Searching for Solutions

My name is Ashley Graham (now Wardlaw) and I am a social worker. I am also the Development Coordinator for Magdalene Serenity House, an advocate for survivors of trauma and addiction, and just generally an overly analytical thinker. Two weeks ago I was on a walk with my husband and our basset-beagle Anya, when I broached the subject of addiction and criminal justice systems. With so many swirling opinions on canceling the police, criminalizing drug users, or reforming our prison systems- what is the answer? I don’t believe there is a single story that could lead to a complete resolve. But perhaps, we could settle on considering a more diversified approach. All are welcome to join me on my thought train below. It’s marked by curiosity and a bit of research to inform my opinions.

NPR’s author Leah Donnella noted in an article from June 3rd just how necessary places of healing and recovery can be to offset the weight placed on the criminal justice system. Donnella interviewed Alex Vitale, a sociology professor and the Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. Vitale begs us to consider just how many jobs we expect law enforcement to do. One of them being policing and arresting individuals who have substantial untreated mental health and substance abuse issues.

We may say or hear things about retraining, restructuring, or de-funding law enforcement, but have we considered what it could look like to pour more community support into programs that seek solutions for individuals with underlying mental health conditions? Taken from his 2017 novel, “The End of Policing,” Vitale goes on to say that with such wide ranging responsibilities carried out by law enforcement, we have unofficially expected them to fully embody the role of social workers. We have tasked them with heavy laden generational issues and sometimes even blamed them when policies such as the “War on Drugs” fail to decrease our nation’s substance abuse issues.

Now let’s look at Magdalene Serenity House. We are a safe-haven for those whose interactions with trauma and addiction have led to criminal misconduct and a history of occupying space outside of our dominant culture. I would like you to consider our wing-span. We can comfortably house up to 8 women in our facility. Eight women out of more than 300 incarcerated in our county jail and prison in Fayetteville alone. Without an option like MSH, all of those folks are released back into the community, and told not to re-offend. If they commit another crime, law enforcement are required to place them back into the criminal justice system, ending in jail or prison. We expect this larger system, beginning with our single police unit in Fayetteville, to “do their job,” and “clean up our streets.” But do we provide ample regard to law enforcement for the massive undertaking our expectations have fostered?

By supporting MSH and other local providers who look to restore justice and address underlying systemic oppression, we alleviate strain on our law enforcement and ask our trained professionals in the community to work with individuals to produce a healthier, collective whole. We all play our part. It is up to us to figure out where and when we are most needed, and then to act accordingly. We want to thank each of our supporters for being part of our innovative solution to meeting the needs of women who have experienced trauma, addiction, and incarceration. It truly does take a community to heal and we are grateful to have you in ours.

Be well, Ashley

Resident Achievements

We are grateful that our house remains full and our residents are achieving their goals. We are still taking significant precautions due to COVID-19 at MSH. We are proud of how our staff, intern, and residents have all worked together to keep our community safe and healthy during this difficult time.

  • One of our residents started Cosmetology School this month.
  • One of our residents celebrated one year at MSH this month.
  • All six of our Phase Two Residents are employed and achieving their goals!
  • Our two Phase One residents will phase up in early July and begin searching for work. Please let us know if you have any leads!
  • We are preparing one of our residents to graduate early in order to reunite with her son. We will keep you posted on her needs.

Are you following us on Instagram and Facebook? We post daily pictures and updates on what we are up to at Magdalene Serenity House. Give us a follow and share widely with your friends. We appreciate your support!

Resident Success Stories

“Man I just don’t know where to start!! I don’t want to even begin to imagine where I’d be today if I wasn’t in this program. The biggest thing for me is my children are now back in my life. If I wasn’t here at the Magdalene house I feel like I would’ve never got where I am today. I’ve got a vehicle and with my job I’m moving into management. Also I’m about to be done with my 12 steps so I can help others along this journey. This program has saved my life and given my kids their mom back and my mom and dad their daughter back. I will forever be grateful for this program and every single one of the people that makes this place possible!”

“When I arrived at Magdalene a couple of months ago, I was lost and I felt hopeless. I had been an addict for 20 plus years. Since I have arrived here, I have received my 60 day chip, gotten to see my children, and my family has started talking to me again. These are all huge accomplishments for me, and I didn’t think they would have been possible for an addict like me. This program is truly amazing and I am so thankful for Magdalene and the staff and volunteers that have helped me in my recovery process thus far. I have been given a second chance at life and have hope again.”

Outdoor Classroom

Last Spring we raised $10,000 dollars to build an outdoor classroom/patio space for our residents. This space has been especially important during COVID-19 and has allowed us to take a lot of our groups outdoors. We are thankful to all of those who helped us bring this outdoor space to life. We are grateful to Charley Reese and Lululemon for donating a significant amount of funds to allow us to create this peaceful space. Thank you Bret and Stacey Park for helping us design this beautiful space and for hanging the shade and lights. Thank you to Walter Potapov and team for the construction work and donated labor. Thank you Walter Hixson for the donated lumber. And lastly a big thank you to Suzanne Stoner for purchasing several of the decor items off our Amazon Wish List. It truly does take a community to do this work and we appreciate your generous support of our mission!

If you would like to contribute to our outdoor space, we are still in need of potted plants. Email if you would like to contribute a potted plant!

Thank You for Your Support!

We could not do this work without our community of support. A huge thank you to all who have donated, purchased items, sent cards, and checked in on our staff. We feel extremely loved and supported during this challenging time. Check out the grants and individual gifts we have received this month as we remain fully operational during COVID-19.

  • We received an $8,750 Community Development Block Grant from the City of Fayetteville to support our resident support services.
  • We received a $34,999 grant from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) to cover our mortgage payment and to expand our resident food assistance program.
  • Thank you Jennifer and Brook for donating toward our new porch swing!
  • Thank you Jo-Ann for supplying the residents with new board games.
  • Thank you Stacey and Bret for supplying personal care items and Kleenex.
  • Thank you Tina for helping with our weekly household needs.
  • Want to give back to MSH? Check out our Amazon Wish List of current needs and/or contact our Development Coordinator to learn more about the different ways to give back to MSH!