At 13 years old, Helen and two of her siblings were torn from their family and forced to attend boarding school in a government attempt to move American Indians from their reservations and integrate them into non-Indian communities.
Helen's school was in Utah, a thousand miles and a world apart from any life she had known. Separated from her parents, she was forced into a foreign world in which she was forbidden to honor her own culture and language. It was a traumatic experience, and the moment she was free to leave, she did—but she never forgot what it was to feel isolated, powerless and alone. She headed to San Francisco where she confronted new realities of being an American Indian in a non-native world.
Helen and her peers faced discrimination of a new sort, a lack of support services, and almost no understanding of the differences in culture. Helen's mission became to bridge that divide. Forty-six years later, she has succeeded in helping to do so.
Today, Friendship House exists to help keep Helen's native people sober. Many who come to her are often not just addicted, but homeless and unemployed. Through a unique program approach, most leave committed to sobriety and in a position to regain their footing and their dignity.
Friendship House's relapse rate is half that of the average treatment center.
Part of the reason for that is our program's unique blend of 12 Step Programs, Western psychology, and Native American traditions. Helen realized that Native Americans are more prone to addiction when they abandon tradition. At Friendship House, recovery includes prayers, medicine men, healing ceremonies, talking circles and a sweat lodge. Clients are encouraged to stay up to a year, during which time they are also provided life and job skills.