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Goats, soaps and candles help pay bills and build skills at Cape Breton addiction recovery home

From left, Dr. Laura Whyte, Jessica MacVicar and Zuzana Poláčková sit on the sofa in a living room area at Hope House, a live-in addictions recovery home for women in Point Edward. The first women-only addiction treatment home in Cape Breton, Hope House opened its doors almost three years ago and 83 per cent of the women who completed three months of the program have stayed in recovery. NICOLE SULLIVAN/CAPE BRETON POST
From left, Dr. Laura Whyte, Jessica MacVicar and Zuzana Poláčková sit on the sofa in a living room area at Hope House, a live-in addictions recovery home for women in Point Edward. The first women-only addiction treatment home in Cape Breton, Hope House opened its doors almost three years ago and 83 per cent of the women who completed three months of the program have stayed in recovery. NICOLE SULLIVAN/CAPE BRETON POST - Nicole Sullivan
POINT EDWARD, N.S. —

Ainsley the goat jumps swiftly on the fence after hearing the barn doors at Hope Farm open.

Behind the doors lay a Christmas tree ready to be eaten, as well as some cat food, something Ainsley is known to steal.

Stopped at the gate by Zuzana Poláčková, one of the staff at Hope Farm, Ainsley bleated her disapproval then trotted by the chickens in their coop across the field from two large greenhouses.

Along with the farm portion on the Point Edward property is Hope House, a live-in recovery home for women healing from substance abuse disorders. It opened almost three years ago and since then it has grown to include a farm and small business that makes products, including goat milk soap. 


Zuzana Poláčková stands inside the chicken coop at Hope Farm. The chickens they have produce three colours of eggs, including blue. Poláčková said they sell the eggs and their trademark is making sure each box has one blue one in it. NICOLE SULLIVAN/CAPE BRETON POST
Zuzana Poláčková stands inside the chicken coop at Hope Farm. The chickens they have produce three colours of eggs, including blue. Poláčková said they sell the eggs and their trademark is making sure each box has one blue one in it. NICOLE SULLIVAN/CAPE BRETON POST

"The goats were given to us when we first opened. And the thing about goats is they multiply," said Dr. Laura Whyte, chair of the board of directors for Hope House and co-founder of the project, laughing.

"We had to figure out what to do with all the milk and we thought, 'Why not try making soap?'"

FUNDING HOPE

Looking for a product they could sell, goat milk soap was cost efficient. Using essential oils for scent, graduates of Hope House's trauma-informed recovery program make all the products, which are then packaged by hand.

Under the guidance of Whyte, some graduates of the program had the idea to sell the soap and Covered by Hope was launched.

Then they expanded their products to include handmade soy wax candles, poured in old teacups that are donated to them.

Profits from Covered by Hope sales goes into operational costs for the house and to hire graduates from the program when they can.

Whyte said for their first year they generated about $30,000 in revenue and are expanding their product line.

Women currently in the Hope House program help a couple of times a week making or packaging the products, and they learn about the business side of the company. Whyte said it's another way they teach the women life and work skills for when they graduate.

SUCCESS AND SUSTAINABILITY

The cost of the Hope House live in program is $2,300 per person, however, the recovery home works on a pay-what-you-can basis, adjusting fees according to a woman's income.

"If someone was on assistance, for example, and they received $750 per month, we may say, 'OK, your cost is $600 or $650,'" explained Whyte.


Ainsley walks along the fence to get to the barn door, which she heard open shortly before she jumped up. Apparently, Ainsley likes to steal the cat food that's kept inside the barn at Hope Farm. NICOLE SULLIVAN/CAPE BRETON POST
Ainsley walks along the fence to get to the barn door, which she heard open shortly before she jumped up. Apparently, Ainsley likes to steal the cat food that's kept inside the barn at Hope Farm. NICOLE SULLIVAN/CAPE BRETON POST

Along with Covered by Hope products, the organization also sells produce and eggs.

"The goal is we use 50 per cent of the produce or the eggs for us and 50 per cent to sell," said Poláčková. "This month, from selling the chickens' eggs, we've made enough to cover (costs of) the chickens and the goats. And the month just started."

Women who go through the recovery program also learn gardening skills when they can, but the main focus is on their healing. Whyte said before the COVID-19 pandemic, 83 per cent of the women who spent three months in the Hope House program stayed in recovery after leaving.

Happy with the way the Hope House dream has grown and expanded, Whyte praises the community that has been working hard to make it a reality.

For Whyte, one of the most rewarding parts of the success of Hope House is seeing the families as well as the women heal during the program. 

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