Callie:
Getting Her Life Together at Guest House

MAY 5, 2015 ... Callie, now 51, grew up in the Hampton Roads, VA, area. “I had a really nice upbringing,” she says, “no abuse issues” (although she adds wryly that she was “probably a little spoiled”). She graduated from high school and embarked on her adult life. But about 15 years later, in the mid-1990s, she started using crack cocaine; “and once I was introduced to that, my life took a terrible turn.

Callie“I’d started experimenting with drugs—marijuana—in junior high, just to be with the ‘in’ crowd. After that,” she recounts, “I was drinking and snorting cocaine, but not to the point where it really affected my life the way crack did. To get crack, I started doing things I wouldn’t normally do: whatever I had to do to get it.” As a result, Callie was arrested and incarcerated twice (2001-2003 and 2005-2009). She credits incarceration with, literally, saving her life, because it got her off the street. Following the second incarceration, she came to Guest House, graduated in 2010 and has been sober, employed and housed ever since.

“Everyone thinks there has to be trauma,” notes Kari Galloway, Executive Director of Friends of Guest House, “and that’s usually true but not always. It was not true in Callie’s case. Every now and again, ‘ordinary’ people get caught up in bad things and it changes their lives. There’s no stereotypical offender. Callie is someone who breaks the mold.”

“I know that if I ever need something, I can go to the Guest House and I’ll be welcome and I’ll be given great advice. You can’t beat that.

“I just wish we had more Guest Houses around Virginia—that would be even better!”

—CALLIE

She’s also someone with tremendous determination. After her first incarceration, she returned home. She thought she could handle the temptations—especially the access to crack—available around her old “people, places and things,” but she couldn’t. As her second incarceration neared an end in 2009, she knew she needed to start over. She applied to Guest House and was accepted, the only hitch being a two-week wait between her release date and the availability of a bed. “Something just drew me to that place,” she recalls. Rather than risk a return to her old ways, she chose to stay in prison for those extra two weeks. And she made it to Guest House.

Her work in the program centered on “getting my life together. Following the rules and just getting my life together: that’s what the Guest House did for me. It helped me with that in so many ways. I really don’t think I could have done it without them.”

Although not stereotypical, Callie did face the challenges all felons face: how to get a job with a record? how to find housing without a job, with poor credit and with a record? how to rebuild credit without a job? “It’s maddening! It can be done, but it’s difficult. That’s another way the Guest House helps: it’s a support system.” Through Guest House, Callie found a job at Alexandria’s Your Dog’s Best Friends, whose owner, Paul Haire, has given many of our clients and other ex-offenders a chance. She has maintained that job to the present day. TurningPoint, a program affiliated with the Salvation Army, offered two years of transitional housing: otherwise, upon leaving our Residential Program, Callie would have been homeless. Thereafter, she rented a basement apartment from her employer. Today, she and a friend live in a house in Culpepper. And she’s remained drug-free.

Having made those connections, having nurtured Callie’s independence, Guest House also represents “a place to turn to” should problems arise in the future. “I know that if I ever need something, I can go there and I’ll be welcome and I’ll be given great advice. You can’t beat that.

“I just wish we had more Guest Houses around Virginia—that would be even better!”

 

 

 
 
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Friends of Guest House
One East Luray Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301-2025
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Friends of Guest House helps female ex-offenders in Northern Virginia make the difficult transition from incarceration back into the community.

Friends of Guest House, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) public charity: Federal tax ID #51-0201327. Gifts to Guest House are tax-deductible as provided by law.
 

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