CONWAY — Lauralise Hodges said she understands the struggles women in The Harbor Home are going through, even though she no longer has a desire to use meth.
Hodges, 45, is program director for the residential facility for women with substance-abuse problems. Classrooms have been converted to bedrooms for 10 women in The Harbor church at 18 Ranchette Road. A mobile home houses at least another five women in Phase 2, when they get jobs.
Hodges helped Dana Davin-Ward, executive director of The Harbor Home, start the faith-based program.
A native of Quitman, Hodges said her father, who died in 2006, was a preacher.
“I was a pretty good kid,” she said. However, Hodges said, she always had low self-esteem. “I just hated myself,” she said.
Hodges has been married and divorced three times.
“I seemed to be attracted to those bad guys,” she said.
When she was struggling to lose weight, a man suggested that she try methamphetamine. When she started dating someone who had been in prison on methamphetamine-related charges, she said, that’s when she tried it.
“I was just going to try it and lose weight,” she said.
She ended up losing her home and her children.
Hodges was arrested in 2002 on 27 felony charges and received a court order to attend Potter’s Clay Ministries, a faith-based recovery residential program in Hot Springs. Her parents were granted custody of Hodges’ children.
Hodges was successful in the program. She quit using drugs and sang in a traveling gospel group with her brother.
“I got my life on track,” she said.
Then she started dating a man she met at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, “and we went backward,” she said.
They began using drugs, Hodges said, and he went to prison.
Hodges said the lowest point in her life was when her then 14-year-old daughter became addicted to prescription medication and, in 2012, was arrested.
“It was horrible,” Hodges said. “When they brought her to court in her shackles and chains, I turned myself in to the judge.”
Together, the mother and daughter went to Potter’s Clay Ministries and excelled.
“It was very hard to go back and face them, but the difference was what I’d done to my children,” Hodges said.
Just a couple of days after they arrived, Hodges was asked to sing during the program’s church service.
“I had [needle] track marks on my arm,” she said. Hodges said she looked out in the audience and saw her daughter. “She was back on the pew, weeping. I fell to my knees onstage and just wept. I told God, ‘Let me die if I can’t break this addiction.’”
Not only was Hodges successful in treatment; she became the assistant director at Potter’s Clay Ministries, a position she held off and on for a total of 14 years.
Hodges said although she intended to stay there indefinitely, she prayed about it and resigned her position. She walked outside and received a phone call to share her story at a church, and she knew she’d made the right decision.
“It was a little country church in Quitman,” she said. The speaker was pastor Larry Ward of Servant’s Chapel General Baptist Church in Conway, and his friend Dana Davin was there to listen to him.
“She came up to me afterward and said, ‘Do you believe in divine appointments? Because I think we were meant to meet,’” Hodges said.
Hodges started ministering and teaching in prisons with Davin, who later married Ward. One day Hodges shared with Davin-Ward her dream to work with women struggling with addiction. That was also a desire that Davin-Ward had.
“She began to share with me her dream to have a home for women,” Davin-Ward said. “At the same time, this property was coming available. It all came together like pieces of the puzzle. It’s a joyful, wonderful story.”
The church in Conway of which Ward was the pastor had a dwindling, older membership of about 13 people. Members voted to repurpose the building and form Servant’s Ministries, a nonprofit organization that owns the building and 5 acres.
Two of the church’s classrooms were furnished with multiple bunk beds to sleep up to 10 women, and the fellowship hall became a living area. One bathroom was renovated with a shower, and another room became a laundry room. The Harbor Home for women with substance abuse opened in August 2015.
Hodges was there in the beginning to help Davin-Ward get the project going. Hodges oversees the programs and teaches two classes: Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, and one that uses the Teen Challenge curriculum.
“I take [the residents] to court; I do the drug-testing,” she said.
Although Hodges said it’s an adjustment for women of different ages and backgrounds to live together while they’re getting their lives together, it works.
”The ones that have had the most success stay connected. They go to church with us and go to events with us,” Hodges said. “We always have a little bit of a rough patch at first, … but before you know it, they’re close; they’re real close.”
About 15 women have graduated from the program to date, and another three are preparing to graduate.
“My dream would be to be able to expand to allow women to come here with their children. I’d love to see this whole property filled with houses,” she said.
Hodges’ older daughter, who was arrested, now teaches liturgical dance at the church. Hodges said her younger daughter hasn’t had any substance-abuse problems, and Hodges hasn’t relapsed.
“I look back and think, ‘Who was that?’” she said, putting her hands on her face and laughing with embarrassment. “I have no desire [to use drugs] at all anymore.”