WENATCHEE — Daniel R. Valadez possesses a bright and engaging personality and is easy to talk with.
It therefore may be surprising to learn that Valadez, 41, lived for 10 years in the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility and is a recovering heroin addict.
Valadez says he’s gained communication skills to be able to speak to people in a proper manner. Before, “I wouldn’t even be able to sit here having this conversation in a normal way,” he said.
Valadez lives at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center’s recovery home, which serves as a halfway house. The home started in 2011 and houses eight people who have come out of jails, prisons and treatment centers, said Jennifer Latimer, program manager for the Chelan County Regional Justice Center recovery house program.
“The problem is, they would come back out of treatment with nowhere to go, with nowhere to live, and they don’t have any money,” Latimer said.
People can stay at the house for up to two years, she said. The average time people stay, though, is around nine months. People don’t need to be in drug treatment to live at the residence.
The house provides people like Valadez with an in-between stop after exiting incarceration or treatment, she said. There, people can find a job, save some money, take care of any probation or treatment needs and maybe reconnect with their family.
Latimer is a key part of the recovery house. Valadez and several other residents emphasized how important her encouragement and positive energy continue to be for their rehabilitation.
“When I do have those kinds of thoughts and issues going on, Jenny seems to be popping up at the right time,” Valadez said. “I can talk to her; she basically tells me I can do anything that I put my mind to.”
Latimer said she acts as a case manager at the home. It is unique for halfway houses to have case managers, she said. She helps residents fill out documents like Social Security, look for jobs and even buys food and clothes for them, using program funds.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve had to walk into a store with someone because they feel so uncomfortable or take someone to the college,” Latimer said.
It isn’t easy for people leaving systems of incarceration and treatment to reintegrate back into society, Latimer said. Their life was very structured while in custody. They also probably didn’t live normal lives before treatment or incarceration.
“I had a guy who didn’t know how to warm up a can of food, because he grew up in prison,” she said. They microwave everything in prison.
Valadez agreed it can be a difficult transition. When he left prison in 2013, he had been in solitary confinement for three years, he said. On his release day, they cracked open his cell, gave him clothes and a check, and dropped him off at the nearest bus station.
“When I got locked up, the Nokia phones were barely coming out,” Valadez said. “When I got out, I asked someone if I could use their phone and they handed me this thing where I had no clue what it was. It was a touchscreen Apple iPhone, and I was like, ‘No, can I use your phone?’”
Valadez moved to Moses Lake with his wife and two kids a year and a half ago to seek treatment. He attended The Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Wenatchee and was released about a year ago.
Valadez said he decided not to return to his family in Moses Lake right away when he got out of “The Center.”
“It is kind of like you have to change your people, places and things in order to make some progress,” he said.
He now works nights as a janitor and is also practicing his wood burning, he said. He has a deal with a business downtown called Fanfare to display some of his work.
He still has his good days and his bad days, but he’s now feeling a lot more positive about the future, he said.
“It has just been a snowball effect of positive effects that have been happening for me,” Valadez said.