D.A.W.N.S House

For more information or to donate, visit www.dawnshouse.org or call 541-410-6065

Miranda Dye is an upbeat 21-year-old who loves hiking and is working toward a career in forestry. Her heart has also stopped beating on eight different occasions, the consequences of a heroin addiction.

After a couple failed rehab stints, Dye left her native Cleveland to seek support at D.A.W.N.S House, the Bend-based sober-living residence for women.

“I was less than a person,” said Dye, sitting at the dining table inside the nonprofit’s second location, which opened last month. She has been at D.A.W.N.S House since February.

“I came here to escape everything. I didn’t know I would come here and find my family,” she said. “When someone is going through a hard time, we rally around that person. They’ve definitely saved my life.”

Co-founder Dawn Holland-Rogers opened D.A.W.N.S House — which is an acronym for directly assisting women newly sober — in May 2015. On a shoestring budget, Holland-Rogers operates two sober-living homes in Central Oregon exclusively for women who are fresh out of jail or treatment centers. All told, D.A.W.N.S House has granted residency to 48 women. Between the two locations, the facility has room for 15 residents.

In Bend, there are six sober-living residences for men — All Oxford Houses, according to TransitionalHousing.org. One all-female Oxford House location and the two D.A.W.N.S House locations are the only sober-living residences available to women.

“We’re trying to enhance their lives so if they’re at the cross roads — do I want to drink and use? Or do I not? — the scales are weighing over here,” Holland-Rogers said.

Dye hadn’t been able to talk about the future until recently with any sense of hope and conviction. She is also one of the younger residents; the average age is 32. Dye is working on earning her GED certificate. Each morning, she wakes up early, makes her bed, completes an assigned chore and gives a fellow resident a ride to work.

LaShawndrea Blackwell, 29, arrived at the door of the first sober-house location in May with nothing more in her possession other than a bottle of Sprite and a bag of chips. It was a Saturday morning and she had been released from Deschutes County jail the night before. A Seattle native, she didn’t know anyone in Oregon. She was terrified she’d start drinking and using again. When Holland-Rogers met with her, Blackwell told her plaintively: “I just want to stay sober.” That was all Holland-Rogers needed to hear. She ushered Blackwell to the spare bed that was coincidently open. She’s stayed nearly five months and is the chief resident at the second location.

Last week when Blackwell began her first day at her new cashier job at McDonald’s, she called Holland-Rogers during her break. She wanted her to know she was “killing it.” Holland-Rogers cheered. Blackwell said she would like to study to become a beautician; in the meantime, she’s saving money while studying to earn her GED certificate.

“I get choked up about Shawnie (as Blackwell is affectionately known). She’s such a superstar,” Holland-Rogers said.

“I needed to get my life together. I don’t have any kids yet, but I plan on it,” she said. “And I don’t want to have kids in the system. I don’t want to be like my mother. I don’t want to be addicted to negative things.”

A safe, supportive place

All D.A.W.N.S House residents were previously homeless, unemployed or earning below the poverty level when they entered the home. There is a $600 move-in fee, but that’s often provided by social service agencies or other nonprofits. They must find jobs within 30 days — something 96 percent have accomplished — because rent is $500 each month. On top of showing up for work, two residents are working on obtaining their GED certificates and one has earned it. Three are enrolled at Central Oregon Community College. Of former residents, 68 percent have successfully transitioned and remain sober and out of the criminal justice system. Thirty-one women have worked on being reunited with their children, Holland-Rogers said.

The original D.A.W.N.S House is 3,300 square-foot four-bedroom rental home in Bend’s Northeast quadrant; it would blend in with the rest of middle-class suburbia if not for Holland-Rogers’ whimsically painted Chevy van, parked outside. She uses it to drive residents to various appointments and interviews. Inside the home, wood floors give way to an expansive living room. The patio features a jacuzzi. With its sunny windows and cozy tidiness, it accommodates as many as eight residents. In its renovated basement, Holland-Rogers shares a “mother-in-law” bedroom with her 9-year-old daughter.

