DECATUR — Jim McRoberts didn't expect to stay in Decatur for long.
In 2015, the Austin, Texas, native came to Central Illinois after the death of his aunt. McRoberts initially planned to return home after renovating a "beautiful" house that she used to own, but his plans changed after he saw how serious the opioid epidemic was becoming in the Midwest.
McRoberts thought and prayed about how he could help improve the lives of people battling addictions, he said. Believing that Decatur could greatly benefit from a long-term recovery facility, he said his prayers ultimately led him to start the Brickhouse Foundation on June 27.
"I've had some business success in the past, and it's all God that has made them possible," said McRoberts, 52. "Now, I'm out in Decatur trying to help people help themselves, and creating an opportunity for them."
The Brickhouse Foundation is a nonprofit organization that operates a transitional living facility in Decatur at 561 N. Church St.
McRoberts rents the blue, four-bedroom house from the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, and invites men that have been recently released from 30-day treatment programs to stay there.
Doubling as the foundation's main office, McRoberts said the house is fully furnished and stocked with food that was donated by local churches.
"Everything here is donated, except for the TV," McRoberts said. "I had to buy that myself."
McRoberts is an advocate for long-term addiction treatment and believes that it is a more effective way to combat the nation's opioid crisis. In order to stay at the house, residents have to remain sober and must pay rent weekly.
"My father always used to say, 'If you lay with a dog with fleas, you're going to get fleas,'" he said. "Going back to situations where you're around drugs or alcohol, there are higher chances of relapse."
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Since the foundation's inception, McRoberts said that only one person has reached out to him about becoming a resident. As he continues to make a name for the program in the area, he's confident that more will come.
"I kept asking myself, 'What am I doing wrong, what am I doing wrong?,' McRoberts said. "But people close to me kept telling me that I wasn't doing anything wrong. I've just got to get the word out."
Based around the tenets of being a charitable, educational, civic and religious organization, the Brickhouse Foundation's recovery program is broken into three phases, McRoberts said. Residents can live at the house for as long as they want, he said, but the more they invest in their recovery, the more freedom and independence they gain during their stay.
Eventually, McRoberts said the goal is to place residents that complete all of the phases of the program into a brick house of their own, free of charge.
"In three years, they would be living independently," he said. "The house would be a prize for their further efforts."
To provide homes for the graduated residents, McRoberts hopes to restore old, abandoned houses in the area. McRoberts wants to use his experience in renovating houses to teach those who join the program how to bring those save those houses for living in. He said it would be a strong incentive for residents to stick with the program.
Looking toward the coming months, McRoberts said he has high aspirations for the Brickhouse Foundation.
In recent months, he said he's been "hard at work," networking and reaching out to other local organizations to spread the word about the services that the foundation offers.
After more people join the program as residents, McRoberts intends to expand the Brickhouse Foundation's reach so that it can accommodate women, and allow for more volunteers to come in and help manage its day-to-day operations.
To get to that point, McRoberts said he'll keep working.
"We are still in the infancy of the foundation, but I think that will soon change," he said. "I feel like this is going to have a huge impact on Decatur."
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