Hi, My Name Is…
We All Share Common Problems
By Ellen Thompson
Jose Morales, a Mexican immigrant trying to find his place in the bustling borough of Queens, was like any other immigrant he passed on the street in 1980, except for one thing. Morales, without entirely knowing it then, would become a local legend responsible for putting many Latino alcoholics and substance abusers back on the right path.
There was once a time when Morales walked in the same shoes of the new immigrants he saw suffering in an unfamiliar country. Struggling to free himself from the cold grips of alcoholism, Morales broke the life-threatening hold and in the process gathered great knowledge of the disease. Determined to help thousands of others like himself, who face the overwhelming odds of language barriers, lack of employment opportunities and health insurance, as well as the fear of being deported, Morales opened Jovenes (J24) a 24-hour treatment center in Corona.
A WORTHY CAUSE
The vision of providing a large immigrant community with free services and a safe haven where alcoholics and drug addicts can recover from alcoholism and substance abuse 24 hours a day, was the motivating force that pushed Morales and a handful of other recovering alcoholics to rent a Corona basement in 1991 and structure the first incarnation of J24. After years of hard work and dedication, J24 was able to purchase a one family home in the neighborhood literally transforming the safe haven into home for many.
“The lack of information in our immigrant community is alarming,” Morales said. “Few immigrants if any know where to find information and were to go to get help for themselves or their loved ones who suffer from the disease of alcoholism and substance abuse.”
With J24 open to the public, immigrants finally had a place to go that understood their needs specifically and would address them with empathy. Through a 12-step recovery program that J24 has been implementing for the past 14 years, which is similar to the one Morales benefited from when attending Alcoholics Anonymous, recovering alcoholics and substance abusers are successfully fighting their addictions.
Latino men and women with few resources walk through J24’s doors any time, day or night, to receive crisis intervention, counseling, referrals to healthcare providers, food, shelter and clothing. Many who don’t have a place to call home and can’t fight the disease on their own often become family at J24 while living together and attending the 12 step meetings under the same roof until they are ready to be reintegrated into the community, Morales said. And for those who are just accepting the disease the center offers 24-hour telephone hotlines providing information and support when it’s most needed.
“Immigrants are one of the populations most affected by the disease of alcoholism and substance abuse,” Morales said. “Loneliness, nostalgia for their families back home, lack of employment, the language barrier and a hard time adapting to a new environment makes them more prone to turn to drugs and alcohol,” he said. “That is why it is important to be informed and know the symptoms of drug or alcohol dependency and what we can do to get help”.
J24’s services don’t just stop at their front door, but it also has established an integration and affiliation with other organizations that provide group therapy in order to provide a wide variety of referral and treatment alternatives. Morales encourages educational and informational meetings that are open to the public and other outreach agencies.
In an effort to stay up-to-date on issues concerning new immigrants, the popularity of different substances throughout Queens and to continuously improve the quality of their services, J24 conducts periodic evaluations of the program coupled with the testimonies of the clients and their families.
“They tell us that the program works and inspire us to continue the work that we do and to add additional services,” Morales said.
J24 is a domestic not-for-profit organization and maintains its operations through the donations of its members and the community to donate or receive help call (718) 458-0108.
Other Places That Help
Go to www.queensaa.org or check out any of the following meetings:
Broadway-Steinway , Most Precious Blood (School basement); 32-52 36t Street, Astoria open meeting 8:30 p.m.;
Bayside Serenity , Redeemer Lutheran Church, 36-07 Bell Blvd., Bayside, 3rd Sunday of the month at 7:30 p.m.;
Free Flushing , St. Michael’s Church, 41st. Avenue & Union Street, Flushing, open meeting 8 p.m.
Linden-St. Albans , St. Albans Veterans Hospital, 179th Street & Linden Boulevard, 2nd Floor Dining Room, 7:30 p.m.;
Homestead, 42-18 104th St., Corona, open meeting 8 a.m. (also Thursday at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.);
Flushing Bowne , Bowne St. Community Church, 143-11 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, open meeting 7:30 p.m.;
St. Nick’s , St. Nicholas of Tolentine School Hall, 150-75 Goethals Ave., Jamaica, open meeting. 7:15 p.m.;
College Point Malba , St. Fidelis Church, 15th. Avenue & 124th Street, College Point, open meeting, 7:30 p.m.;
St. James Episcopal Church (Gym), 84-07 Broadway, Elmhurst, open meeting at 8:30 p.m.
Kew Forest Splinter , Church Of The Resurrection, 85-01 118th St., Kew Gardens, open meeting, 7:30 p.m. last Thursday of month;
El Buen Camino , Church of the Redeemer Hall Basement, 30-14 Crescent St., Astoria, open meeting, 8 p.m.