Friday, August 10, 2012

A man overcoming homelessness and a staff member both work to end addiction in DC

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It’s a tale of two colleagues, Freddie and Carlita, whose lives have crisscrossed more than once on their educational journeys.

They’re both proud graduates of Catholic Charities’ Professional Counseling Education Program (PCEP). They’re both pursuing degrees at the Catholic University of America. And most days they’re only a hallway away from each other at Catholic Charities’ Mulumba House – Freddie as a resident, and Carlita as a staff member.

Drugs once ruled Freddie’s life. He started using because of peer pressure, then struggled to get clean for years. “People with addictions think they have all the answers. The hardest part is listening, and doing what the recovery program says. I struggled with listening for a long time,” he said. But then he came to Catholic Charities’ Transitional Rehabilitation Program at 801 East, where his addictions counselors guided him to sobriety.

“Some great people at Catholic Charities helped me overcome by substance abuse issues. When I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, now that I was drug-free, I wanted to help others the way those people have helped me,” Freddie said.     

Last summer Freddie enrolled in PCEP, an adult education program at Catholic Charities that trains participants to work with people with substance abuse issues. For many of the program’s graduates, its also a launch pad to a new career. He also moved into Mulumba House, a Catholic Charities permanent supportive housing program.

Carlita started PCEP two years ago to enrich her employment experience and learn more about a problem she saw many people in her community facing – addictions. “PCEP taught me skills that have been transferable at multiple jobs. I learned how to approach situations from a different perspective,” she said. “There are carryover skills you learn: how to listen non-judgmentally and ask open-ended questions. How people’s minds work.”

At the time Carlita was working at a school, but after learning more about Catholic Charities through PCEP, she began applying for jobs with us, which brought her to Mulumba House in January 2012. Freddie and Carlita met and shared their experiences from PCEP, as well as their strikingly similar academic pursuits at The Catholic University of America. Both hope to become certified addictions counselors.

Carlita and Freddie are thrilled to have found mentors and coaches in each other, and they continue to support each other during course selection, exams week, and everything in between. They appreciate the support they have right at Mulumba and agree that they would not be succeeding at CUA without the solid foundation PCEP provided.

Dr. Nancy Butler, Director of Catholic Charities Institute which runs the PCEP class, has invited both Carlita and Freddie to speak at PCEP graduation ceremonies, motivating other program participants to see where their new education can take them. “Participants in PCEP are very diverse,” said Dr. Butler. “They may be looking to get certified as an addictions counselor, or to enhance their skill set. They may be in recovery from addictions. No matter their background, PCEP teaches them a viable skill that puts them on a path to having a steady job and making a good salary.”

PCEP puts people on track to helping address the major problem of substance abuse in DC. A 2011 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that that drug and alcohol abuse rates were higher in the District than anywhere else in the country – 11.3 percent of people 12 and older – due to the prevalence of drugs here, co-occurring health problems like HIV/AIDS and mental illness, and high-stress jobs.

Many PCEP alumni are using their degrees for good, working as residential counselors, case managers, counselor’s aides, social workers, and educators. One graduate is even starting up a peer counseling program here in DC. Through a special partnership, PCEP alumni can also receive a tuition discount at the Catholic University of America to become certified addictions counselors, like Freddie and Carlita.

“The information you get from this class is power, as long as you use it to better yourself, better your education, and better your career,” Freddie said. “Look at me. I’m 58. If I can do it, you have no excuse.”

More Catholic Charities!
PCEP is approved by the DC APC and NAADAC. Learn more about enrollment and course schedules online at You can also contact Dr. Nancy Butler for more information at

If you’re interested in other adult education opportunities, Catholic Charities has plenty to offer – ESOL classes, Spanish classes, and employment training programs. Learn more here!

Know someone with a substance abuse problem? We have programs that can help. Get more information here