The Puyallup Tribe’s Flames of Recovery center for the homeless held an open house on April 13 to say hello to the neighborhood. Having officially opened this past summer in the heart of Portland Avenue’s homeless community (1437 E. 31st St.), the Flames of Recovery staff and the homeless clients who access its services have been working hard to transform this residential house into a full-service center offering a wealth of assistance for homeless folks, both Native and non-Native alike.
Greeted by the delicious scent of fired-up barbecue grills, visitors to the open house were treated to an amazing lunch, with sandwiches, fried chicken, homemade potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers…it was indeed a feast as only the Puyallup Tribe can do it prepared by members of the Medicine Creek Riders motorcycle club and its President Anthony Bowen, along with Puyallup tribal members Theresa Villagomez and Ginger Dillon. Visitors mingled and learned about all that Flames of Recovery has to offer.
Flames of Recovery is an extension of the Puyallup Tribe’s commitment to helping the homeless, which goes back years, with Puyallup Tribal Councilwoman Sylvia Miller leading the charge. She was at the open house that day, and told the crowd of what a special person Flames of Recovery Coordinator Linda Dillon is – the perfect woman for the job since she had already been caring for the homeless in her neighborhood at her own house, and was once homeless and addicted herself. Now she’s celebrating five years of sobriety, and had dedicated her life to helping others achieve the same life victory.
“She knows what their needs are,” Councilwoman Miller said. “She helps build their self-esteem up so they can get back into society. That’s what Linda does and they are so appreciative of her. They’d do anything for her. She is the natural individual for this because she’s been there (homeless). You have to have a lot of compassion to do this.”
Puyallup Councilman James Rideout recalled the times when Linda used her own backyard for AA meetings. “Before this was even developed, I watched Linda have so many people in her backyard for recovery – rows and rows of people. We took notice of that as a Tribe to put something together to aid our own community right here in our backyard. Flames of Recovery is an instrumental piece of continuous work.”
Community Family Services Director Jody Brooks states that she is, “excited to be working with Linda and to see the passion with which Linda approaches the work she is doing with the Flames of Recovery. It is truly an answer to prayer for many of our Puyallup Tribal members and tribal community members that find themselves homeless and in need of basic human needs such as a clean shower, a warm meal, a place to gather among compassionate workers and friends. AA meetings are held each week on Friday night from 8-9 p.m.”
For her homeless clients, Linda Dillon takes them to get their drivers license or I.D. card; she helps them get haircuts and clean clothes for job interviews; helps them get glasses if needed; she helps them get food handlers permits to broaden their employability; she provides assistance with filing for Social Security; and if clients need and want treatment, they’re given the opportunity to say yes to that and Linda will stay by their side. Whatever their needs are, Linda is there for them. She has the house open every day, serving hot, nutritious food for breakfast and dinner. Guests can visit the clothing bank, wash their clothes, take a warm shower, get hygiene products, rest their weary feet on comfortable couches, eat good meals and take advantage of the many additional resources Flames of Recovery offers as it is an extension of the Puyallup Tribe’s Community and Family Services Department, which assists tribal members in accessing treatment programs and removing barriers to healthy living.
Flames of Recovery enhances its program by partnering with other tribal personnel and departments including the Tribe’s Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program (CDVAP), and PTHA for example. CDVAP staff was there that day and presented Linda with several thoughtful gifts to show their appreciation for her.
“We want to gift you…for being that pioneering spirit to do the work that you’re doing because it is much needed work,” said CDVAP Community Domestic Violence Advocate Jennifer Caldwell-Hoskins. “It always takes someone willing to step out of their comfort zone to be that first forefront runner, and that’s been you. We just want to express from our heart how much we appreciate your program and what you do and the collaboration you offer for us to help with the work that needs to be done.”
Tribal Council also gifted Linda Dillon, Jody Brooks and Teresa Cruell, Community and Family Services assistant director. Witnesses to the open house also received a special offering for being there.
“Too many times, our employees don’t get appreciated enough,” Sylvia Miller said. “I know that sometimes Council gets too busy to say how important you guys are, but you really are and we appreciate you so much. We appreciate everything you do every day to help this community.”