Founded in 2004, The Edna House began in a small single-family home on W. 128th Street in Cleveland, Ohio with just three residents on day one. Before the year was over, it had outgrown that house and moved to a larger two-family home on W. 114th Street. Shortly thereafter the house next door was rented in order to house the expanding program. By April 2006, The Edna House moved to the old convent at St. Colman’s. In just over two years, from 2004 to 2006, The Edna House expanded exponentially from serving 3 clients to housing over 22 recovering women. The old convent, with 22 bedrooms, large dining and living rooms, multiple offices and a chapel complete with stained-glass windows felt like The Edna House had found it’s “forever home”.
Not only did the Edna House get bigger over the years, but perfected an approach that made opportunity for alcoholics and addicts to get better and to recover. The Edna House’s commitment to quality, integrity and keeping to simple, founding principles has made it a premier organization, respected by residents, family and community.
IDENTIFYING A NEED
Many women have recovered using the program and facilities of AA. Those successes are affirming and encouraging. Still, the promised joy and adventure in this new way of life has included devastating and tragic encounters as well. The women involved with founding the Edna House consistently met and worked with women who sometimes had very difficult living conditions, if they had homes at all. It was increasingly apparent that, oftentimes, women coming to AA meetings had circumstances in their homes which created additional obstacles to obtaining sobriety. These included family members, spouses or roommates in active addiction and various types of abuse. Dropping off a very new woman at a home like this one night, two AA women, Erin B. and Nancy O. commiserated about the reality of that bleak situation. That conversation, in that driveway on that night, turned out to be the continuing conversation that resulted in The Edna House.
At the time Edna was founded, a woman could not obtain sober living conditions unless she had private insurance, a referral from the justice system or $1500 cash. The founders knew access to sober living arrangements had to be provided without regard for ability to pay. The need was urgent, and the conviction became urgent as well.
The major influences behind the principles and practices of The Edna House for Women were Alcoholics Anonymous, Jack Mulhall and Sr. Mary Ignatia. The Edna House was born of the vision of four sober women and the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Pursuing –“working” - the 12 steps, alcoholics in recovery are taught to carry the message of recovery to others in need – to give freely of what they had so freely been given. The Edna House is a prime example.
Erin, Nancy, Jane and Debi engaged the help of Jack Mulhall who, at that time, had roughly 30 years of experience managing residential programs for alcoholics and addicts. He was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, 80 years old and with over 40 years of sobriety. He had founded The Ed Keating Center just a few years prior to the opening of the Edna House. His practical real world knowledge of the recovery world was immensely helpful, but of all that he taught the founders of Edna House, perhaps faith in God was the most important. He saw God as a business partner in the work of helping alcoholics and instructed them to do the same. “Don’t doubt,” he told them. They were doing God’s work, and therefore they should trust that He will always provide.
The influence of Sister Mary Ignatia was also central to the forming principles of the Edna House mission. Sr. Ignatia was a pioneer in residential care of alcoholics. Having worked side by side with the founders of AA, she established an alcohol detox. unit at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron and then Rosary Hall Solarium at St. Vincent Charity Hospital in Cleveland. She acknowledged the critical need for physical care to recover from alcoholism but also the crucial relationship with God that would make long-term recovery possible. She taught faith in God and love through action. Not only were the patients in her care influenced by her, but, by virtue of 12 step work – helping alcoholics still in need, many members of AA spent time at Rosary Hall and formed a friendship with her as well. While working with a new man struggling to get sober, one of the members of AA at that time became frustrated. Looking for guidance from Sr. Ignatia, that member asked her when they should give up on a drunk. She replied, “Five seconds before their last breath.”
AN INDEPENDENT SPIRIT
This never quit on anyone philosophy translated to the management of the sober living program by never putting a restriction on the number of times a woman could come into the program. In many cases, people got sober after several attempts. It was determined that the role of The Edna House would be to provide the opportunity. The founders knew they could never declare a person beyond hope. Second, third, fourth chances, etc. would be part of the operation of The Edna House. Passed down from the old timers of AA, it’s critical to “meet every drunk at their level”. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
The experience of Jack Mulhall’s management of residential programs for alcoholics proved that independence from government funding was a must in order to allow the program to be directed by the spirit of God, AA principals and the wisdom of the staff and community. Avoiding the restrictions and regulations of government funding is only a small part of the reason for independence from that funding. More importantly, The Edna House belongs to the community that it serves. The women understand that the food and shelter they receive are a direct result of the love and care of the community.
We have helped over 1,200 women and their families, and can stand by the fact that the vast majority of women who have completed our program remain sober today.
CONTINUING OUR MISSION
We have grown considerably over the years in numbers and reputation, and are a true force in the recovery community. We have helped over 1,200 women and their families, and can stand by the fact that the vast majority of women who have completed our program remain sober today. Our alumnae are a driving force behind the mission and vision of the Edna House.
Our current staff is made up of extremely dedicated individuals. Our alumni association currently boasts almost 300 active members and meets monthly to plan family events & fundraisers to foster the sisterhood among them. The Edna House of today is stronger and more efficient yet the need in our community has never been larger or more urgent. Edna's success has always been tied to the generous support of our community. If you have the means to help us continue our mission please have a look at the ways you can get involved - from volunteering to making a monetary donation to help us fund our vital programs.