Natalie Builds Up Her Life By Giving Back
"I am so proud of Natalie and the recovery efforts she has made since she entered Pioneer’s Tacoma housing program. It has been really rewarding watching her engage in both her recovery program and the community,” said Amanda Johnston, Pioneer Tacoma Housing program manager.
Natalie has struggled over the years with substance abuse and having a criminal record. A few years ago she participated in Pioneer’s outpatient counseling services in Tacoma and became aware of Pioneer, but she didn’t know that she was eligible for the housing program. Her social worker told her about Pioneer’s transitional and affordable housing program for individuals and families, and she decided to apply. Natalie moved into St. Helen’s apartment December 2017 and hit the ground running. Upon entrance, she had 90 days of being clean and sober under her belt and she continues to dedicate her time advocating for recovery issues in Washington State and engaging in recovery meetings.
To maintain her residence in stable housing during her recovery, Natalie worked with her case manager to secure Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) funding to help with her rent while she works on maintaining her sobriety. She got involved with the Washington Recovery Alliance through her counseling program and was invited with her friend, Jacob, to share her story at the state Capitol about her substance abuse struggles and recovery journey to state senators, representatives and Governor Inslee. The purpose of her visit on that occasion was to raise awareness of the need for more funding for people in recovery to bring it to the forefront of legislation. She also is passionate about advocating for the elimination of barriers against people with felonies and misdemeanors. Now that Natalie has experienced what the appropriate programs and services can do for someone with a criminal record who is struggling to stay clean and avoid relapse, she is focused on getting her message out on the critical need.
“I want other people to be able to access the services I have received and stay on their recovery path. You don’t recover overnight and it takes a lot of support services to keep you on track,” said Natalie.
Reuniting with her children was a major priority in her life. She was granted unsupervised visits with her children twice a week (based on her progress and engagement in her recovery), and now has overnight and weekend visits. Staff at Tacoma Housing is very impressed with her rapid progress and celebrated her joyful reconnection with her children.
Recently, she was asked by a Tacoma official to speak in Tacoma middle schools regarding substance abuse and educating students on the dangers of drugs – especially at a young age. Natalie’s activism and drive have really helped her stay on her own path to success and hopefully will inspire other individuals to give them the opportunity to experience a positive recovery journey.
PHOTO: From Left - Ed Peterson, Tacoma district official; Jacob O’Neil, Natalie’s friend who is four years clean and sober and also advocates for recovery needs in Washington State; State Representative Jake Fey, 27th Legislative District; and Natalie.