Fighting a drug and prison war without ammunition

Willie Johnston stands on the steps of Love and Respect with a smile on his face, as Dennis Garrett, owner and founder, on the far left hand side looks on.  Another resident of the house sits, and listens to his music. (Staff photo by Sheila Rosier)

Willie Johnston stands on the steps of Love and Respect with a smile on his face, as Dennis Garrett, owner and founder, on the far left hand side looks on. Another resident of the house sits, and listens to his music. (Staff photo by Sheila Rosier)

He had a vision to help those that are in dire need to be saved from the streets, and from themselves. He had the determination to clean Durham up, one street at a time, starting with Angier Avenue. He had the drive to see to it that every man that walks through the doors of his organization will someday walk out a better man…but he can’t do it alone.

There is something extraordinary about a person willing to take money out of his household to help others. In 2010, the Durham Voice published a story on Dennis Garrett and his non-profit organization called Love & Respect. Since then, Garrett has purchased and rebuilt three homes, and has turned them into recovery homes.

What makes this recovery home so different from the recovery centers that are well known?

“I put together a program that was written for an addict, by an addict, to help an addict,” said Garrett.

He says that other programs are designed to keep addicts in the system, but he put together a program to change that. “I’m here to help save your life,” said Garrett.

According to those that know him, that’s exactly what he is doing.

After leaving an undisclosed recovery center…”I went right back to using,” said Dennis Green, a 49-year-old recovering alcoholic. He has been clean for 50 days now and has a new love for life.

Green recalls walking into his home and finding his father and brother murdered. He then lost his mother this past January. Green turned to alcohol to numb the pain and started to commit petty crime to get his next drink. Now, as Green sips on a cup of coffee, he expresses how grateful he is for this life-altering program.

“I’m not alone anymore, and it feels good…we’re a pretty tight house here,” said Green.

Can someone who has never experienced the lifestyle of an addict comprehend what life is like as an addict?

Willie Johnston, a 36-year-old man says, “Your friends and family might not understand as much, so who better to teach you then an addict himself?”

Johnston, who has been in other recovery programs as well, recalls these programs and services failed him too.  He says the desire to go back was so strong that he left the program early just to start using again. Crack, cocaine, and others were his choice of drugs, but he refused to label himself as an addict.

“When you think of an addict, you think of someone scratching themselves,” said Johnston.  Yet Johnston vividly describes himself as someone that was always employed and well dressed.

“This house is not what you think a recovery house would be…the best ones fall down, and that’s what I did,” said Johnston. He says that this is the first program that he stayed in and that works.

“This program is designed for those who want it, not those who need it,” said Garrett. If there are thoughts of coming into the program with deceit, he can tell within a minute who is putting on a story, because he’s been there and has done that.

So how does this non-profit organization keep its doors open?

Garrett says that Love and Respect is self-supportive — needing outside help. These guys are determined to see their home and themselves succeed and are willing to work for donations.

They are a group of men who understand life a little better and give back every weekend to their community.

Green says what he would like to see come out of him sharing his story, is just to get some work.

“We want to keep the program going for the new comers,” said Green.

Garrett recalls when he first came to the area. “There were 52 911 calls a week.”  That number has gone down tremendously and as long as their door stays open in that community, those calls will continue to go down.

In order to keep this momentum going, they need the help of the city, the churches, the community and anyone willing to donate for a wonderful cause. Johnston says that this program not only helps you with your addictions, it helps you become a better person.

If you should ever find yourself on Angier Avenue, look for the well-kept blue house that stands out with the letters “Love and Respect” written right above it.  Often, you will see some of the occupants sitting outside in the front porch, relaxing and enjoying the new opportunity they’ve been given, all thanks to Garrett, but Garrett says, “All thanks belong to God!”

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