After completing her Master’s in Social Work at Howard University, Jalyn joined Samaritan Inns as an Addictions Counselor for our Women with Children Program this past March. With a lifelong passion for serving others, Jalyn is a vital part of our Women with Children Program’s success.
What inspired you to get involved with substance use treatment?
I always knew I wanted to be a therapist or in the helping professions. I know that people are made up of the many interactions they’ve had, not just individuals. So I wanted to get to know more about mental health and substance use in my Master’s program. That’s where it sparked my interest and I knew that I wanted to come into this field.
And, some personal reasons as well. My father’s in recovery. So he actually does this line of work as well. Just seeing what he’s been through and what he’s overcome, kind of inspired me, what he did to get out of that predicament.
When did your father begin his recovery?
It’s still a process. I want to say I was more conscious of it, maybe around 7 or 8th grade. That’s when I noticed that maybe he was struggling with it, or like, trying to get back into therapy.
My cousin passed away, which was his niece, that’s what like triggered it. Then watching him go to therapy, get on his psych meds, kind of helped him. So, addressing the mental health piece. And I think the mental health piece is what led him to substance use.
Now, he’s a substance use counselor. He finds it enjoyable. I mean, there’s always the stresses but that’s his purpose he feels.
Do you work through any job issues with your father?
He helps me, I kind of help him. He has the experience and I have the academia, even though we’re in two different things. It’s nice. Sometimes I have to turn it off. I just don’t want to talk about work. I don’t want to talk about substance use. No. Groups. None of that. I just need you to be my dad.
What values do you try to instill at the Women with Children Program?
I try to emphasize, mainly knowing themselves, self-love. And we focus a lot on relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, as well as coping skills for their addictions, building new habits, so they’re breaking the old ones. So just kind of like, making sure that were insuring them to be focused on their recovery. Really instilling in them that recovery is possible, as long as they’re doing the work. It’s not easy.
Do you think are some of the additional challenges clients in the Women with Children face that the regular treatment program would not have?
You have a lot of women who are in the program who may have two children with them but they may have other children who elsewhere and maybe other family custody or in the state’s custody, so, dealing with that is a whole other issue that may not arise over there.
Also, while they’re in the house, they’re single parents. And the family relationships they’re coming from may not be the ones they want to be having with their children. So, focusing on parenting skills and developmental milestones. They may not know that stuff. A lot of them don’t. There’s different values they can bring to their children, rather than continuing the cycle of addiction, poverty.
And, I think that our groups are tailored toward the woman aspect and gender specific. We focus a lot on trauma healing, stuff like that.
Experiences unique to being a woman in our society?
Exactly. Being a sister circle. Being supportive. Be respectful of others and their feelings, their experiences. A lot of them have found themselves in the same experience, just a different variation but they can relate to that.
It’s not always sister circle (Laughs). Sometimes it definitely gets challenging in the house. Personalities may clash. But, we do try to nip things in the bud, holding people accountable, making sure they’re holding themselves accountable, even when clinical staff is not around. Make sure they’re being respectful of the rules of the house at all times. And that way other people aren’t triggered to leave, on their own or end up in a situation that just gets bigger.
Right now we’re at a good place, it does ebb and flow with the different groups in the house. I think it’s healthy when we have a mix of older and younger, there’s different perspectives, experiences, all that stuff.
What’s your experience with the Child Development Center?
I love the children. Sometimes I try to do different stuff. Sometimes, I’ll take them out to water the plants. Or I’ll go to the back and play with them. Just try to create memories, positive memories.
They definitely bring joy to Clark Inn. Mainly because these women have been through so much and just having their children or child with them brings a little bit of light to their lives, knowing that they are doing something right. They have an opportunity to raise this child differently than they were raised.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far and best experience so far?
Biggest challenge thus far has to do with my age, and, I’m still working on myself. I’m still developing. I’m not a parent. So getting them to understand my perspective and the value I can bring to them. And I do understand the value they bring to my learning at Clark Inn as well.
Do you think there’s assumptions made there about you being young and not a parent?
