Steve is an East Dallas boy who first tried marijuana at age 8, got drunk at 9 and later used meth. He lost relationships and saw the inside of a jail many times along the way. Then one day he woke up in a seedy motel in Richardson and was ready to quit.
It was in his old neighborhood where he found help through the Dallas 24 Hour Club, an organization that has provided safe, sober transitional living for homeless men and women since 1969. The organization will host a community event celebrating 50 years of service June 8.
If you’ve driven down Ross Avenue, heading downtown, you’ve passed it. It’s the new two-story building at 4636 Ross Ave. next to Popeye’s Chicken. The original facility was a crumbling, 100-year-old structure, housing up to 67 people in its small space.
Developers, contractors, architects, attorneys and others stepped up, free of charge. The old, dilapidated structure was bulldozed and, in February, the new facility opened with double the space. The building includes separate dorms for men and women, plenty of bathrooms and showers, recreation areas, meditation rooms, a community room for 12-step recovery meetings and a commercial kitchen where residents learn culinary skills and serve renowned pancakes at The Hubcap Café.
CEO Marsha Williamson says most find the 24 Hour Club via word of mouth, although some are referred by police, firefighters, the courts, hospitals and mental facilities.
Seventy percent of residents at the 24 Hour Club have a problem with alcohol, 14 percent struggle with methamphetamines and 10 percent are addicted to heroin. The facility has seen an uptick in heroin problems, perhaps because a heroin high mimics the effects of opioids, drugs that can be difficult to obtain legally, Williamson says.
What’s it like to walk through these doors, ready to get your life back on track but clueless how to make it happen? Steve’s story provides a glimpse.
After waking up in that seedy motel, Steve walked five hours to his uncle’s home. “My uncle was the only person I knew in my whole life who was sober,” he says. The two immediately set off to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. “We asked a bunch of the old-timers where a homeless alcoholic/drug addict could go and get some help,” Steve says. He vividly recalls seven of the old-timers chiming in at once: “The Two Four!”
“The old-timers had a go-to place for washed-up drunks like me,” Steve says.
After completing the 24 Hour Club program, Steve maintains his sobriety and works in the substance abuse field, helping others. He’s grateful for the 12-step meetings and the fellowship, as well as “the strongest $1 cup of coffee in the metroplex.”
David can also tell you about the “Two Four.” He grew up in the Park Cities in an alcoholic home and began drinking and drugging in high school. He lost a university football scholarship and was thrown out of several colleges for drinking. Jail, multiple rehabs and psych wards followed. Seven years ago, he decided he’d had enough, but he had no money or insurance for treatment.
“The 24 welcomed me, fed me and held me accountable,” he says. David is now a father, a college graduate and a sponsor to others struggling with addictions.
The routine is the same for everyone at the Two Four. New residents rise from their floor mats at 6 a.m. After completing assigned chores, they eat breakfast, then grab a sack lunch as they head out the door to look for a job for a few hours. The rest of the day is devoted to attending AA and NA meetings — 30 meetings minimum in the first 30 days — and working the program.
Once they have established a strong recovery program and found employment, residents enjoy extended curfews and fewer chores but are still required to regularly attend 12-step meetings. They eventually transition to independent living in the community.
Since 1969, the 24 Hour Club has helped about 20,000 people get sober and become self-supporting, contributing members of society. David says, “There is not a better place in the world to get sober than 4636 Ross Ave.”
For more information about services, donations or volunteering, visit dallas24hourclub.org.