Huntingdon native Valerie Jones has known addiction her entire life.
From growing up in a home with a mother addicted to drugs and alcohol to getting married at 15-years-old to her alcohol-addicted boyfriend, Jones said “I was not in the best of situations.”
In 2004, after having her third daughter and going through her second divorce, Jones said she was prescribed pills, which began her opioid addiction.
“I had grown dependent on everyone to get by on life and that’s when I began my own drug addiction,” Jones said. “I take full responsibility, but it really is a product of your environment and being stuck in a small town and not being able to get out of the situation you’re in.”
Jones said from age 25 to 30, her addiction revved up before meeting a guy who turned her addiction from pain-killers to methamphetamine.
“That’s when my incarceration started and for seven of the last 12 years – not all at one time -- I was in jail,” Jones said. “I became a felon in 2010. When you get out of jail and don’t have anywhere to go for help, you go back to what you know. When you go home and don’t have a family to support you, you lean on other things and people that may not be in your best interest.”
After three and a half years in jail, in December 2020, Jones was released on parole and required to enroll in a halfway house.
On December 9, 2020, Jones enrolled at Mending Hearts, a full continuum of care nonprofit facility for women going through addiction, incarceration or mental or emotional disorders.
Founded in 2004, Mending Hearts program offers women assistance in medical detox, residential treatment, intensive outpatient program, medication-assisted treatment, peer support community with recovery housing, independent living and mom's with kids the opportunity to receive care while parenting.
In 2016, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) awarded Mending hearts with a $501,500 Tennessee Housing Trust Fund grant (THTF), which assisted in the development of their first transitional living facility, the same home Jones stayed in when she first arrived at Mending Hearts.
Since 2016, THDA has awarded Mending Hearts approximately $1,332,652 through the Tennessee Housing Trust Fund.
The Tennessee Housing Trust Fund (THTF) was created by the THDA board of directors to provide financial support for innovative, affordable initiatives that serve the housing needs of Tennessee’s most vulnerable residents.
Funding for the Tennessee Housing Trust Fund comes entirely from earnings generated through THDA’s Single Family Mortgage program. THTF grants are awarded through a competitive application process.
A new life
Upon arriving at Mending Hearts, Jones recalled being “scared to death.”
“The first thing everyone kept telling me was that they love me and everyone was giving me hugs,” Jones said. “They got me to go to the doctor, helped get me sleeping items and just cared. That was different. I had never been anywhere where someone didn’t want anything from me in return.”
Jones said Mending Hearts has helped her tremendously with structure, time-management and accountability.
“They give you the opportunity to change your life, if that’s what you want to do,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”
Today, Jones can be found supervising 45 to 50 Mending Heart clients as the Peer Support Supervisor.
“I can tell you just about every girl that lives in every house here,” she said. “It’s helped me with continued accountability. If I’m trying to help you get your life in order, I have to have my life in order.”
Additionally, Jones works part-time at The Turnip Truck as the lead kitchen staff member.
Jones said her desire is to move into her own home soon while still assisting the women at Mending Hearts.
“If I didn’t have somewhere like Mending Hearts to come to, I don’t know where I will be today,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about anyone harming me or hurting me. This place shows you what it means to have a home and be happy, if you let it. I’m am forever grateful for this opportunity and I want to help as many women as I can.”