In a recent interview, Kenya bravely opened up about her journey of recovery and the concerning observations she made during her time in local social services and other non-profit organizations. Kenya, a Black woman escaping an abusive relationship, sought solace in Eureka with the hope of finding support. However, her journey took a harrowing turn as she encountered what she described as discrimination within local outreach programs.
One alarming observation reported by Kenya: identical medication was being given to all clients at Waterfront Recovery. Each individual’s journey to recovery is unique, providing a one-size-fits-all treatment plan could significantly impact individual treatment plans in a negative way. It is essential for organizations to prioritize personalized care, tailoring treatments to address the specific needs and circumstances of each client. By providing individualized support, we can empower survivors like Kenya to regain control over their lives and rebuild with confidence.
One of the most distressing issues Kenya raised was the presence of discriminatory hiring practices of those in the recovery work programs led by Hiedi Benzonelli. Discrimination has no place in our society, especially within organizations that claim to support and uplift those in need. It is disheartening to think that the very institutions designed to provide assistance could be perpetuating such unfair treatment. We must stand united against any form of discrimination and demand accountability from those responsible.
“If they do hire Black people, it’s always in a very low position. It’s always something beneath. They don’t want you to go up in the ladder. You know they want to keep the Black men as the laborers, and the White men can go up and start driving the machinery. And that’s through Jefferson Center. Jefferson Center Farms the people hands them over to the construction companies.”Kenya Casey
Kenya described some of the duties in the recovery work programs, one of which required recovery clients to crawl under houses and clean up needles left behind by heroin addicts. While supporting individuals on their path to recovery with employment opportunities is admirable, we must ensure and protect their dignity and safety in this undertaking – which it appears this outfit seems to be failing at, at least in practice. Exploitations which perpetuate cycles of victimization can hinder the healing process, while conversely, providing genuine opportunities for growth and empowerment will allow survivors to reintegrate into society without compromising their well-being.
While trying to escape the domestic abuse situation she and her son were living in, Kenya described placing her son in foster care temporarily, while she received treatment for alcohol addiction. While in foster care, her son was reportedly neglected in many ways, despite the $1200 a month his foster parents received for housing him. At times he was given moldy bread to eat, with the mold cut off. In addtion he was provided inadequate clothing and hygiene during his stay. As well, she and her son were forced to take the COVID vaccines in order to see each other and for him to stay at the foster home.
Another figure of significance in Kenya Casey’s story is Kim Bergel, Eureka’s mayor and a teacher’s aide. Kenya recounts a distressing incident where Bergel reportedly grabbed her hair in public without consent. Such behavior exemplifies an abuse of power and highlights the deeply ingrained prejudices experienced by Black women. Additionally, it is worth noting the irony of Bergel: she is a strong supporter of the needle exchange program, which wholly contributes to the biohazardous waste that those in recovery work programs are tasked with cleaning up. This irony calls into question the integrity of her stance and underscores the insensitivity regarding the challenges faced by those seeking recovery.
Perhaps most troubling of all is the notion that associates – of the same group of people employing recovery clients – also control the storage and housing facilities for these individuals. This raises serious questions about the potential for exploitation and manipulation. We must advocate for transparency and independent oversight to prevent any conflicts of interest which could compromise the well-being of those seeking recovery. Creating an environment that fosters trust, support, and genuine care for survivors, free from any ulterior motives.
Let us come together to better understand the situation at hand, assess the gaps in our current system, and work collectively towards meaningful solutions. By engaging in open dialogue, we can identify opportunities for improvement, rectify injustices, and ensure that our communities become safe havens for survivors seeking support.
Kenya Casey’s story serves as a powerful reminder that our efforts to combat domestic violence and support survivors must be even handed. Institutional accountability challenging discriminatory practices, and striving for inclusive, individualized care is critical. This is an opportunity to reevaluate approaches to treatment and care in this field, creating a more supportive environment for survivors. Together, by ensuring that no one falls through the cracks of our social support systems, we can rewrite the narrative of recovery and empower survivors to reclaim their lives.
Please watch the Full interview for context and more details about what is being explained.