Founded in 2014 by Daniel Wilson, in Durham, North Carolina, LaVare’s House provides safe and structured sober living for gay, lesbian, and bisexual or transgender clients in recovery. Wilson, who is gay, named the house in honor of his mother, LaVare M. Leith, who died from cancer in 2013. Wilson’s mother never gave up on him, as he struggled with addiction, and she got to see him clean and sober before she died. With over five years of sobriety, Wilson provides LBGT clients with the same devotion that his mother gave him, and helps them gain life skills and tools to become productive members of the community. LaVare’s House is the only LGBT sober living home in four southern states including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
Accommodations and Amenities
LaVare’s House is a quaint yellow two-story ranch style house with brown trim. The house has a porch with white Greek columns. The front yard includes a lawn and trees. The interior includes wood floors and pastel walls. The contemporary furnishings are tastefully arranged. While the house has an inviting quality, there is a sense of spaciousness. The house includes a foyer, a living room, a dining area and a meeting room, which has the 12 steps and 12 traditions hanging on the wall.
LaVare’s House accommodates seven clients. Typically, a female and a male, or two transgender clients are paired in a double-occupancy room, which includes twin beds, nightstands, dressers, and bulletin boards for photos, cards and other memorabilia. Amenities include Cable TV with HBO, Wi-Fi, house computer, transportation and a garage with board games.
While clients are responsible for their own groceries, staff assists eligible clients in obtaining food stamp benefits. Additionally, the kitchen is amply stocked with groceries. On Sunday evenings, a resident supplies food and cooks a family-style meal for the entire household. While the founder Wilson does not live on the premises, the house has a live-in residential manager who oversees operations and provides support.
Rules and Regulations
Potential clients must have a minimum of two weeks sobriety. Preferably, they have completed 28 days of residential treatment at a drug rehab. Clients, who are not referred by a treatment facility, must have references to confirm their continued abstinence. Clients must commit to a three-month minimum length of stay. The maximum duration of residency is two years.
Since the house is deeply rooted in 12-step principles, clients must exhibit a willingness to work a 12-step program. The house includes a four phased, highly structured program. During the first phase, clients are closely supervised. Requirements include attendance at 90 12-step meetings in 90 days, regular drug and alcohol screenings, acquisition of a sponsor and a home group and performance of household chores.
During the first 30 days, the curfew is 6 pm seven days a week. After that time, the curfew is 10 pm seven days a week, followed by a seven-day midnight curfew. Clients requiring transitional care attend outpatient programs at local drug rehabs, including CAARE. After three months, if clients are employable, they are encouraged to look for work or enroll in school. After the 90-day meeting quota is completed, residents must attend three weekly 12-step meetings.
Wilson, who is a licensed peer recovery specialist, has a one-on-one meeting with clients on a weekly basis. As a registered 501c3 non-profit, the LaVare Leith Foundation (LaVare’s House sister program) provides 30 to 60 day scholarships for financially challenged clients.
Since LaVare’s House practices a zero tolerance policy, clients who have relapsed must immediately leave the premises. They are eligible to return to the house after two weeks, provided that they have undergone detox. Upon arrival, they must begin the program from scratch.
Other services include driving clients to HIV screenings, helping clients obtain mental health and physical healthcare services, driving them to Goodwill, assisting with the purchase of clothing (if appropriate) and providing life skills and recovery coaching. Staff takes clients to weekly outings including dinner, the beach and movies.
Wilson, who is passionate about the 12 steps and helping the LGBT community, hopes to open another house someday. There is a long waiting list at LaVare’s House. The AA adage “to thine own self be true” is prevalent here. Without having the freedom to embrace their sexuality or their gender, LGBT clients are at high risk for relapse. At LaVare’s House, clients are provided with peer support and many valuable resources so that they can learn to love themselves and be of service to others. LaVare’s House is a gem in the Deep South, and a much needed asset.
2544 Chapel Hill Rd
Durham, NC 27707
LaVare Leith Foundation
1013 Sycamore St
Durham, NC 27707
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Photo courtesy of Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped).