Cars and motorcycles revved past as a tearful Tia Brewer, director and co-founder of the Women’s Hope House, shared her sober story which doubles as the origin story of Hope House.
“(I was) 19 when I started drinking,” Brewer began. “My first weekend of college, I actually hadn’t consumed alcohol or anything else prior to that. No illegal drugs, nothing. My first weekend at college I drank, and I very much enjoyed it, and it made me feel like I fit in. I had always lived, at least internally, like I was an island, like I was somehow, I don’t know, more special, smarter than, different than, not accepted. If there were five people invited to a slumber party, I always felt like I was the sixth person; I was just one slot away from being in the crowd.”
Until her run-in with alcohol and cocaine, Brewer worked in Marion as a lawyer beside Shane Beal, director and co-founder of the Men’s Hope House who shares a similar addiction story to her. Because of her position as a successful lawyer, Brewer’s downfall was sudden and public.
And yet, Brewer and Beal laugh about their shared fall as lawyers from the public eye. Without it, Brewer said God would have never gotten to her through her ego. Though everything appeared picturesque on the outside, Brewer admits that she was falling apart.
“I (was) a practicing defense attorney; I had a booming practice and had financial success,” Brewer said. “I was on PTO and baked cookies for bake (sales). It was very much about how the external life looked. Internally, I was very miserable and did not feel close to people, (I) did not have a relationship of any kind with God.”
It was not until two rehab programs, one in exchange for jail time, and one recovery house later that Brewer set aside her flaws and connected with God, she said.
“While I was in treatment, I had a spiritual experience,” Brewer said, pausing to compose herself. “I went to church for the first time in more years than I could count. I went because I didn’t want to stay at the treatment center that day, not because I had gone seeking God, but he found me. I ended up at the front of the church, and the Holy Spirit washed down through me. And I knew at that point I was free. I knew that I could turn my life over, that I could let God do it, I just had to listen.”
After leaving her transitional home, Brewer had a new mission in life: to set aside her ego and do something that mattered. She said what she previously believed to be important work as a lawyer paled in comparison to what God had in store.
Brewer, previously separated from Beal due to their respective recovery programs, reconnected with him over Lent of 2019. Their hearts were burdened with the drug epidemic of Grant County. Both Beal and Brewer worked at Grant-Blackford Mental Health as peer support but quickly realized Grant County’s had almost little to no transitional housing for those in recovery, especially for women.
This was Brewer’s call; she and Beal knew what they had to do. They began looking for churches to partner with and donations came in to support their program.
“We started praying during the season of Lent,” Beal said. “We had no house, no board, no bylaws, not a plan, not anything written on paper, nothing.”
The plan was to open up the first sober living home in Grant County, but first, they had to start from the ground up with prayer as the foundation, Beal said.
“‘We’d like to open a sober living house.’ Well, great. Sounds like a super idea. So we pray about it,” Beal said, describing the conversation he had with Brewer. “And within six months, here we are opening. We should have never opened in March, never.”
Despite knowing the challenge presented in front of them, Beal and Brewer said they pursued their goal knowing God would provide.
Originally, Beal and Brewer were gifted a house by a generous donor who had a heart for men in recovery, just 10 short days after they had started praying about opening a sober living house. Even though the house felt like a gift from God, they ended up losing it in a zoning battle. However, God provided a new home for them in the form of the Genesis House.
Genesis House consisted of two homes located on 14th and Washington streets and was intended to be a women’s house before it was ultimately turned into a home for veterans. But now, it is back to its original purpose as a recovery house for women through Hope House.
“It is pretty neat how it’s now back to serving the original population that it was designed to help,” Brewer said.
Now with three houses, one for men and two for women, Hope House opened its doors earlier this spring. Two days later, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the stay-at-home state mandate due to COVID-19.
Beal turned to Brewer for guidance, and in response she said, “just open.”
Recovery doesn’t happen alone, Beal said; it happens in groups. However, the central message during COVID-19 calls for isolation, but for the people in recovery, isolation is a much more deadly illness than the virus itself.
Beal said that they decided from the very beginning to stay open and be present with the higher risk people in recovery to make sure no one was at danger of relapsing and dying from an overdose.
The pair stuck to their gut during the uncertainty and continued to recite the motto, “build it and they will come.”
With the smell of fresh paint and a pile of half-put-together furniture in the bedrooms, residents came.
However, the COVID-19 hurdles the pair had to navigate also brought the loss of their entire volunteer staff at the beginning of March. Beal said that even the board that approved the idea was skeptical.
“It was just Tia and I,” Beal said. “We should have never opened, but we did because that’s what God told us to do.”
With every roadblock came an answer to prayer as support for Hope House spread through the community, the duo said. People gave money to fund bed frames and housing, while others provided home-cooked meals.
“There was a month during COVID that everyday someone dropped off food,” Beal said. “Looking back on it now, it seems like two years ago, but I feel like that’s only because we were faithful to what we were called to do.”
Even though Hope House is a Christian organization, Beal and Brewer said they are very intentional about making faith a free choice for the residents, not an expectation.
Brewer said that this belief is based on knowing that being a Christian is more than standing on a street corner handing out Bibles. It is about living out daily what it means to be a Christian in everyday places like Walmart that matters, she said, and that is what people take notice of and respond to.
“Are we noticeable not because of the words we say, but in the way we live and how we treat each other?” Brewer asked.
Brewer believes that it is that type of attitude that makes the residents of Hope House and people from the community take notice; it is something people cannot quite put their finger on.
Faith is a defining factor in the recovery process for people in Hope House. One of the biggest struggles for the people in recovery is finding someone they can trust, and Brewer said that the missing piece of the puzzle is God.
Hope House’s message of love and Christ has spread beyond Grant County’s borders simply by word of mouth. Brewer described it as change making noise, and people are listening.
Through the program, Brewer said that she and Beal do not bring God into it, but he brings them through it.
“Hope House wouldn’t exist but for God,” Brewer said. “Everything we do, every facet of not just the program, but every individual that comes into that house, every community partner that we have, every opportunity that is brought in front of our residents – those things are part of God’s plan for us, for Hope House, for our residents, for their families, for this community. So long as we recognize that none of this would exist, but God has decided this is where this is going, the better off we are. We are vessels for the work that God has decided to do in and outside of Grant County.”
Four men graduated from the recovery program in September with more following suit this month. Currently 36 individuals make up Hope House, but with the plan to add another house in February and August 2021, Brewer and Beal hope that number will soon be 60.
The journey that began with Brewer in rehab on a search of self-discovery ended with a hope for others battling similar struggles. Brewer recognizes now it is enough to just be herself – not a lawyer, not a successful individual, just Tia. Beal smiled at Brewer as she described her growth and responded saying, “Great lawyer, better Tia.”
Beal shared how change is not a far-off concept but within grasp; it can happen anytime, anywhere, and is only a prayer away.
The wind rustled loudly, and the traffic continued to blare, but Beal’s and Brewer’s stories of hope and recovery and their love for others were louder than both.
“I think people sit at home and think they can’t change,” Beal said. “What Hope House does is it shows people that it’s not true, that people can do really hard things. They can continue to show up, they can continue to make the changes they want for their lives, and that changes other people’s lives too. I think that’s what we want; I want people to see that Christ transforms lives, and it happens every day. You don’t have to be divorced and be terrified of your life anymore or be bankrupt or your kids don’t like you – whatever it is, change can happen. God is good.”