For sure. It may not be said but it’s the elephant in the room. Me being young. When I told them my mental health background, my experience, me just coming into the substance use field. I try to be open about my experiences and what I’ve been through. They know about my father in recovery. I think that helps a little bit but there’s definitely like some…I guess awkwardness I guess since I’m not a parent.
For you or for them?
I think mainly on my side. I have to develop my skills to be able to tackle those topics if that makes sense. They see me interact with the kids but maybe I’m thinking about it too much.
I get reminded at least once a week why I’m doing this work. It’s rewarding. Just having individual sessions, or I may get that feeling in group and I’m just like, “Okay, this makes all the difference.”
What are those moments?
For instance, we were having a group about forgiveness, specifically when you can’t say sorry, like if they pass away or something like that. And this one woman was saying she has a bad relationship with her mom but really being able to forgive her for not being there, emotionally, and letting that go, and how she can be a better parent to her child.
Seeing them create boundaries with people on the outside they may not have had, like, those are all the little things that count.
What’s your favorite experience?
When the house is cohesive. That’s always a good time. It makes coming to work more enjoyable. Running the groups are a lot better. Not having that tension. So, when the house is cohesive and everything is running smoothly, that’s a good time to be at work.
You’re a blogger outside of this. What’s kind of your interests and what do you want to do for our blog?
I did a beauty blog in undergrad. I knew I liked writing. I was a good writer. Then, in my Master’s Program, I was like, “I’m really into this mental health thing. I like reading about it.” So then, at the end of my first year in my Master’s Program, I started doing a mental health blog with Joy Day Movement. They have a website and tell different stories on mental health. I was blogging for them. Then, I joined group therapy associates. I do their marketing and blogging for them. We talk about relationships, dating, couples, family stuff, mental health of course. A range of things.
Hopefully I can get into more storytelling with my blogging for Samaritan Inns.
I like telling other people’s stories. I think words are really powerful. So, I want to tell some of the women’s stories through the blog. I think they’ll be more comfortable. And also, it will let them see how far they’ve come. See how far they’ve progressed. I guess like being an inspiration to others.
Stay tuned for Jalyn’s first blog post for Samaritan Inns!
When Lee Pearson’s wife threw him out of their house, he only took one thing with him: His Certificate of Honorable Discharge from the US Army. “It’s because it’s the only thing I thought I did well,” he said.
After being discharged from military service, Lee worked for the National Archives as a security officer. But one of his co-workers introduced him to crack cocaine. “Once you go over, there’s no return. And I went over. I partied every night. Even though I had to go to work the next day, I still partied. And, it started to take me down. Late paying bills. Stealing. Whatever it took for me to get it, I was doing. It all goes with the territory.
“And my life started to completely deteriorate. Real fast. To the point where I lost everything: my family, our townhouse, my job with the government.” In the end, Lee lived in a school bus on 5th Street NW. “I was homeless for 4 years.”
One day, high and staying in a crack house, Lee heard that bill collectors were looking for him. And the only way out that he saw was through a window. “I jumped out the window, and broke my wrist. Then I ran. I ran to the White House. That night, I slept on a bench near the White House.” The next day, he was in so much pain. “I told myself, you know what? I’m tired of living like this. Something’s got to change.”
So he walked several miles to a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital. “I think it was God’s grace that I even thought about the VA,” he said.
Lee participated in a 90-day treatment program at the VA Hospital. His counselor told him that 90 days is not enough for a person to reestablish back into society. The counselor recommended Samaritan Inns because of the Treatment and Recovery Continuum of Care.
This is a key feature of Samaritan Inns. Each successive step helps to meet the individual’s needs, while fostering greater independence and responsibility. Lee stayed at the Mozart Inn.
After that, he was introduced to Jesse Washington, our Co-Director of Affordable Housing Communities/SRO, who told him, “Why don’t you go to the next step, and give our SRO a shot?”
The Single Room Occupancy program is the last phase in the Continuum.
So Lee moved to Tabitha House. Gradually, his recovery started to reap long-term benefits. He reestablished a relationship with his daughters and ex-wife. He found a job as a shipping supervisor for a government agency.
