In 1940, the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown became the first house of worship in New Jersey to host meetings of a fledgling organization called Alcoholics Anonymous.
Those meetings have continued there on Sunday nights for 79 years. Now, the church now will take that mission a step further, by leasing its rectory to Freedom House for a transitional home for men recovering from substance abuse.
“This is part of our legacy. This dovetails nicely with that,” Redeemer Rector Cynthia Black said on Thursday.
“I’m excited,” said Freedom House Executive Director Glenn King. “The location, the collaboration with other agencies, it’s just phenomenal.”
Freedom House, a nonprofit based in Clinton, will occupy the 11-bedroom structure known for 25 years as The Eric Johnson House, where New Jersey AIDS Services ran a transitional home for people with AIDS/HIV until January of this year.
Freedom House video:
King anticipates it will take 60- to 90 days to secure approval from the state Department of Health and Human Services for the facility, which will provide residential services for men recovering from substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. The lease with Redeemer runs for five years, King said.
Established in 1986, Freedom House has operated a transitional home on Ann Street in Morristown for about 20 years, King said. Additionally, the organization provides addiction services to adult women and men at facilities in Clinton, Glen Gardner, and Phillipsburg.
“Saving lives and reuniting families” is the Freedom House motto; more than 2,500 clients have been served so far.
The average stay in a Freedom House transitional home is about six months, King said. Men living in the rectory will have completed detoxification, and will be “one step before independence,” he said.
Redeemer, which also hosts the Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center, is a short walk from the Morristown Green, where occasional overdoses bring the national opioid epidemic into sharp focus.
“You can go on any avenue or street in most places, and you will find these problems,” said King, a Morristown native who said he triumphed over substance abuse 27 years ago.
He is a licensed clinical drug- and alcohol counselor, and a member of Bethel AME Church in Morristown.
Black said this cause resonates at Redeemer, where some congregants struggle with addictions. Freedom House’s tenancy won unanimous approval from the church vestry, the rector said.
“Redeemer has always been known for being on the leading edge of things that are important in the world,” she said. “We’re glad to make some small impact.”