would allow us to see people from the county jail, either as an alternative to sentencing, or ladies that are on probation," says Steve Schupp, the program's director of operations.
The program would move into a shut-down nursing home on the far west side, but the area's alderman believes the building could be put to better use.
"In that area of the city, we need to have businesses, more housing, a college or university, but we certainly don't need to have another social service," says 13th Ward Alderman Linda McNeely.
Schupp says the nursing home has hosted vandals, vagrants and theft since shutting down four years ago.
"To the community it would be a vast, vast improvement," he says.
Alderman Frank Beach agrees, he wants the council to look past divisions in the city to help the overall community.
"There are people in our community that struggle and we take the good and we take the bad and we take those that need help and we try to help them," says Beach.
Steve Schupp knows what it's like to need that help. He recovered from alcohol and crack cocain addictions with the help of the program he now works for. He says Reformers Unanimous has more than 80 percent success in permanently getting graduates back to their families, jobs and the support of a local church.
If aldermen decide not to allow the special use permit Monday night, the program can still move into the new building. It could not house women from the jail, but directors would also no longer be subject to the city's guidelines, such as only allowing eight women to live there. None of the women could be sex offenders, or have convictions of violent crimes on their record. They would be under 24-hour surveillance.