Youth Challenge of Connecticut began in 1970 as a faith based residential outreach center focusing on young men struggling with substance abuse in Hartford. After an 11-year drug addiction and with just three years of abstinence under his belt, Bishop Gonzalez became the Executive Director of Youth Challenge of Connecticut. Twenty years later, in 1993; Bishop Gonzalez was invited to Washington, D.C. where he was presented with the Achievement Against the Odds award by the National center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
Gonzalez passed away in 2009 but his favorite saying, “There is a treasure in the addict,” has remained a mantra at Youth Challenge. Since its inception, Youth Challenge of Connecticut has remained committed to helping troubled young men through service, to each other and to their community. Youth Challenge’s open door policy welcomes men from every walk of life without regard to religious, ethnic, or racial background.
Accommodations and Food
Youth Challenge of Connecticut has a men’s residential treatment center in Hartford and what it calls a training center in Moosup, Connecticut, serving men over 19 years of age. Currently 80 percent of Youth Challenge’s residents in Connecticut are voluntary, walk-in clientele and the rest come through referrals made by community hospitals, courts, clergy, and correctional facilities.
Youth Challenge of Connecticut is an eight-month program, with the first four months spent at the Hartford location. Nestled in a residential neighborhood on a tree-lined street, this three story New England style house accommodates 15 men. There are three bedrooms on the second floor, with three to four men in a room, depending on the census. The third floor has two bedrooms; one is reserved for the live in house manager, usually a Youth Challenge alumnus. Rooms are sparsely decorated but homey, with twin beds and two shared bathrooms.
Dining room, kitchen, living room and two counseling rooms are on the first floor. Food is provided by the facility and prepared by the residents. Special dietary requests cannot be accommodated, but meals contain the four food groups and snacks are provided. There is a washer and dryer off the kitchen, where clients can do laundry at designated times. House chores are assigned weekly, including gardening. The house has a large backyard, where clients can have meals, exercise, read and journal during free time. There is a television in the living room and viewing is allowed on evenings when no groups are scheduled. Cigarettes are considered an addictive substance, so smoking is strictly prohibited.
The ranch at the training center in Moosup consists of three small cabins nestled in 21 acres of forest. Each cabin has the capacity to house six men, with two shared bathrooms in each. As with the Hartford facility, rooms are sparse (twin beds and shared closets) but cozy. One cabin is designated for two live in staff members, meals and group sessions.
Treatment and Schedule
Clients must be abstinent from drugs and alcohol—there is no detox. Upon admission, clients are assigned a counselor who acts like a mentor throughout their stay. Clients are asked to commit to eight months; four months in Hartford and four months at the ranch in Moosup. The typical day starts with breakfast at 6:45 am and morning worship in the living room at 7:30. Group therapy runs throughout the day and topics range from relapse prevention, 12-step classes, anger management and process group to a discussion based on the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People workbook. Clients attend church services at the Glory Chapel three nights a week and Bible study is held every Tuesday night. While residents do not attend AA or NA meetings, Youth Challenge does propagate the 12-step guidelines for recovery. Individual therapy is scheduled on a per client basis.
After four months, more long-term recovery for men is provided at the Youth Challenge Training Center or “The Ranch”, a farm located in Moosup, Connecticut. The recovery initiated at the residential center in Hartford continues at the ranch—clients are challenged to address personal, social, academic, and vocational areas in their lives. The goal is to instill and foster a strong work ethic. As with the Hartford location, morning devotion, process group, 12-step classes and the Seven Habits group continue. More emphasis is placed on Bible Study and reflecting on one’s true calling in life. At this phase in their recovery, clients are encouraged to spend more time in solitude, with nature as a peaceful backdrop.
The counseling teams at both locations consist of a mix of ministers from the Glory Chapel in Hartford, CBT trained substance abuse counselors, peer counselors and volunteers with an approximate client-to-staff ratio of five-to-one.
Youth Challenge of Connecticut engages in a lot of community outreach programs, like the Love Kitchen and Food Pantry; residents volunteer to feed those in need in the local community.
Youth Challenge of Connecticut provides faith based substance abuse with a focus on service. Encouraging alumni and residents of the training center to work as volunteers at the Hartford location is just one example. Peer support is an integral part of this program, which is also sustained by help from the community; volunteers from the Glory chapel and family members. Potential clients should remember that this is a faith based recovery center—while the 12-steps are introduced, the emphasis is on the Bible not the Big Book.
Youth Challenge of Connecticut
15-17 May St
Hartford, CT 06105
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