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Local woman honours son’s memory with home for those in need

Laura McLean bought this house on Moira Street in June 2015 to serve as a home for people who are recovering from addictions, have just come out of prison or have mental-health issues. It’s called Jessie’s House in memory of her late sone, Jessie. Photo by Lindsey Cooke, QNet News

By Lindsey Cooke [1]

BELLEVILLE – A Belleville woman is working to make a difference and stop the cycle of poverty, drugs, mental-health problems and crime.

Laura McLean is executive director of Jessie’s House [2], a non-profit transitional house offering low-cost accommodation, as well as support and guidance, to recovering drug addicts, criminal offenders and people suffering from other behavioural issues.

McLean started Jessie’s House in honour of her son, Jessie, who died from a fentanyl overdose in 2014. Before his death, he had wanted to start an organization to help those struggling with addictions.

“All I could do was to try to do what he wanted and to finish that off as part of my healing – to try and change the system,” she said.

She funds the organization out of her own pocket, and began by buying a large home on Moira Street.

The house holds a maximum of 10 people at a time. McLean said she she knows that’s not enough – which is why is selling the large house and buying two smaller ones. One has already been purchased and is expected to be open this weekend.

The second house McLean has purchased for Jessie’s House. It’s expected to be ready for residents this weekend. Photo by Lindsey Cooke, QNet News

Jessie’s House offers counselling using the concept of “each one teach one.”

“The whole program is learning how to live again, learning how to wash your clothes, make your bed, how to make decisions again, how to handle trauma without picking up or using (drugs),” said McLean. 

Tim has resided at Jessie’s House for about two months. He is currently on statutory release from Collins Bay [3] prison in Kingston.

He said he contributes to society and to Jessie’s House by mentoring the younger people who come into the house.

“I spent a long time (in prison) before I came into this realization that the life I was living wasn’t proper. And maybe I can (help) the younger generation not to go and take the path I took – to make better choices,” he said. 

Tim, who has been in and out of prison for about 27 years, said there is a huge problem with people who get released from jail but don’t have any money or anyplace to go.

When prisoners are released they receive $80 and are expected to find a job and place to live immediately, he said.

“I’ve known people that have gotten out, done something like smashed a window just to go back because they didn’t have enough money to live … They need places like this,” he said.