Interview and photos by Jan Osborn.
Dallas 24 Hour Club provides transitional living, support services and essential life skills for homeless alcoholics and addicts, to they can embrace long-term sobriety and become contributing and self-supporting members of the community. Starting with six beds for homeless men only, Dallas 24 Hour Club was founded to have a place open 24 hours per day for individuals suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction who were seeking help.
The success of The 24 is its fearless leader, CEO Marsha Williamson ,who was consulting with them for a Capital Campaign on a part-time basis in 2013. When the organization had a leadership change, the Board of Directors for The 24 asked Marsha to help them transition as an interim leader.
“God kind of dropped me into the hot seat,” said Marsha laughingly. “Even though the plan was for me to help temporarily, I fell in love with the people at The 24 and I loved being there. My husband was not having it. Back then the building was in horrible condition and the surrounding areas were very dangerous. He was not in favor of that. But The Board asked me to put my name in the hat for the permanent position in June 2014 and my husband (thankfully) was led spiritually to agree with me and he’s been on board ever since. When I started, they didn’t have any money to speak of. They had major repairs that needed to be done to keep the doors open. They had never had a fundraiser and there was no database. They didn’t even have a software system. I really started rebuilding an internal system from ground zero.”
Over the last 53 years, Dallas 24 Hour Club has grown to offer services and 75 beds for both men and women. Help is available for the suffering alcoholic or drug addict 24 hours each day, 365 days each year, thus the name Dallas 24 Hour Club.
“Our feeling is that if we can get (a client) stabilized from substance abuse or alcohol or drugs, they have a lot better chance of improving their life and getting back on their feet. Learning how to live a normal life allows them to then become a responsible, contributing, self-supporting member of the community again,” said Williamson.
SERVICES OF THE 24 INCLUDE:
· Provide shelter and housing for up to six months per stay for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts at a minimal cost.
· Act as a liaison between our residents in need and service agencies that might fulfill those needs.
· Provide a place for 12-Step recovery groups to hold meetings.
· Provide a venue for 12-Step fellowships to assist others in achieving sobriety.
· Provide an environment to make those who want recovery or want to support recovery welcome.
“When someone comes to us, we do an immediate assessment to make sure that they qualify for our program. Once they come in, they’re in what we call “Phase I”. That means that you sleep on a mat, because we want everyone to start out equally, no matter what, because we have people that come from the poorest parts of Dallas and the richest parts of Dallas. Everyone starts out this journey the same and they work for the same goals – to get back on their feet. Most people are very physically diminished by how they have been living, so we feed them for the first 30 days for free. We provide them with clothing, linens, toiletries, and free medical care through Parkland. It’s critical to get someone physically stabilized, because you can’t really concentrate on the next right thing if you are hungry or mentally exhausted. And you certainly can’t concentrate on recovery.”
“During Phase I they have to go to 30 meetings in 30 days, which is really important because that’s the way you start that foundational building to have them embrace long-term sobriety. The 24 is unique in that we don’t turn anyone away for lack of funds. If they come to us unable to pay, we will run a credit until they are able to pay that back. (Nominal Guest Fees are charged so that the residents learn fiscal responsibility.) Residents are required to get a job unless they on disability. And if that’s the case, then they have to volunteer a certain number of hours a week. We feel that this is a great way to teach fiscal responsibility, just like they would need to be if they’re back out in the real world.”
Within 30 days most residents graduate Phase II which provides a bedroom to share with more freedom. They can stay up to six months. Dallas 24 Hour Club hosts thirty-seven 12-Step Recovery Meetings each week that are open to anyone looking for support. The public is welcome to stay and enjoy The 24’s full-service on-site restaurant, The Hubcap Cafe which not only serves delicious food such as burgers, sandwiches, salads, and breakfast staples all day to residents of The 24 and the public, but it provides a space for friendship, support, and camaraderie to its residents. Tim Grigsby oversees the kitchen and the chefs-in-training are 24 Hour Club residents who are pursuing work in the restaurant industry.
In March of 2021, Dallas 24 Hour Club acquired an 18-unit apartment complex from Reconciliation Outreach Ministries located at 1503 N. Peak Street. Named after Dallas 24 Hour Club’s Founder Lee Tillman, Tillman House provides affordable housing for up to 41 residents and is just ten minutes walking distance from The 24’s Ross Ave. location. Successful Graduates of The 24’s program are eligible for this affordable, sober living opportunity to allow them to practice critical life skills and establish an even stronger foundation of recovery.
Constantly looking to expand their vast roster of services, the latest news for The 24 is an exciting new partnership with the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities (CCRC) at Texas Tech University that will allow their residents to participate in a program which is an integral part of being a student of Texas Tech University, if struggling with substance abuse. As you can imagine, academic derailment is usually one of the first casualties of drugs and alcohol use, and it can often be very difficult to get back on track after battling addiction. The vision of CCRC was to offer a very low-cost way for Dallas 24 Hour Club residents to secure their college degree (whether they have zero college hours or just lack a few credits to graduate) and also be a part of CCRC program, which would be one more way for them to establish a brand new life.
“One of our former board members, Jeff Doman, is on the board of CCRC, and three years ago he had invited us to come and meet with them. At that initial meeting we felt like there were too many barriers to success for our people who didn’t have transportation or the funds to afford room and board. But with universities across the nation taking higher education virtual over the last couple of years due to the pandemic, a whole new window of opportunity arose in 2021 to revisit the idea of a partnership. This past July, I met with their development director, and by August we had the endorsement of The 24’s Board of Directors. The next day of I was approached by a resident of our program who asked if there was any way we could help him complete his degree because he only had six hours left. When he told me that he had attended Texas Tech, I almost fell over! I thought he was pulling my leg. I am thrilled to say that Blayne T. will get his degree next fall. We also have four additional people who have applied for the Fall semester. One thing that is so exciting to us is they will be able to take classes online and stay in Dallas. That means that they can still live at The 24 or Tillman House and be involved in our community of recovery, while being involved in the academic community of Tech and involved in the CCRC for additional recovery support that they offer.
Donations help keep these critical services available. Support The 24 through a cash donation or by purchasing needed products for residents through Amazon. Information on recovery, Ross Avenue recovery meetings, and services are at www.Dallas24HourClub.org.
Dallas 24 Hour Club is located at 4636 Ross Avenue, Dallas TX 75204. Tillman House is located at 1503 N. Peak Street, Dallas, TX 75204. To learn more about Dallas 24 Hour Club, go to https://www.dallas24hourclub.org/.