Standing at the opening of a weathered and greyed picket fence, looking at a boarded up, run-down house, Stian Rorstad remembers the challenges this place used to pose to clients just inches next door less than a year ago.
"The tenants who used to live here would antagonize the clients and call them names," said Rorstad, who is the executive director of the Recovery Acres Calgary Society (RACS). "They would hang posters of alcohol and everything so when our clients looked out their bedroom windows they could see these adverts for alcohol."
So, in the fall of 2021, RACS bought it when it came up for sale.
"We could conceivably see a centre with maybe 30 more beds at least, for women, to meet that need," Rorstad said.
That need was demonstrated when the organization opened up eight beds on Jan. 1 to anyone who identifies as female, looking for addictions recovery inpatient treatment.
It was a first for the nearly 50-year-old not-for-profit agency.
"We had a wait list of 50 women seeking residential addiction treatment," Rorstad said.
There are 30 spots for male clients.
RACS started in 1973 as a halfway house for men, and has since expanded to include out and inpatient programs for men.
Individuals who come to RACS are experiencing substance use disorder and other psychological issues.
The goal was to equip clients with tools and knowledge in order to leave the program and live a life without substances.
"We have found individuals that come into our treatment program, 80 per cent of those are either homeless or unemployed and upon successfully completing phase two of our program, 100 per cent are housed and 100 per cent are employed," Rorstad said.
In 2016, outpatient programs were offered to women.
"We absolutely saw that there was a need for addiction treatment for women, and at that time, all we had space for in this facility was a day program," Rorstad said.
From that time until now, the group received funding to renovate one of four properties it owns in southwest Calgary to make room for eight beds and a living space, strictly for female inpatients.
Michelle Gavel, associated addictions counsellor at Recovery Acres, started at RACS four months ago. She works in the buildings for men and women.
"I share the truth and where I come from and my story, and that helps men and women," Gavel said.
As a recovering alcoholic and addict herself, she said seeking out inpatient care as a woman was difficult when she started her treatment years ago.
"There were maybe two centers for women back then. You know it's just so hard and you feel like giving up," Gavel said. "This could save a lot of women from suffering."
As for that newly-acquired piece of land with the run-down house on it, the timeline to tear that down and construct a brand new facility, focused on the needs of female clients, is up in the air.
That will depend on a capital campaign to raise the funds, likely in the millions.
But as a client of RACS at one time himself, Rorstad is holding steady to that vision.