Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Yoga Helps Angel House Clients Regulate Emotions

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 @ 10:35 AM
DSC 0500 resized 600Virginia Hoeck of Yoga Neighborhood leads the yoga class at Angel House

“Take a deep breath in,” Virginia Hoeck says, pausing briefly before continuing. “And take a deep breath out.”

Ten other women, mostly Angel House clients, but some staff, follow Hoeck’s lead, seated cross-legged on yoga mats inside the shelter’s family room. Joining the mothers on this September day are their children, ranging in age from a few months old to over one year old.

“Now raise your arms out wide,” Hoeck says, before instructing them to bring their arms back in “and give your babies a hug.”

Since June, Hoeck, owner of the nonprofit Yoga Neighborhood, and her fellow instructors have been bringing yoga to Angel House roughly once a week, using it to help clients find peace internally and with the world around them.

“I love it,” said 24-year-old Alicia Morgan, who explained that yoga has helped her “be more aware of my emotions. I feel really relaxed and it has helped me with my anger management.”

Yoga, which is deeply rooted in meditation, has allowed Angel House’s Ashley Cabral to better “regulate my emotions and feelings.”

Ashley, who graduated from Angel House a little over a month ago, planned on continuing it once out of shelter. “I will do it just to meditate and stay grounded,” she said, relying on yoga as she takes the next steps towards independence which will include holding her first job in years. “I’m very excited, very nervous and scared. At the same time it is a healthy scared.”

Angel House clinical director Christina Russell said that yoga has been “tremendously helpful” to clients who use it as a part of the shelter’s holistic approach to recovery – each mother at the shelter has battled substance abuse issues in their lives.

And it has allowed Angel House clients the opportunity to participate in an activity together, something that is difficult given the facility’s relatively small space. In nicer weather classes have been held outside while the Cape and Islands chapter of the American Red Cross has offered up its space for indoor sessions.

The sessions are catered to the types of clients Angel House treats. “We’ve developed a trauma-sensitive curriculum based on the training we’ve had,” Hoeck said. “So we’re creating a safe and empowering environment no matter what one’s experience in life has been.”

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Hoeck, who worked at HAC for nearly seven years, used her time here as inspiration for forming Yoga Neighborhood in order to benefit those who need it the most. “Seeing people cross that threshold at HAC, certainly with housing issues and hearing about their physical and mental health issues and seeing the stress they were under, it was clear yoga could be a wonderful tool to help reduce that stress and improve the quality of their lives,” she said.

Since 2010 when she left HAC, Hoeck has been using Yoga Neighborhood as a mechanism for introducing the discipline to people who otherwise would not be exposed to it.

Her experience has shown it to be an effective means to improve one’s life in small and large ways. And that has been the case at Angel House, where one client has expressed interest in becoming a yoga instructor.

“I taught the very first class and since then I’ve seen an incredible difference in the women, particularly in their interest in yoga,” Hoeck said. “They tell me it is helping them relax. Particularly at night when they are trying to wind down they go back to some of the yoga – breathing exercises, in particular, we teach in those classes and they are using that for self-regulation and self-calming.”

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Tags: Yoga, Yoga Neighborhood, Virginia Hoeck, Angel House, Christina Russell

Angel House Helps Client Turn Her Life Around

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 @ 11:06 AM

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From all outward appearances Diane Barry is a happy, healthy 33-year-old woman. She has two loving children, lives on beautiful Cape Cod and is working towards a degree in communications.

But it was not always this way. A little over three years ago, no one, let alone Barry, would have thought this charming existence was possible.

Since she was a teenager Barry has struggled with substance abuse, starting with marijuana, then alcohol and eventually more dangerous drugs including opiates and painkillers. “I couldn’t use without ruining my life,” she admitted.

She has ended up in shelters and treatment programs, rebuilding her life only to see it fall apart.

Her most recent downfall occurred a little more than three and a half years ago when Barry was reunited with her then 12-year-old daughter who had been in foster care. Weeks later Barry was using again, all while pregnant with her second child. That is when “everything fell apart,” she said.

Once again she was homeless and her daughter was taken from her care.

She eventually found herself in a psych ward before being transferred to Arbor House in Holyoke.

Her next stop in her journey to recovery was HAC’s Angel House in Hyannis. She arrived there in January 2012 with mixed emotions. “I remember when they drove me up here it was sunny and I’m coming over the bridge and said to myself, ‘Oh my god, you got to be kidding. This is not what most programs look like,’” she said.

At the same time, she admitted, “I was pretty scared and I didn’t believe in myself… And I was pregnant so I had all this guilt. I was bringing another child into this world and thought this is another one I can’t take care of. I wasn’t exactly happy with myself and I didn’t believe I deserved another chance.”

But Angel House gave her another chance.

For the staff at Angel House, Barry represented a unique challenge given her age and past history. “Ten years ago the services provided to the families were really different,” said the shelter’s clinical director Christina Russell. “There wasn’t this profound issue with addiction and self-medication… It was great to have her here. She helped us to grow and understand this newer version of addiction in this day and age.”

Finding a Family at Angel House

Likewise Barry credited Angel House’s role in turning her life around. “They supported me a lot. I don’t have a lot of family out there,” she said. “So they kind of became like a family to me in a way.”

In May 2012 she gave birth to a baby boy, acknowledging Russell for helping her through her second pregnancy. “She was my angel,” Barry said, noting that because of her drug use, “I thought my son was going to die in my stomach or was going to be stillborn.”

Today, her two-year-old son shows no signs of any residual impact from her drug use.

And Barry, who spent 16 months at Angel House, has been able to put her past behind her, looking only towards the future and the hope it brings.

She has done so in an apartment here on Cape Cod that HAC helped her find toward the end of her stay at Angel House.

This month she will be celebrating three years of sobriety and admits that none of it would be possible without Angel House.

She also attributed her success to the fact that, “I wanted to stay clean this time,” she said, though her stay in shelter was not easy. “It was probably the hardest time of my life. I was trying to stay clean and bring another person into the world while being separated from my firstborn. It was time. It was either do this or say goodbye.”

And so Barry chose to keep fighting.

This fall she has returned to Angel House, partially because it is a college requirement, but mostly because “I want to give back and can relate to the girls there,” she said.

Her message to them is simple: “There is life after here and you can make it through here,” she said. “When people are active in addiction they feel completely alone which isn’t the truth. There is always help.”

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Tags: Diane Barry, Angel House, Christina Russell