A few years ago, Heidi Hansen stayed at the Value Motel in Hazel Dell, an infamous motel where drugs were regularly bought and sold. She was homeless, anxious, and in need of shelter.
She remembers the experience as one of total despair and hopelessness.
“That place really needed to come down,” she said.
In 2020, the Value Motel was converted into Kasper Recovery Housing. Years after first staying there, Hansen would land there once again. Only this time, it would the catalyst for her recovery, a place of hope and rebirth instead of addiction and despair.
Hansen has suffered from debilitating depression and anxiety her entire life.
Recently, after a traumatic divorce and custody battle, Hansen, 57, a retired child mental health therapist, freelance artist and mother, went into a tailspin of emotional distress with alcohol as her remedy. She lost everything and started living on the streets.
The experience haunts her to this day.
“The stress of being homeless really exacerbated my mental health problems,” she said. “It brought in a whole new sector of trauma for me. I need therapy now, to help me get over flashbacks and nightmares of homelessness.”
Hansen eventually worked up the courage to seek help. She got connected with the Lifeline Crisis Stabilization Unit in September.
Lifeline referred her to Kasper Recovery Housing, the renovated site of the old Value Motel, and she became one of its first residents in October.
Her life transformed immediately, and she’s been sober since.
Now, she meditates. She paints. She goes on quiet walks through the bamboo gardens near her room. She attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings online twice a day.
A few months ago, Hansen struggled to find the will to live. Now, she wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. to meditate, shower, dress and put on makeup, even if she has nowhere to go.
“I’m so happy,” she said. “And I haven’t been able to say that in years.”
Kasper Recovery Housing
Last year, James Kasper, 53, purchased the Value Motel, a place he used to haunt when he was struggling with addiction more than two decades ago.
Kasper served prison time for multiple DUI’s he accumulated during his addiction. After he got out, he decided to change his life.
He began attending AA meetings. He started a business. He committed his life to both his recovery and the recovery of others. He discovered a passion for service work and a dedication to God.
“God spared me,” he said. “Now I feel like recovery is my mission. Without recovery, I wouldn’t have my companies, my family, home, food, liberty or life. I love recovery. I live recovery. I breathe recovery. And service work is the biggest part of it all.”
His dream was to turn the old motel into a 60-room recovery house, one inspired by the Oxford House sober community on 38th and Washington where he became sober 19 years ago.
Kasper was able to finance the project through his successful construction and sandblasting business.
He and his team worked seven days a week for more than a year renovating the building. Everything had to be updated. Stairs were rotting. Pipes were clogged and rusty. Almost nothing was up to code.
Kasper worked tirelessly. He installed welded metal stairs, new doors, new floors, new beams, new pipes, everything. He prides himself on bringing everything up to code.
In September, Kasper Recovery Housing officially opened for business after receiving permits from the county.
Now, 29 people are staying at the recovery house.
The building isn’t ready for full occupancy yet, but Kasper hopes it will be soon.
“There’s more people waiting than there is availability,” he said. “That tells me that there’s a huge need for clean, sober, safe places for people to live.”
Kasper has a team of some 30 employees who run the recovery house, including his oldest daughter, Shalisse Kasper.
“When we got those permits, everybody just started crying,” Shalisse Kasper said.
Shalisse Kasper has been sober for three years and is proud of her father’s work and dedication. She follows in his footsteps with her passion for recovery and helping others.
“He’s my blessing,” she said.
One renovation Kasper is most proud of is the large, white cross that replaced the rusty Value Motel sign, which was installed in December 2020.
“I’m not trying to promote anything. You can have your own higher power,” Kasper said, “but mine is Christ and God, and that power is what allows me to build places like this.”
Heidi Hansen spends a lot of her time at Kasper Recovery Housing painting. Hansen has been an artist her whole life, and she’s rediscovered her passion in recovery.
“It’s my second career I didn’t plan on having,” she said.
Recently, she painted a triptych, a three-painting series, depicting the process of recovery. She titled it “The Long Road,” and put it facing out her window for other residents to see at Kasper Recovery Housing.
She considers her art as a form of service work, and she hopes it inspires others to seek recovery.
The way of life at Kasper Recovery Housing works for Hansen. No drugs or alcohol are ever allowed on the premises, and drug tests are regularly administered. Everything is regimented, orderly and neat. It takes dedication, but it’s worth it, Hansen said.
She’s impressed by the tireless work of the staff. Thanks to them, she feels safe and comfortable — something she hasn’t felt in a long time.
“I think that is so inspirational that the motel transformation is causing people to transform,” she said. “I’ve transformed because the motel was transformed. I’ve transformed because of what Kasper has done.”
With her regular AA meetings and the community at Kasper Recovery, Hansen feels like she’s on the right path.
“If you have powerful recovery housing like at Kasper, and you’re involved in a powerful program like AA or NA, you are taken care of. And if you have the desire to get clean and sober, you will.”
On her daily walks around the facilities, Hansen sees hope in every corner.
“There is hope growing here. Like the bamboo gardens, there’s hope growing, and there’s people growing, too,” she said. “I think the humanity here is so respected and protected. It’s a very safe and true environment. And that’s because of the staff and the owner. They are very available and very real and very genuine. There’s no game playing. And there’s no corporate edge to things, so policy and procedure is just about recovery. It’s recovery, recovery, recovery.”