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Empowering women with long term sober living

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When people are suffering from addiction, having a place to stay without substances such as alcohol or drugs is incredibly necessary, according to Roxanne DeCarlo, executive director of the Empowerment Center. 

In Reno, the Empowerment Center on South Virginia Street is such a location, where women can live up to four months to stay clean and sober while they try to figure out their next steps. Established in 2005 as the Launching Pad in Sparks, the center is where women can receive help to better live their lives without the temptation of drugs and alcohol. 

“Who are we to dictate how long somebody needs to be in a good, safe, supportive environment to really create lifelong change?”

“What we do is provide drug and alcohol services to the women that live here,” DeCarlo said. “They live on site. It’s a four-month program. They don’t just receive drug and alcohol counseling, but they receive a host of other wraparound services: employment assistance, helping them get their driver’s license, their picture ID, social security, all of those documentations that are required in order to actually gain employment.”

Other services provided by the center include financial literacy to help women stay on their feet, as well as mental health services to equip them emotionally for a sober life. 

As much as the center helps women get sober, one of the biggest challenges, DeCarlo said, is keeping them clean. That requires long-term solutions, such as housing.

In November of this year, the Empowerment Center opened up its Marvel Way Complex close to Meadowood Mall. The new facility has 42 apartments for long-term, sober living. 

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The Empowerment Center in south Reno is a transitional living facility for women in recovery and serves as one step in living a sober life. Image: Mark Hernandez / This Is Reno

“We noticed about, I’m gonna say about three years ago, maybe even four now, that our women were having a hard time transitioning back out into the community,” said DeCarlo. “It was hard for them to find a place to live. And what was really challenging was watching somebody that maybe poured four to five months into changing their life and then end up back in a weekly motel surrounded by the same people doing the same things.”

This new apartment complex has a gated entrance, green areas with a playground, is close to public transportation, and most importantly offers a sober environment. The idea is to give residents a safe place to live as long as they want to continue their sober lifestyle. 

“Who are we to dictate how long somebody needs to be in a good, safe, supportive environment to really create lifelong change?” said DeCarlo. “They didn’t get there overnight. It took years for them to develop those habits and the lifestyle that they lived. And so often it can take years to unravel that and be able to have that permanent foundation where you’re comfortable when you have good friends and a good supportive environment on your own.”

The Empowerment Center works with local providers to help individuals who need a sober living option to find Marvel Way and ensure they end up in a location that offers them what they need. The new complex also takes more into account than just previous rental history, which in these cases, can often be tumultuous. 

“One of the things that you see a lot in the area is supportive housing for seniors,” said DeCarlo.  “So it’s kind of similar to that, where we take our population and then we try to provide support services that are meaningful to that population.”

The Marvel Way Complex opened in November and applications are being accepted for residents. More information is at https://marvelway.com/

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Mark Hernandez
Mark Hernandez
Mark was born in Mexico, grew up in Carson City, and has recently returned to Reno to continue to explore and get to know the city again. He got his journalism degree in 2018 and wants to continue learning photography for both business and pleasure. Languages and history are topics he likes to discuss as well as deplete any coffee reservoirs in close proximity.

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