by M. Sophie Franchi
“There’s nothing like it in the world,” says Denny Wilson. Wilson is President, CEO and Founder of F I Community Housing, and he believes there are no recovery housing services quite like his— in Akron, or anywhere else.
F I Community Housing operates the only Recovery Community Center in N.E. Ohio that provides low to no-cost services to people in recovery from a substance use disorder. They regularly provide free food and clothing to the community, and they were recognized as the #1 Provider of Recovery Housing five years in a row by the Ohio Empowerment Coalition. The bed fees are income-based, and include all utilities, food and transportation, as well as access to spacious facilities, complete with exercise room, rec room, movie theatre and laundry facilities. They also provide recovery coaching, education, advocacy and referral services.
BMe Community Akron recently awarded Wilson $10,000 by for his work in the community. F I Community Housing is a faith-based organization, founded and rooted in Biblical principles, which provides housing and recovery support services to substance abuse patients and returning citizens. Wilson says that F I Community Housing is designed to meet anyone where they are and provide them the necessary tools and support to become whatever it is they want to in life.
BMe Community recognition and support has allowed them to expand social enterprise opportunities for clients who may need a few dollars in their pocket while working on more pressing issues while recovery, including clients who are ‘hard to employ’ for various reasons. Wilson plans to open a car wash which will employ returning citizens.
“F I Community Housing started when I myself received similar services back in June of 1995…in Orange County California,” Wilson says. “Having ‘burnt’ all my relationships with family and friends due to my behaviors surrounding drug and alcohol use, and not properly dealing with a mental illness, I found myself looking to end my life.”
Wilson says that his failed suicide attempt landed him in a 21-day treatment program in California. He then moved into a “sober house”—an eight-bed facility providing housing and supportive services where he met Warren J. Boyd.
“[Warren] took me under his wing…took a genuine interest in my future, and wasn’t concerned with my past. Warren afforded me the opportunity to learn, and provided employment through his organization,” says Wilson. “From client, to assistant manager, to manager, to director, all the way up to Director of Operations, the love and guidance provided by this man proved to be the one thing lacking in my life. He believed in me.”
Over the next five years, Wilson and Boyd expanded their services to eight facilities and a corporate office serving over 18,000 men and women up and down the West Coast. They also provided opportunity for people who weren’t able to secure stable employment due to drug and alcohol history or felony convictions.
“Having an extensive criminal background starting as a juvenile well into my adult life, I worked hard to educate myself,” says Wilson. “In January 2000, I returned to my hometown of Akron, Ohio to help those in the community I love.” Wilson returned because his friends and family back home were dying or being incarcerated due to drug and alcohol use, untreated (or undiagnosed) mental illness, and the associated lifestyle. “I took everything I knew and loved that worked to help others in the past, and formulated a plan which included the needs of the community here in Akron. From that, F I Community Housing was born.”
F I Community Housing has helped thousands of men and women overcome addiction. They also work to break the stereotypes surround returning citizens and help hundreds of patients take control of their mental health.
“As a black male who grew up under some of the most detrimental social and environmental circumstances…my heart’s desire is that no one ever struggle in the ways I have,” says Wilson. He wants to provide “the most quality and loving services our entire community has ever seen.”
(Featured Photo of Denny Wilson by M. Sophie Franchi; photos of F I Community Housing by Svetla Morrison)