In July, two women in recovery for meth addiction opened up a sober living house for women in Sioux Falls.

Six months later, they now have four sober living homes in the City.

The latest one is for women and children and it has a special connection to Emily’s Hope, the charity that Angela Kennecke started after the overdose death of her daughter in 2018.

Monique Merrival has been on her own since the age of 17.

“My parents being addicts; my parents going to prison,” Merrival said.

Years later, she broke a vow to never go down the same path.

Merrival: “I tried meth. And I couldn’t stop. I didn’t understand addiction. I didn’t understand addicts; that they were very selfish. They didn’t love their children; their life, or anything like that–until I became an addict.
Angela Kennecke: And you did the same thing.
Merrival: Yeah.
Angela Kennecke: Is that hard?
Merrival: Yeah.

Merrival while using meth and today in recovery with daughter Jeanique

Merrival said meth made her ADHD brain feel “normal.” Her life became anything but. She spiraled out of control, eventually losing custody of her kids and winding up in prison.

A few months following her release, she moved into the Emily’s Hope Oxford House in Sioux Falls, where Merrival worked hard to get her two children, three-year-old Waylon and two-year-old Jeanique, back.

“It was like we were never apart and I struggled with that because what if they regress? What if they don’t want to be with me? What if they cry when they leave the foster mom? But it wasn’t like that. They wanted their mom,” Merrival said.

“Our children may have lived in chaos for a while; and so to learn that structure again to help your children without being high or drunk; it’s a learning process. It takes time,” Rebecca Hungerford said.

Rebecca Hungerford knows that first hand. She and her friend, Rebecca Skinner are both in recovery for meth addiction.

“These are things that I’ve personally gone through in my life. I’ve been that mom,” Rebecca Skinner said.

Skinner and Hungerford started the Oxford Houses in Sioux Falls and named this one for mothers and their children, the Emily’s Hope House.

The Emily’s Hope House for women and children in Sioux Falls, SD

“When I saw Emily’s story, it touched me very immensely and the idea of opening up a recovery house has always been on my list of things that one day I would like to do. And something in her story just spoke to my heart and I just said, ‘why not now?’ It’s needed now and I don’t want to see brilliant young people losing their futures.” Hungerford said.

The Emily’s Hope organization donated a computer, art supplies and even a wagon.

The children living in the home opened up the gifts on Christmas.

“All those kids being able to open up all those gifts– and the looks on their faces. It was a magical day for them”

Rebecca Hungerford, Co-Founder of Sioux Falls Oxford Houses
Children living in Emily’s Hope House Receive gifts for Christmas

The presents included books for children on dealing with a parent’s addiction and their own emotions.

“The kids just being able to play as children and work on art projects; paint and color and be kids,” Rebecca said.

Emily’s Hope has also donated framed prints of Emily’s paintings to hang on the walls of the home. It’s a reminder that Emily’s Hope lives on through the women who live here.

“The far reaching affects of a person having the disease of addiction is incredible. And so when I say it takes a community to put all this together–that’s truly what it is. It takes a community,” Hungerford said.

The residents must be active in recovery groups and if they use alcohol or drugs, they aren’t allowed to stay.

“It’s not easy. They’re paying their own way. They have to pay rent. They have a chore. They have to get a job; take care of their children. All the moms sign a parent contract,” Hungerford said.

Merrival hasn’t used in more than a year. That’s the longest she has remained sober after several attempts to quit.

Angela Kennecke: What will keep you in recovery?
Merrival: My children; being with my children. I have positive support. I have support that I’ve never had before.
Angela Kennecke: And what does it mean for your kids to have their mom? Probably the world, I hope.

Merrival plays on the floor of the Emily’s Hope House with her two children

“I see the happiness when I walk in here and I see the kids smiling and happy and they’re playing and I see the progress with the moms and that’s something that’s going to be carried with them forever.”

Rebecca Skinner, Co-Founder of Sioux Falls Oxford Houses

Women are encouraged to live in the Emily’s Hope House for a year; which allows their children to count on a safe and stable environment, as their mothers reclaim their lives from the grip of addiction.

The founders of Sioux Falls’ Oxford Sober Living House Network say the need for sober living is much greater than what’s available.

Even with four houses, they still turn people away because they are full. They’re hoping to get the funds to hire a coordinator for the homes soon.

KELOLAND News Opioid Crisis Page