Recovery and Mentorship during COVID-19

We have decided to take advantage of shelter at home orders to introduce you to some of our team members and services. One of our champions is Nelson Caldero, Clinical Supervisor at La Casa – our all-male, bilingual, residential half way house facility – currently serving 23 adults with alcohol and drug addiction problems. Nelson was hired as its first Clinical Supervisor in 2017, when La Casa opened its doors.

Nelson is also one of our many success stories: he initially came to Nuestra Clinica Residential in 2006 as a court ordered client convicted on drug procession charges. “I had a drug problem and that was the reason I was living the way I was living. The judge said to me, you can go to jail or you can go to rehab,” Nelson explains.

Nelson grew up in the projects of Puerto Rico. At 26, his family sent him to live with an uncle in Bethlehem, PA, hoping he would find a better future there. When Nelson moved to Bethlehem, he got two jobs – one as a forklift driver and another in a meat packing facility. He got married and started a family. However, once in Pennsylvania, Nelson started using hard drugs (cocaine and heroine) for the first time.

“SACA saved my life,” Nelson says. While spending 3 ½ years in Recovery House at SACA, he took on leadership roles in-house. His leadership skills and intellect were quickly noticed by the house staff, and during his recovery he went from resident manager to house manager to assistant counselor. The only thing that stopped Nelson’s further advancement was the lack of a college degree.

Today, Nelson is a proud parent, a graduate of Drexel University with a Bachelor of Sciences in Behavioral Health Counseling, and a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor specializing in recovery. Under the shelter at home order, Nelson and his staff are working creatively to manage 18 live-in residents aged 25-51 who are not allowed to leave the house. To help his clients cope, Nelson explains, “We are offering more frequent group and individual therapy sessions and meeting several times a day which helps the clients feel more comfortable doing it, since there is more flexibility in the schedule. We meet with all the residents in the morning and then we send them to the gym in the basement where we have a small recreational area so they can have some physical activity. We have even hosted some pool and domino tournaments” , with the resident living and receiving treatment.

“We know that anxiety levels are high. An addict is a compulsive person. Some residents are concerned what will happen when the shelter at home is lifted. Some worry ‘Will there be a job for me later?’ It’s especially hard because they can’t have family visits now.” Nelson is also witnessing some positive behavior under the shelter at home order: “The residents get along better. Some of our residents have social problems and do not like to socialize with other people. Now our residents see other people’s behavior and they can learn from it.”

All are welcome at La Casa, but the target population is Hispanic. Here we operate as a family: relationships and respect are foundationally important. It is also the only bilingual house of its nature in south-central Pennsylvania. Nelson leverages a shared Latino culture to help his clients beat addiction whether he is talking one-on-one with a client or in a group setting. “ I use the language and culture that the residents feel comfortable using so they can open up to me. We need residents to share their emotions and talk about the trauma of addiction. We need to engage them to share with us. Culture plays a big part if our daily life from our meals, a house specialty of pork chops with white rice and beans, to our killer domino tournaments. For many Latinos, dominos was a family game of their childhood.” We also serve alternate meals that are culturally appropriate for all.

Thank you for reading Nelson’s story. We keep looking for ways to do better, serve more, and meet the needs of our community in this changing environment. Nelson and the rest of our team are committed to working to improve and assist our community in times of calm and in times of crisis, and we are all so grateful to the friends of SACA who help us do our work with their generous donations.