Like most children, Kelsey Anderson loved her mother and searched for opportunities to spend time with her. But, for young Anderson this meant following her mother’s footsteps into drug addiction.
It began with marijuana at 13, but by age 15 she was solely addicted to heroin.
With addiction came criminality and Anderson would spend years traveling in and out of prison. By age 17 she had two children, but despite this she couldn’t break her addiction.
“You would think that love would be enough. But it’s not,” she said.
During her most recent stint in prison, Anderson decided she wanted to break her seemingly unending cycle. But change meant cutting ties with her family, her friends, her former life.
Recommendations for the Transitional Living Center in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, are common among reentrants from the criminal justice system and Anderson hoped it was a program that could help her.
The Transitional Living Center began in 1987 with a small facility on Ross Street with only 5 beds. Today it owns three buildings, two for females with 34 beds, and one for males with 24 beds, according to Nicole Miller, the center’s executive director.
The centers serve as a home plan option for inmates who either don’t have a home to return to after prison, or who don’t want to return to family or friends and a life they are hoping to escape from.
“They’re coming out of jail regardless,” Miller said. “But here we are providing them with those skills to really be able to do it self-sufficiently and sober.”
The Centers provide a supportive community that enables incarcerated men and women to make a positive and productive transition back into society, according to Miller. She added that the case managers will help reentrants with their goals of eliminating substance abuse, enhancing their mental health, finding employment, managing their finances and more.
The houses are secure facilities with structure, rules and accountability.
Many who enter the centers have spent their lives in criminality and don’t know how to begin a different life. Anderson had rarely experienced a life outside of the criminal justice system when she decided to go to the Transitional Living Center.
“No matter how many times I tried to get clean I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it out there,” Anderson. “And I knew that if I really wanted to do something different I would have to leave. And it sucks cause my kids are out there … but this is better for me. I knew if I had any chance, I could do it here.”
While Anderson had attempted to achieve sobriety through court-ordered rehab, she said the long-form transitional program of more than four months was what she needed to “learn a new way of living.”
It took Anderson seven months to complete the program. She now rents her own apartment, has a job and soon plans to be awarded custody of one of her daughters.
While it began as a women’s program, TLC recently purchased its new property at 900 W. Edwin St. to provide housing for male reentrants as well.
The need for transitional facilities within communities is great, according to Miller.
“Yes, the individuals here have criminal backgrounds and that can be scary,” Miller said. “But at the end of the day the men and women here are coming from a life of dysfunction … they’re just human beings who want to be seen like normal human beings. Once you get to know them, they’re great people.”
Today Anderson is taking her future one step at a time. She hopes to own her own home and her own car one day. But the first thing she is working toward is bringing her daughter to live with her.
“Life is so great for me right now. I’m so happy,” Anderson said. “Even if you feel like you’re alone, reach out. There are a million people in this world going through the same thing.”