Located about an hour northeast of Atlanta, on the banks of Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia, by Bill’s Place provides safe and structured sober living and transitional care for men, with a particular focus on criminal justice clients. Founded in 1991, the house appears to have been named after one of AA’s founders, Bill Wilson. In fact, the founder Vivienne Long-Speer, who has been clean and sober since July 5, 1979, opened Bill’s Place to honor her brother Bill’s memory. Her brother overdosed on heroin, and that tragic event triggered her desire to be of service to men who want to change their lives after they leave prison.
Accommodations and Amenities
Bill’s Place accommodates ten men, inside a quaint single family home, which is more than 70 years old. The house has a spacious private backyard and a front porch. The yard includes a vegetable garden, which grows fresh tomatoes and peppers during the summer. There are two men housed per room, which includes bunk beds, dressers and nightstands. The house contains two full baths.
The fully equipped kitchen is stocked with food. All meals are provided, and prepared by a cook. Clients eat on their own schedule for breakfasts and lunches, but at night, they dine family style. A favorite Sunday night entrée includes pork roast, veggies, fresh salad and biscuits. Additionally, dinners are is set aside for residents who work late night shifts.
Amenities include Wi-Fi, cable TV, laundry facilities and a work out room, which includes a punching bag. Clients are also provided with bicycles, as well as lock and keys. Smoking is permitted outside in designated areas only. Staff lives on the premises, along with two rescue dogs, a pit bull named Gilbert and a dachshund named Buster. A house manager, along with Long-Speer live on the premises, and oversee operations.
Rules and Regulations
Six months before a client is released, Long-Speer meets and establishes a relationship with them inside the prison. While Long-Speer has accepted men, on a case-by-case basis who have capital offenses on their records, sex offenders will not be admitted. After they are discharged, the men leave with a $25 voucher and a plastic garbage bag full of their belongings. Long-Speer meets them at a bus stop and transports them to the house. The day of their arrival at Bill’s Place counts as the first day of their sobriety, and all clients receive a white chip at their meeting. The minimum length of stay at Bill’s Place is 12 months, but many clients have stayed up to two years.
During the first 90 days, clients are not allowed to have cell phones or laptops. At Bill’s Place, clients progress through three phases. During the first 30 days, or phase one, residents are appointed sponsors, usually men with ten years or more of sobriety, and who are active in a 12-step program of recovery. The sponsors work closely with residents. During phase one, the sponsors help them complete the first three steps. Additionally, the men become gainfully employed during this time. Bill’s Place partners with an employment agency, which helps them get work.
During phase two, which lasts up to the sixth month, residents complete the fourth, fifth and sixth steps. During the first two phases, residents travel in pairs, when they leave the house for store outings, including trips to Wal-Mart. Phase three which lasts from nine months to a year, includes residents completing all their steps, maintaining recovery protocols and working. At Bill’s Place, residents participate in the Matrix Model. They attend an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) program during the first two phases, and participate in group therapy on the premises. Group topics include relapse prevention, anger management, and domestic violence which focuses on helping batterers. Men are provided with reading and writing assignments. Other weekly requirements include attending five 12-step meetings, performing household chores and being at the house meeting. Random drug and alcohol testing is conducted. At Bill’s Place, residents who relapse are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The curfew is 11 pm seven days a week, but clients who work late night shifts are exempt.
Other services provided include psychiatric referrals for clients with co-occurring disorders. Benzodiazepines are not permitted on the premises. Long-Speer assists clients with legal issues, and accompanies them to court, if necessary.
The 30-day cost is $900. The entrance fee is $550, and $400 is refundable after one month. The cost also includes some tobacco products.
Long-Speer loves what she does, and truly cares about her clients. Bill’s Place fulfills a much-needed demand and gives criminal justice clients, who are serious about staying clean and sober, a second chance. This is a great choice for those seeking to rebuild their lives after prison. Bill’s Place does not disclose their address, for the privacy and safety of their clients.
Bill’s Place, Inc.
PO Box 370
Gainesville, GA 30503
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