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story.lead_photo.caption Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista Monique Hartley (left), a resident of Oasis, poses with program director Trisha Sanders on a play set that residents' children use. The transitional housing program is going through some changes, but still helping women in need.

Some women enter the Oasis program straight from treatment for drug addiction. They may be unemployed or dealing with legal issues without family to fall back on. In order to be successful they need some support and they can get it at Oasis.

Now, Oasis is located in two leased houses in Bella Vista where up to 16 women and four children can live. The women depend on each other and on the Oasis staff to help keep them safe and sober. It's now a one-year program.

Trisha Sanders is the program director. She was hired by Oasis only a few weeks ago, but she has several years experience working with women addicts at Decision Point, a residential treatment facility in Bentonville.

Sanders stepped into a program that was changing, she said. Oasis was not getting enough funding to keep three small homes open so the board chose to partner with a men's shelter located in Rogers. The Oasis women travel to Rogers for mandatory classes led by a licensed therapist twice a week. The classes cover life skills topics including parenting, budgeting and nutrition.

A third home closed earlier this year and beds were added to one of the existing homes. One home is reserved for women who have their children living with them. Those small families usually live in a single bedroom and share the living and kitchen areas. The other home has beds for up to five women in a room.

It's a great way for women to form relationships, Sanders said, and that's a skill that some Oasis residents need to work on. They share chores around the house and sometimes they share meals. The women keep each other accountable.

"There aren't a lot of problems," Sanders said about the women and their relationships. "When they come here, they're ready to do something different."

Besides the life skills classes, each woman is expected to be enrolled in a 12-step program -- usually Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and there's a Wednesday night program at the Bentonville Church of Christ. Since each woman is also expected to be in school or working full time, they keep very busy, Sanders said.

Oasis owns two vehicles and some of the residents own their own vehicle, but transportation can be very complicated, she said.

The homes in Bella Vista have the advantage of being in a nice, quiet neighborhood. It's better for former users to get away from the people and places where they once used. But the lack of public transportation is a problem, Sanders said.

"We make it work," she said, adding that community volunteers are one reason the program can survive. Area churches help with donations of food and furniture, she said. Employers are flexible when they know the women need to attend classes and meetings, she said.

The housing comes with rules, Sanders said. The only male allowed in the home is a small white and black kitten. There's a curfew and drug testing. The women pay rent, but Oasis always makes sure there is food in each home, she said.

When Oasis opened in 2011 it was modeled on a program in Tennessee called Thistle Farms where women in transitional housing are employed making health and beauty products which are sold on line.

At Oasis, the craft program, called Tranquility, isn't active right now, although Sanders plans to restart it and sell handbags, candles and possibly coffee mugs. The program owns sewing machines, candle making equipment and a lot of craft material.

But Oasis residents and some graduates of the program are running two coffee shops on the campus of Northwest Arkansas Community College. Some residents get real world job experience at the coffee shops.

Like the women they serve, Sanders believes the Oasis will survive.

General News on 12/05/2018

Print Headline: Oasis program is changing but surviving

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