WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — In downtown Watertown, you will find Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars. Before it was founded, it was simply a group of people investing in others at their local jail.
“Then the more that we did that, we started to see sort of a cycle of incarceration and getting out and back and being incarcerated and we just kind of thought ‘how can we intersect that?'” says BSBB Executive Director Stacy Hendricks.
At the time, Watertown did not have any sober transitional housing, so that’s what the group decided to offer.
“Our mission statement is as followers of Jesus, we’re working to break the chain of addiction, through building healthy relationships, advocacy, and providing essentials on that basic needs for individuals in our community struggling with that cycle of incarceration and substance use disorder,” says Hendricks.
They realized that the best way to combat the issues people were facing, is to take advice from those who dealt with it firsthand.
“Half of our board members have personal experiences with addiction and incarceration. And so they very much been my personal teacher, but they really informed the way that we do things, in a way that’s honoring to the people that we serve,” says Hendricks.
Along with providing free sober transitional housing, they also offer help by providing cell phone and transit support.
“I heard them through Stacy, I was going to treatment, I didn’t have the gas to get there. And she met me at the gas station to get me gas to get to treatment. So that’s how I met Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars,” says Malisa French, eight months sober.
Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars recognizes that it is harder for people to change their unhealthy tendencies without community support.
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connectedness and we feel very passionate about that. So one of the things that we try and do and in our mission statement talks about creating healthy relationships as part of the work that we do,” says Hendricks.
“At first I was like shy and didn’t really want to, I was still kind of using too, and didn’t really want to sober up or anything, but I knew I had to eventually. Coming here just made everything a lot easier, it showed me that I really do have support and I’m not alone in this,” says Cali Ortley, lives in BSBB House.
To help build community, they decided to create their own sober social events.
“You might see some paintings that are hanging up on the wall or wood carving, plaques or things like that. Those classes were led by the people that we serve. They are so gifted, so talented,” says Hendricks.
“It’s helped me through getting my own place to where I am today, which I have my own place. I have my cat. I mean I’ve really gone far in eight months. So, if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” says French.
“I just want to let anybody know that if they are trying to get sober or thinking about it, like this is definitely the place to do that. All the support in the world and great people,” says Ortley.
Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars also partners with other resources in the community to help fully assist the people who need their help. No one in the houses has to pay to live there.