Stephen’s Place 25th anniversary
Twenty-five years ago, Sister Virginia Longcope opened the doors to a halfway house that would eventually serve more than 272 men returning to the community after incarceration. Stephen’s Place, located in Bethlehem, was Longcope’s answer to what she called the “revolving door.”
As described by Stephen’s Place Program Director Daniel Massaro, “Stephen’s Place is a halfway house for men returning to the community after incarceration. We provide faith and [a] spiritual environment for them to address the issues that come along with early recovery from substance abuse.”
The idea for Stephen’s Place began years ago when Longcope worked at a work release center in South Carolina, where she watched men return from prison and simultaneously return to their old habits, often including the use or selling of drugs.
“I would see the men coming in and out like a revolving door and I thought, ‘There has to be a better way,’” she said.
After helping an 18-year-old man with no support system or place to go, Longcope received permission to help him find an apartment and became a mentor figure to him in the process. Through her experience with this man, she realized she could help others like him.
In the summer of 1992, Longcope returned to Pennsylvania and assembled a team to help make Stephen’s Place a reality. Issues with zoning and finances were not enough to hold them up, and Longcope met with a realtor to discuss finding a property for the halfway house.
“[The realtor] said, ‘How much money do you have?’ And [Longcope] said, ‘A thousand dollars,’ and then she said, ‘Well, how are you going to get the wherewithal for the rest of it?’ And I said, ‘When you find the house, then I’ll get the money.”
While touring the property the realtor located, Longcope noticed an emblem of a Sacred Heart embedded in the archway between the kitchen and the dining room. Being a missionary for Sisters of the Sacred Heart, she knew this was a sign that this was meant to be her property.
With that discovery, the realtor helped negotiate the price of the house down to $85,000 and Longcope was able to take out a loan from the bank to cover the cost, told she could pay it back as she was able.
In July of 1993, Longcope moved into the house. Renovations were needed, but after having found a way to purchase the property, finances were not going to stop her from proceeding with her plans. With help from local parishes, she was able to complete the renovations and welcome community members in for an open house in October of 1994.
“We’ve been here since then,” she said.
In its 25 years of operation, Stephen’s Place has helped 272 men with a 73 to 75 percent success rate.
“The recidivism rate for our graduates, so the rate at which they do not go back to jail, is 30 percent, which is very low. A regular jail recidivism rate, so somebody who gets released to the community out of jail, they return to jail at a rate of between 70 and 80 percent,” said Massaro.
Stephen’s Place is home to five men at a time and each man typically stays for between six months and one year. However, Longcope said it is not uncommon to see men stay for 13 or 14 months, and that, “It seems that the longer they stay here, the better they do.”
During the first 90 days at Stephen’s Place, men are “charged with a pretty decent amount of tasks, enough to keep them busy and hopefully away from relapse,” Massaro said. In the first seven days, men are able to call family to update them on whereabouts, but are without cell phones. From there, men are immersed in the local recovery community.
“They need to do a 90 in 90, which is 90 NA, narcotics anonymous, or AA, which is alcoholics anonymous, meetings 90 days,” Massaro said. Each man is also enrolled in treatment, which includes going through a drug and alcohol assessment, and paired with a certified recovery specialist.
Massaro stated that most men find a first-shift job within the first 30 days and acclimate to the routine of balancing work, their NA or AA meetings and treatment. In addition to helping connect men with these resources, Stephen’s Place helps each man with budgeting, saving and meeting financial goals.
To celebrate its 25-year anniversary, the Stephen’s Place Fund for the Future gala event was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s Marian Inn in Bethlehem, and a goal of raising $25,000 for 25 years in 25 hours was set.
The gala surpassed this goal with $27,245 towards the Stephen’s Place endowment fund. With this fund, Stephen’s Place continues to set itself apart from other halfway houses by not requiring men entering the program to pay to do so.
“Many people come out of prison and out of jail and out of rehab and they go back to the same places and they don’t have that support, or they don’t have access to resources and they get very distraught and they think, ‘Why try? Why bother?’” Longcope said. “These guys come out with very little. They don’t have any money that’s their own. They may have some clothes somewhere, but in order for them to get a start, if they’re serious about their recovery, they need something to help them get that start.”
With the funds raised from the gala and the continued support of the community, Stephen’s Place hopes to continue to be that start.