You might know of Wayside House in St. Louis Park, but you may not know its history. Wayside House was founded in 1954 as a crisis shelter for women in poverty. As needs arose, alcohol and chemical addiction treatment programs were added. When Nancy Nelson McIntosh was a young woman, newly sober in 1979, Wayside House provided what she describes as a kind of “halfway house—something between today’s residential treatment and supportive housing.” Of course, treatment changes over time, says McIntosh, who has worked in the financial industry, raised a family and now serves on the board of Wayside House. What doesn’t change is the house’s mission: to empower women to recover sobriety, identity, family, home and community by providing treatment, housing and supportive services.
Chief executive officer Karina Forrest-Perkins defines two elements common to every adult resident of Wayside House: They are all women, and they all have a history of chemical dependency. Forty-one women live at the Park Center Boulevard location and participate in residential chemical dependency treatment. Other women in recovery and their families live in 20 supportive-housing apartments on Jersey Avenue. Supportive housing is a chance for women and their children to get a safe and sober start on their own. Families live in Wayside House apartments for as long as a year or more, with the women working on goals of sobriety, quality parenting, financial independence and personal growth.
Forrest-Perkins is delighted to report that in 2016 Wayside House received the Minnesota Nonprofit Award for Excellence, among 12,000 registered nonprofits across the state. “Only one organization meets the multiple criteria for excellence,” she says, adding that the award speaks to Wayside House’s relationship with St. Louis Park.
She’s also hopeful about Gov. Mark Dayton’s recent declaration of 2017 as the Year of Addiction Treatment. “We’re excited about the leadership. Hopefully it will result in decreased barriers and increased access to addiction treatment.” Currently not even one in 10 people in Minnesota who needs addiction treatment services gets them, she says, adding that "the expense of treatment is far greater than what we get paid for.” Check out the Get Involved page at waysidehouse.org for information about how your time and/or monetary contribution can make a difference.
“Sobriety does not equate with recovery,” Forrest-Perkins says, and alum McIntosh concurs. “The most valuable thing I learned at the Wayside House was how to live a sober life,” says McIntosh. Coming off treatment she didn’t, at first, have the big picture. “I was 21 years old,” she recalls. “Wayside House gave me a chance to actually live recovery." Of her 10 years on the Wayside House board, McIntosh says it has been a way for her to give back on a very personal level. “I try to make sure people understand what the face of recovery looks like.”