Magazine article Addiction Professional

A Community Leader's Straight Talk

Magazine article Addiction Professional

A Community Leader's Straight Talk

Article excerpt

Kismet Evans doesn't sugarcoat when she talks to homeless veterans, aimless young people and others whose well-being she considers part of her calling as a person in recovery. Everything she experienced in the worst of times is on the table as part of the message she delivers to others, and she considers this openness critical to the success she has been able to achieve.

"Who better to teach them?" says Evans, 47, who has become an influential presence in the human services community in Riverside County, California. "I was probably 110 pounds soaking wet back then, and I was out there doing the same things these people are doing."

"Back then" for Evans was during her late 20s when she made the fateful transition from a placid, church-going, substance-free life to a short period of experimentation with cocaine. "Six months later I was off and running," she recalls of her addiction. She would be immersed in a life of despair for seven years, a period marked by three incarcerations. Amid the haze of a life on the streets, she recalls an occasion when a scrawny old woman approached her and told her she didn't have to be in her situation if she didn't want to be.

In what would be Evans' last encounter with the justice system, she was able to reduce her jail time by agreeing to enter and complete a 12-month outpatient treatment program at the Recovery Opportunity Center in Riverside. The judge, who had called her "one sick sister" and got no argument from Evans, helped place her on the path to redemption, she says.

"I had lost my job, my home, my dignity, my family support," Evans says. "But when I was in my treatment on die downstairs floor of the program, my two oldest kids were upstairs." She says of the work she did in treatment, "It wasn't simple but it wasn't hard."

Since completing treatment, Evans has worked for or established several agencies devoted to helping society's most desperate. She is co-founder of Inland Empire Veterans Stand Down, a program connecting homeless veterans and their families to community supports.

"My father was in the Marines; I can identify with many of the issues of veterans," she says. "My main efforts today are with youths and with homeless veterans."

Work on multiple fronts

The approach of Evans' program for homeless veterans is to provide the information needed to start individuals on a productive path. …

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