Wyoming Rescue Mission Opens New Recovery Centers to Help Addicts Turn Their Lives Around

Program participants harness faith in place of addiction

The new men's recovery center at the Wyoming Rescue Mission in Casper will house up to 40 men. Right now, the facility is about half-full, and the mission is welcoming new participants for its yearlong faith-based program. (Courtesy photo from Michael Livingston)

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CASPER, Wyo.—Caleb Harris wasn’t looking for help. Last fall, the 39-year-old Florida native thought he had his life under control when he started using drugs again. At the time, he was working as a car salesman in Casper and had been out of jail for about two years after serving an eight-year sentence on charges related to his addiction.

“That’s when God came after me and showed me a different plan and purpose,” Harris said. 

It was around Thanksgiving when Harris saw a homeless man who he felt was trying to talk to him. Harris stopped to ask him where he was staying. The man pointed down the street to the Wyoming Rescue Mission on N. Park, and Harris felt compelled to check it out.

Little did he know that doing so would change his life.  

Caleb Harris, 39, relaxes in the communal living room in the new men’s dormitory that houses participants of the discipleship recovery program at the Wyoming Rescue Mission. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jennifer Kocher)

When Harris visited the mission, he learned that it provides shelter and free meals to the homeless, as well as offers a free Bible-based discipleship recovery program for those struggling with addiction.

That piqued Harris’ interest, but he wasn’t ready to give up his life quite yet. Soon, he started stopping by the shelter to donate clothing and household items. It was as if he was drawn to the place for reasons he couldn’t understand. Finally, when he fell behind on his rent in January and was evicted from his apartment, Harris moved into the shelter and began the discipleship program.

“As soon as I checked in, I knew it was God’s will, and I felt better,” he said. “I just had to give up that control and realize I couldn’t do it on my own.”

Fighting addiction

Nearly eight months later, Harris shared his journey while reclining on a couch in the new men’s dormitory. Located across the street from the main facility, the 40-person recovery center opened on August 11, along with a women’s dormitory next door that houses 20 people.

Wyoming Rescue Mission opened in 1978 as a ministry to the homeless called Soul’s Anchor and has been providing restorative hospitality for 44 consecutive years.

When it launched its men’s discipleship program in 1995 ­– followed by one for women in 2007 ­– participants either stayed in the shelter or in two modular homes where the new buildings sit today.

The two new facilities are part of a nearly six-year, $10.3 million project to grow the recovery program in a communal setting with dorm-style housing, open living space and kitchen facilities that provide a comfortable, stable lifestyle for those in recovery.

Executive Director Brad Hopkins was still basking in the event afterglow a day following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) and Casper Mayor Ray Pacheco attended.

“Yesterday was a huge milestone for Wyoming Rescue Mission and in fighting addiction, which is significant challenge both here and nationally,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins estimates 160 people complete the program each year; it has an 83% success rate and its $13,000 per person price tag is raised through donations.  

The program’s success rate is slightly higher than a 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found 75% of roughly 28 million adults who reported having a substance abuse problem are in recovery thanks to treatment services.

By eliminating the stressors of everyday life, the program allows participants to study, cook meals, pray together and focus on healing and recovery, Hopkins said.

The facility does not offer medical services or addiction specialists, though it partners with local healthcare nonprofits, such as Healthcare for the Homeless, and provides space onsite to treat clients.

At the end of the yearlong program, the mission also helps participants find long-term housing and transition back into society. In some cases, participants are hired to work full time at the front desk or as a case manager.

And though it is a Christian-based recovery program, it helps anyone, regardless of religious denomination, Hopkins said.

Fifty-year-old Scott Roden now works at the front desk of the Wyoming Rescue Mission after completing its recovery program last year. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jennifer Kocher)

Life outside the bottle  

Scott Roden was hired for a front desk position in January after completing the discipleship program in April 2021. The 50-year-old Powell native had battled alcoholism for much of his life, and spent several months in prison following four DUIs.

At the time, Roden was living in Riverton, where he had attempted–and failed­–another recovery program.

“I was at their program for about 11 months and then just kind of went out on my own and had alcohol problems all over again,” he said.

Roden had heard about the discipleship recovery program and had been drinking when he called Dave Matthews, program director, for information. Roden was still drinking the next morning when he made the drive to Casper to check himself in.

“It saved my life,” he said. “It’s gotten me closer to God, and I see myself much better than I used to. I was just always trying to be somebody to please other people besides myself, and that’s where the alcohol came in.”

Roden, much like Harris, is a changed man as a result of the program and his new job.

“It’s made me more aware of how precious life is compared to living in a bottle,” he said.

It’s this transformation that Hopkins finds so powerful as he watches those rife with addiction turn their lives around.

“I would say that 95% of the people we serve don’t want to be where they’re at,” he said. “They just need an opportunity to help themselves.”

A changed man  

A day after the recovery centers opened, Harris spent the morning in Bible studies, and after lunch, planned to volunteer at one of the mission’s two thrift stores. He’s halfway through the three-phase program and already feels at peace with his new life and direction, he said.

For Harris, the hardest part was ceding control of his life to God.

“Now, I’m at the point where I want to do more, and He’s like, ‘Look you can’t do that yet. Just be patient and look for every opportunity to help someone and let yourself grow,’” he said.

Harris hopes  to eventually find a career in helping people like himself transition back to the real world once they complete the program. For now, he’s enjoying every second of what he considers the best year of his life.

“It’s given me a purpose,” Harris said. “Before I just didn’t have a purpose. Now I’ve given everything over to God and am allowing Him to work on me first.”

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