Upon reflecting on Lee’s time in the program, Jesse shared, “Samaritan Inns gave Lee the opportunity to clean up the wreckage of his past. In doing this, he was able to become a productive member of society again, and be there to see his daughters grow up.”
In addition to his government job, Lee works at Samaritan Inns as an evening property manager at Elisha House.
“I can’t say enough about how Samaritan Inns saved my life. I love working with the residents. I let them see that they, too, can do this.”
In addition to his Army service, Lee has discovered that this is something else he does well.
“I’m almost 60 years old now. But I still have plenty of years to go. I truly am grateful. God has blessed me. In turn, I try to bless somebody else. It’s that simple. You know, I can’t keep what I got, less I give it away. So I give it away every day. I come to work motivated to give back.”
To Our Samaritan Inns friends and family,
2018 presents new opportunities and challenges for us all. At Samaritan Inns, we are no stranger to either. Each year, our nation’s opioid epidemic worsens, leaving lost love ones and broken families in its wake. Washington, DC is at the heart of many of the nation’s substance use problems, leading the nation in alcohol abuse.
However, there is hope. Thanks to your continued support, we provide a beacon of light for those needing help. Over the past year, over 250 clients entered our Adult Treatment Program, looking for a new beginning. About 25 mothers began building a healthy foundation with their families through our Women with Children Program. Men and women in our long term recovery program have strengthened their commitment to independent living, with 98% of alumni continuing to live drug and alcohol free.
The challenges we face, as a community and nation, seem insurmountable. However, we know that when we come together to face these challenges, hope will win. This year, I look forward to partnering with you as we work to restore hope and bring healing to our community.
Gwendolyn Mayfield joined the team at Samaritan Inns as the Childcare Center Director this June. She has over 30 years of experience in childcare and a deep passion for creating a safe and fun learning environment for each child, as well as establishing holistic relationships with their parents and family. We asked her a few questions about her experience thus far.
Tell me a little bit about each of the kids at the Clark Inn and the dynamics and relationships you’ve developed with each of them.
Well my first was Brendan. His mom graduated. She was a very supportive parent and Brendan was very curious and independent but yet…what would you say…he wasn’t excited about others getting my attention. He was pretty much like, “This is my Gwendolyn!” He started out with other kids but for three weeks it was just him and me doing everything we can. Brendan was very smart. Mom must have been reading with him because anything I taught him he was just going to the next level. [For example] Geometry; I sat down with these different kinds of shapes and put them together to show him how you can make different things with the shapes by putting them together. He made some things I hadn’t even thought about.
Right now we have Miracle, who is my oldest, and she will be five in January. She is very bright. Her brother Messiah does everything his sister does. He lives for his sister. Just recently he’s started to get a little bit independent; just a little. Just enough so that I can get him to sit down and focus on his art, or whatever activity we are doing, and he sticks with it instead of following her.
My littlest one is Kahlie! She’s so feisty. So smart. She knows lots of words. Sometimes she’ll say words I didn’t even know she knew. But all of them are sweet hearts. I love my little ones, I really do! But I love it when I see them getting to the next level. Leaving the anger behind.
You had a graduation this past weekend. Can you talk about what it’s like to see the moms and their children graduate?
Oh, it was so nice. Everyone got up to share something special. It was so emotional; to hear she stuck to her goals and what she wanted to do to get through the program…and that she made it through. She told me exactly what she wanted Brendan to learn and she told me anytime his behavior is not cooperative to let her know and she did follow up on that.
I met her family: her mom, her sister, and I think some little children who were probably her nieces and nephews. They all had a warmth that you feel when you meet them, and I was like “Wow!” I had to do a letter for her and it was easy to write because she was so supportive the whole time. She would buy special snacks every now and then; she would bring them over. She was really thinking about us and her child when she was here.
The graduation was just awesome. I don’t know everybody’s situation, I just know them through their children. But that bond is just so good. I could tell they really care about me and they’re just very respectful and I could tell I was in the perfect place.