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Edna House, a sober living home for women, embraces technology to keep guests safe, cheerful during COVID-19

Posted at 7:28 AM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 07:28:18-04

CLEVELAND — For those across Northeast Ohio trying to get and stay sober, in addition to the nonprofits that house them, the coronavirus pandemic has made an already difficult process even more challenging. The Edna House for Women, a sober living home on Cleveland's west side, has deployed technology and camaraderie to keep its 28 women on the road to recovery.

From living arrangements to how Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are conducted, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a whole host of changes at Edna House. Founded 16 years ago, the Edna House accepts women struggling with their sobriety that don't have a court referral or private insurance. The nonprofit recently purchased the former church convent it was previously leasing, as well as the former school building next door. The purchases came after years of fundraising.

"The Edna House has never had a lot of money, ever," said executive director Jenn Lasky. "Our motto has been to take care of the people first and the money will take care of itself."

That mantra was first tested in early March as the onset of the pandemic forced the postponement of the Edna House's largest annual fundraiser, which organizers expected to net $40,000. The home's annual budget is $350,000.

As the pandemic intensified, Edna House staff began making changes to the living arrangements in the home in order to reflect the recommended social distancing guidelines. Additionally, staff leaders had to make the difficult decision to not allow visitors inside the building, in addition to not accepting any more women.

"That was a hard wrenching decision to have to make because we have never in 16 years turned a woman away who has asked for our help. But for the safety of the women, we had to do that," Lasky said. "That has been inspiring to me to know that we have never had to turn a woman away. We always find a way. The community continues to support us. That is the only reason the Edna House is here. The ladies know that. They feel that."

Lasky said Edna House staff and its extensive network of alumni and their families have made a concerted effort to keep spirits high. Community members routinely drop off meals and donate other supplies. The sober living home also began utilizing a donated smart TV in order to host Zoom conferences, which allow the women to still attend their A.A. and other support meetings.

"I was just so grateful that we had it to use. That would have been another hardship to find another big smart TV," Lasky said. "We are doing everything we can to make it as normal as possible and giving them exactly what they need. Our women do not feel forgotten. They know they are not forgotten and that they are remembered. They are doing the best that they can."