A photo of the new CARITAS Center in Richmond, Va.

CARITAS programs bring renewed hope for Richmond community

Homelessness. Unemployment. Substance-use disorder. This is the reality of daily life for many individuals in the Greater Richmond area – and CARITAS is seeking to change that.

If you’ve read our piece about Karen Stanley, president and CEO at CARITAS, then you’ll know how the organization came to be and its mission to serve those in their time of need. We wanted to take a closer look at two of its programs: Works, a job-readiness program, and The Healing Place for Women, which helps women recover from substance-use disorder.

Changing lives one job at a time

Students in the Works program at CARITAS start their journey with a pledge: to become joyful, productive, self-sustaining and service-driven members of their community. Finding and keeping a job is the first step.

Marilyn Milio, director of workforce programs and training at CARITAS.

Most students enter the Works program because they face major barriers to employment, including incarceration, felony records or lack of education. However, the program doesn’t just help them kickstart their careers, it changes their lives for the better. Marilyn Milio, director of workforce programs and training at CARITAS, sees this transformation daily.

“Every day when I come to work, it’s like reaffirming in the human race that people actually do change,” Milio said. “It’s a privilege to be counted in on other people’s lives.”

During the five-week program, students show up to class each morning dressed in professional attire provided by CARITAS staff. With the help of volunteers, students learn employable skills like leadership, team-building and critical thinking. They also attend workshops to build their resumes and participate in mock interviews.

Once they’ve finished the curriculum, students enter Job Club, where they have full access to employment resources to help them land their first job. Around 90% of students are employed within 30 days of completing the program. Many start their careers in manufacturing, construction, healthcare and real estate. Staff members at Works follow up with students for two years through the AfterWorks program, which offers networking and career development opportunities. 

Milio wants students to know that the Works program will always be there for them, even long after they’ve graduated.

“It’s much easier to do it as a village than on your own island,” Milio said. “We try to help them build that village.”

Since 2011, the Works program has served more than 700 students across 80 classes. Now, Works will help a new set of students – women on the road to recovery.

A fresh start for women in recovery

The Healing Place long has been a cornerstone of CARITAS’ mission to help those suffering from substance-use disorder break the cycle. In just 15 years, the program has helped more than 9,500 individuals in the Richmond region overcome addiction and start their lives anew. 

Though The Healing Place originally served only men, leaders at CARITAS realized that dozens of women were falling through the cracks. In late 2020, The Healing Place for Women opened.. 

“It’s a beautiful program for women who are ready for a life change,” said Tara Lloyd, founding program manager of The Healing Place for Women. “This is an actual program with processes, rules, consequences and community.”

Women interested in rehabilitation must participate in a voluntary phone-screening process. Upon arrival, residents are provided with everything they need: bedding, clothing, food, hygiene products and more. They spend their first six weeks taking classes, performing chores and getting to know other women in recovery.

The team then determines who is prepared to enter the heart of recovery – a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous that lasts between four and five months. Lloyd says that this often the most difficult phase for residents.

The journey doesn’t end there. Residents then participate in the Works program to secure employment and gain economic stability. Milio says that she often visits residents during their lunch hour to introduce herself and garner excitement about the program.

Once residents have gone through Works, they begin a 90-day transition phase that will help them reenter society. After fully graduating from The Healing Place for Women, residents have lifetime membership to an alumni program where they can receive additional, ongoing support. 

An old warehouse becomes a beacon of hope

Both the Works program and The Healing Place for Women are housed in the new CARITAS Center, a recently renovated warehouse located at 2220 Stockton Street in Richmond. For Milio, the center has completely changed the face of her program.

“I went from a double-wide trailer in the parking lot to a whole wing,” she said.

Students in Works now have access to two full classrooms, a computer lab and five interview suites.

The Healing Place for Women can accommodate up to 84 women in its new dormitory-style bedrooms. Residents live and work at the center full-time during the seven-to-nine-month program. Once they’re back on their feet, residents can visit loved ones in the center’s children and family suites, which are exclusive to The Healing Place for Women.

“This old, historic Philip Morris Tobacco warehouse is now a beacon of hope,” Lloyd said.

To learn more about CARITAS, visit its website or follow it on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. If you are a woman looking to recover from substance use disorder, call The Healing Place for Women at 804-418-3049.

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