“The girls just love her. A lot of them have kids who aren’t with them,” she said. “They’re wonderful. They buy her little gifts and braid her hair.”

The second D.A.W.N.S House location, also a rental, is 2,000 square feet and is situated south of Pilot Butte. It fits seven women with four bedrooms. Dubbed the “beginner’s house,” it features stricter curfews. Residents who abide by the structured program can eventually transition to the original location, which affords women more flexibility — “a roommate situation,” Holland-Rogers said — as they rebuild their lives, hold down jobs and make car payments. Any particular woman’s stay is contingent on her needs — there is no expiration date on a resident’s stay.

Every month, the residents write down three goals on a marker board outside each person’s room. Goals range from obtaining one’s birth certificate, finding a job or better monitoring one’s blood-sugar levels. When the goals are accomplished, Holland-Rogers gives $50 gift cards as rewards.

A second sober house

She said she had always looked for a second location because there was always a waiting list.

“Turning people down breaks my heart,” she said.

Holland-Rogers said she limits her waiting list to three slots. Because of the unreliability of addiction, she coordinates with those who have been in frequent touch with her. If a bed opens up and none of the three get back within a day, Holland-Rogers puts a call out to treatment centers asking for a referral.

The primary residence is also a transitive home for newborn kittens. As the result of an arrangement with the Humane Society of Central Oregon, Holland-Rogers said the residents socialize the kittens until they weigh 2 pounds — at which point they’re returned to the Humane Society for adoption.

“It’s therapeutic,” she said.

A long journey

Holland-Rogers was born in Port Angeles, Washington, to an alcoholic family. In 1990, then 18, she hitchhiked to Seattle and found work on commercial fishing boats going to Alaska. She worked as a commercial fisherman for a decade. The three months on, three months off workflow, tailored to the fishing seasons, however, accelerated Holland-Rogers’ alcoholism.

“Because you can’t drink when you’re at sea, I didn’t think I had a problem,” she said. However, her detoxification episodes became increasingly painful; to dull them, she began smuggling alcohol on-board, which was strictly prohibited. Holland-Rogers was fired from four boats; her reputation precluded her from getting hired on another. In Seattle, she lived for two years in her car with a transistor radio and a pet bunny. She describes herself as a late-stage nonfunctioning alcoholic. She entered treatment in the late ’90s. In 2000, she was about to get out of a Redmond treatment center and she was terrified she would drink again; everyone she knew drank and used drugs.

“I had no safe place to go,” she said, when someone told her to contact Sherry Glover, who had converted her Bend bed-and-breakfast into a women’s transitional home called Country in the City Women’s Housing. Holland-Rogers is one of the approximate 2,200 women Glover and her mother — who also operated the residency — have transitioned. In the instance of Holland-Rogers, Glover helped the career fisherman get a job at Macy’s.

“I saw in her a very ambitious, intelligent woman,” Glover said of her protégé.

“I was definitely a diamond in the rough,” Holland-Rogers, 44, said with a chuckle. At Central Oregon Community College she earned a degree in business and restaurant management. When she quit a restaurant job because she couldn’t tolerate serving alcohol, she approached Glover. Her mentor told her that her mother had died and she had shut down Country in the City in 2013.

“I had this moment of clarity like nothing I’ve ever had,” Holland-Rogers said. “I had to open a women’s sober-living house. I had to do it.”

She partnered with attorney Doug MacBeth, whom she met in recovery. He applied his legal know-how to the back-end of running a nonprofit sober-living home.

“Our mission is to help women help themselves. We don’t do it for them, but when they get here, as far as finding employment, going to meetings, pushing them to get GED (certificates) if they don’t have them, getting them driver’s licenses, bank accounts — we want these women to have a life that’s too good to use over,” Holland-Rogers said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7816, pmadsen@bendbulletin.com