in the


Outside at a Burlington Recovery House

The below article was originally published in Lake Country Journal February/March 2019.

Update as of 2023 – The home described in this article now serves 11 men, and qualifies for housing assistance, so not all residents are self pay.

“Someone should do something to help.” How many times have we heard that…or said that ourselves? We see a need in our community and wish there was a resource to help. But it’s rare that we see that need and actually step forward to do something ourselves. Sheila Haverkamp is one of those people who did. The story of the journey starts many years ago. She grew up as one of five siblings, a full and active childhood. Unfortunately, life would have it that the siblings would not all grow old together. Medical testing showed that three of the five siblings had a genetic heart condition; a condition that would take the life of her brother Jon at the age of 19. The impact of this loss was felt by everyone in the family, and most particularly so by her brother Michael. Drugs and alcohol quickly became his coping mechanism. Sheila fondly remembers “Michael was so loving, so caring, and so full of life. The loss of Jon left him devastated and broken. It consumed him.” Michael tragically passed away at the age of 29. Sheila watched Michael’s battle with addiction during a time when her own child began struggling with addiction; everything from crushing Ritalin to alcohol to meth. Addiction was something Sheila felt in the middle of, and yet it seemed she could do little to help. “

“Fast forward to 2016.

One Sunday after church she noticed an estate sale in North Brainerd. She suggested to her husband Gene that they stop. By the time they left Sheila felt called to buy and renovate the house. Initially her passion was to give back to the housing needs in North Brainerd. But as it started to come together, she realized the true calling for the house; a sober living home for adult men to rebuild their way into a new life, a life full of supportive relationships. With that, the vision for the Burlington House was born. An ongoing remodel project, the North Brainerd house is home to 9 adult men who all pay their own housing costs, work, and support each other in continuing to focus on recovery. They’ve all been through inpatient treatment programs at some point, and are focusing on reintegrating into society. Sheila has reflected on how many times after a treatment program a person returns to their previous environment; an environment that wasn’t successful for them, and often that quickly pulls them back into unhealthy choices. By providing a sober living environment, the men can now create positive support systems. One resident recalls his slip back into addiction that left him temporarily homeless; he recalls going to the Brainerd library just to warm up. He refers to the Burlington House as a good place where you just feel safe; a brotherhood, where there’s someone to talk to amongst the other lodgers, or to Gene and Sheila just a phone call away.”

Guys at the Burlington Recovery Homes

Sheila with guys shopping from Burlington Recovery House

“The home is there to provide the living environment, but isn’t a treatment program in itself.

The men are now on their own to attend support group meetings, and often they support and encourage each other to go. In most, if not all, situations, a significant number of the men have lost driving privileges, so that means a need to be resourceful. A grant from Crow Wing Energized provided the resources to purchase bikes, which are often used to get to and from work, to the grocery store, and to enjoy with kids when their families visit. It’s a strong connection the men have built with each other. They smile as they tell of the “campfires” out back fueled by pallets from one gentleman’s worksite, and the vertical gardens they started thanks to another grant from Crow Wing Energized. It’s not just a house they live in together; it’s a home shared with friends that feel more like family. Sheila noticed a need and took action. Action that’s impacting the men who see her and her husband Gene as adoptive parents. And the men couldn’t be more grateful. One of the lodgers shared, “You’ve done more for me than I could imagine.” But Sheila says “I’m just a human doing my part.”

“Burlington Recovery Homes believed in me and encouraged me to believe in myself.”

“I am forever grateful for the love and support I found there.
Thank you”

Steve W.

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