‘This place saved my life’; Hearten House Rescue Mission helping women overcome addiction

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AUBURN, Ind. (WANE) — Shyanna Vestal, an Auburn woman who battled a heroin addiction for 10 years, experienced a moment of clarity on a February day earlier this year when her daughter picked her up after going through detox.

“I told her I’m going to die if I don’t get help,” said Vestal.

Vestal said she was homeless, never knowing where her next shower or meal was going to come from. She’d typically find a place to sleep either in a car, outside or on someone’s couch.

“I wasn’t welcome at my family’s because I was a thief and they couldn’t trust me to be there,” said Vestal. “So, anywhere I could sleep, anybody who would let me sleep there, that’s where I slept, no matter how bad it was. As long as I had a place to lay my head and I knew that I’d be able to get up and get drugs in the morning, that’s all that really mattered.”

That February day is when Vestal, with a friend’s help, contacted Marisa McKenzie, the Executive Director of the Hearten House Rescue Mission– and the next day, she started staying there.

Fast forward to Wednesday, November 3: Vestal’s now celebrating 9 months of sobriety to the day. She fully credits this accomplishment to the Rescue Mission, which is a women’s shelter that provides a safe environment for women to renew their lives.

“It goes beyond just being a shelter,” said McKenzie. “It goes beyond just providing a bed, it’s changing lives. Our women come to us and they leave a completely different person than when they came. They’re empowered and strong and courageous.”

In addition to giving them a place to stay, Hearten House program sets women up with health insurance, gets them social security cards, birth certificates and ID’s. It also includes life skills classes and bible studies.

Vestal is a prime example of how effective it is. She now has a full time job, works part time at the house, has a 4.0 average in her college classes, got her driver’s license back and has a relationship with her family again.

“This place saved my life. This is my safe place,” said Vestal. “It’s just an appreciation that’s tenfold. It’s awesome.”

The Hearten House Rescue Mission is hoping it can help even more women have the same success as Vestal. On Wednesday afternoon, the shelter opened at its new location that’s double the size of the original.

“This is a need that is here and we’re excited to help fill that need,” said McKenzie. “When you’re in a more rural area, it might not be as noticeable to someone who’s just driving down the street. But, the need is here, there are people that are living outside in people’s backyards, or in tents in fields, couch-surfing.”

The old Hearten House could only hold eight women and had one shower. McKenzie said there were between 15 and 30 women on the waiting list to get in. The new house has 16 beds, 4 showers and a kitchen on each floor. And a former client is Vestal who will help these women conquer the challenges they’re facing.

McKenzie said anyone needing placement should call the house at (260) 333-7223.

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