Exodus House finishes first year of operationBruce Clendenen is closing in on his first year as manager of Exodus House and has reason to be optimistic. Exodus House is a 12-bed residential, extended treatment facility for adult males.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
Bruce Clendenen is closing in on his first year as manager of Exodus House and has reason to be optimistic.
The halfway house in the town of Hudson is owned by Lutheran Social Services and operates under a contract with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. The facility has experienced success after opening its doors March 20, 2008.
“I’m feeling pretty good about what’s going on here,” said Clendenen during a conversation in his office at the 3,200-square-foot, split-level residence. The dwelling was built in the 1970s and re-fitted from a duplex for its current mission.
Exodus House is a 12-bed residential, extended treatment facility for adult males. There are five bedrooms in the house divided into triple and double living quarters.
Clendenen said that residents are referred to Exodus House from parole and probation departments. “They are felons with drug or alcohol addictions and come here from incarceration,” he said.
The four-month residential period is followed by a four-month after-care program that involves return visits to Exodus House for continued counseling and reinforcement.
“The more sober time under your belt the better,” Clendenen said.
He said 22 guys have been discharged from the program since it started; 16 completed the program and six were terminated. Those who were terminated include four let go because they broke the rules, one withdrawal and one who committed a new crime while at the facility. The average age of the residents was 30.
“We haven’t had somebody fail the program since August,” Clendenen said.
“We deal with a high risk (situations), but if you’re not using, your tendency to get in trouble is reduced,” Clendenen said, adding that the program deals with addiction to the criminal lifestyle as well as chemicals.
He said that drugs and alcohol are behind 75 to 90 percent of the prison inmate population. Four of the discharged former residents had a felony OWI conviction, which represents five or more drunken driving offenses against an individual.
Of the 16 former Exodus House residents who completed the program, 15 are still living in the community and productive, Clendenen said.
A brochure explaining the program says, “The treatment experience at Exodus House incorporates a variety of methods, including cognitive interventions and 12-step based philosophy. Each resident assists in devising an individualized service plan in order to best meet his particular needs.”
Clendenen said potential residents of Exodus House are referred by the local probation department. He interviews them and looks for a commitment to change.
The program doesn’t accept sex offenders or those who have committed recent violent crimes. “We want to maintain a positive culture,” he said.
Mike O’Keefe, the corrections field supervisor in the Hudson probation office, is behind the program. “It has met all our expectations,” he said.
“Most of the guys are local, and a systematic, slow integration back into the community has a better chance of success,” he said.
O’Keefe said that it took awhile to establish Exodus House as a good neighbor, but he favors a residential setting.
“I like a residential area. They (Exodus House residents) see people in the neighborhood leading normal lives, coming home after work to mow the lawn, taking walks in the evening; they see there are other things to do besides sit at a bar,” He said.
One nagging problem in light of the current economy is the scarcity of jobs for the residents. “It’s tough to find employment for them,” Clendenen said.
There was an urgent need for a halfway house in west central Wisconsin. “The closest one was in Black River Falls,” he said. The doors opened at the Hudson facility before the remodeling was done. “We were working around the finishing carpenters,” he said.
The 60-year-old Clendenen, and Indiana native, has 34 years’ experience, mostly with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, until he retired in September 2007.
He started out as a junior high English teacher in Santa Fe, N.M., where a natural ability for social work among problem students was noticed by the principal. When an uncle told him corrections work in Minnesota paid quite a bit more than teaching, and with a wife and newborn, he headed north.