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Colorado Springs group home works to help women recover from shooting tragedy

November 2, 2015 Updated: November 3, 2015 at 11:57 am
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photo - Memorial candles burn on the front porch of a home at 543 East Platte Ave. Monday, November 2, 2015, as a memorial to victims of Saturday's shootings in downtown Colorado Springs. Christy Galella was shot at the front door of the home Saturday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Memorial candles burn on the front porch of a home at 543 East Platte Ave. Monday, November 2, 2015, as a memorial to victims of Saturday's shootings in downtown Colorado Springs. Christy Galella was shot at the front door of the home Saturday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

For years, the Platte House offered stability for alcoholics and drug addicts on a fragile path to sobriety.

Then, for two and a half days it sat empty - punctured by bullets from a gunman's deadly rampage that left two of its residents dead.

On Monday night, the nonprofit Alano House, which ran the sober living home, allowed residents to move back in following Saturday's deadly shootings. And it worked to help the residents who survived Saturday's shootings stay strong and sober through their grief.

Three other women were at the house when Christy Galella and Jennifer Vasquez were gunned down by Noah Harpham, a man also suspected of killing bicyclist Andrew Myers before dying in a shootout with police in a nearby Wendy's parking lot. Roughly 10 other women were living there at the time, but they were away at jobs, at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or seeing their children to celebrate Halloween, said Kari Castain, the Alano House's clinical director.

It is the only one of Alano House's three sober living homes dedicated to women.

And it was foundational to helping them kick their addictions.

Rachel King, 27, said the palpable sense of family inside the walls at Platte House helped her immensely during a recent six-month stay. Everyone formed intense bonds walking back and forth every day to support group meetings a block or two away.

They each understood the plight of addiction, even when their relatives could not.

And not being able to live together - even for a few days - represented another "tragedy" for the nonprofit, she said.

"Living together is really what creates the family atmosphere," King said.

Two of the survivors were managers - women charged with overseeing the house while recovering from their own addictions, Castain said. The model of addicts helping addicts is key to the nonprofit's approach to staying sober.

Residents of its sober living homes must attend 90 12-step program meetings during their first 90 days in a house. They must find sponsors for accountability and support, and everyone must stay sober. A zero-tolerance policy that includes drug testing is enforced.

Residents often seek substance abuse treatment via Alano House's clinical programs, or from outside providers.

None of the other women at the house Saturday morning were physically injured - but the emotional toll cut deep, Castain said.

With any hope, moving back in Monday night would help them recover from something new: The loss of two friends.

"Trying to get back to a sense of normalcy - that'll do wonders for the healing process," Castain said.

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