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Effort begins to open a homeless shelter for men


Homeless — Operators of McMinnville-based Better Choices Counseling Services hope to begin helping an underserved population in town by mid-2014

As the proprietors of Better Choices Counseling Services, an outpatient substance abuse facility based in McMinnville, Dell and Linda Miller have seen how homeless men tend to fall through the cracks of a system that lacks federal funding, especially in small cities and towns, and prioritizes women and children.

With 57 years working in the field of addiction between the two of them, the Millers have seen how connected the two problems are and have therefore felt well positioned to help fill that gap.

As a result, the married couple has long hoped to establish a facility in Newberg and now hopes to bring the Agape Homeless Shelter for Men to life as early as the middle of 2014.

“I believe we need at least eight beds in this community,” Dell Miller said. “Single men are the No. 1 population that lacks services for homelessness.”Dell Miller

A Level II certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC II), Dell Miller handles the counseling side of Better Choices, while his wife oversees the business side of the operation.

Five years ago, the pair established a nonprofit group, Addictions Recovery Solutions, that would open the door to establishing a shelter, but had been too involved in other projects to begin laying the ground work on the shelter until July.

The vision for Agape not only calls for the provision of meals and housing, but at the same time will act as a hub to connect the homeless with the resources they need to get back on their feet. Better Choices will be made available to clients for drug and alcohol counseling, but the intention is to connect them to a variety of organizations to gain access to numerous services, from job skills training, GED assistance and money management to family support services, community mentors and case management.

Establishing relationships with service providers, like Yamhill County Mental Heath for counseling for example, is one of the main fronts on which the Millers hope to make progress in the next several months.

Another will be securing licensing for the shelter and the Better Choices office in Newberg, which was originally licensed as a satellite branch 12 years ago, but has been limited in the scope of services it can offer since state law was changed, requiring each office to be individually licensed.

Acquiring funding will also be a challenge, but unlike the majority of small-town shelters, according to Miller, Agape will not be operated by a church or religious organization and therefore will be eligible for federal funds, most of which will cover start-up fees and possibly aid in the purchase of a building to house the shelter.

Although a Christian himself, Dell Miller employs a scientific and humanistic approach to substance abuse treatment. In fact, Addictions Recovery Solutions was originally formed to help the Millers distribute their book, “12 Steps Unlocked,” which explores the scientific foundations of 12-step programs, for free to homeless shelters across the country.

Building a base of volunteers to help run Agape is another priority that must be addressed before Agape can come online, but Dell Miller says he is confident the project will come to fruition.

In addition to calling upon their own experience in working with the homeless population pro bono and previously under the Oregon Health Plan, which no longer covers the homeless, the Millers are being advised by former Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission manager Cheryl Blevins, who is researching various state and federal grant programs for them while she finishes her work on a degree.

“I know we’re going to have success moving ahead with this because we’ve had an established business for 18 or 19 years in the state,” Miller said. “So we know what we have to do in order to accomplish that task.”

To donate to the project, sign up as a volunteer or find more information on the shelter, visit www.agapeshelter.org or email Dell Miller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Shelter champion authors book to help homeless programs

Local substance abuse treatment counselor Dell Miller and his wife Linda published “12 Steps Unlocked,” a scientific exploration of the efficacy of the ubiquitous approach to recovery, in 2011 and have been pleased to see it used in treatment by several rehabilitation programs around the country.

However, the Millers believe the book’s greatest impact is yet to come, as they intend to distribute an audio version for free to homeless shelters across the country.

By providing the book, along with downloadable worksheets that individuals fill out themselves, the idea is to give shelter clients their own personal process to accompany the meeting and sponsor portions of 12-step programs.

“Our interest is that all homeless shelters lack federal funds,” Dell Miller said. “They get some from cities in places like Portland and Eugene, but in smaller cities, they don’t have those resources and it’s generally funded through churches and other sources. They often have no background in dealing with addiction, which is 90 percent of the people that are homeless.”

Together Dell, who is a Level II certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC II), and Linda operate Better Choices Counseling Services in McMinnville and their years of experience informed their reasoning as to why 12-step programs have been so successful.

The key is in building unconditional relationships – where acceptance is a given — in the form of self-help groups (meetings) and mentorships (sponsors).

“The building blocks of recovery identify addictions as a social disease of the human spirit, because it relies on this substance – alcohol, drugs, whatever it might be – to change how they feel, rather than relationships with other people,” Dell Miller said. “The whole focus is to build relationships with other people to change how they feel, building a connection.”

The Millers assert that one way in which unconditional relationships help is by establishing empathy, therefore enabling people with a common purpose to find a solution, which in turn makes the approach adaptable to any lifestyle, group or obstacle.

For example, he points out that in 12-step program, the idea of establishing a relationship, therefore de-emphasizing the individual, is at the heart of the first step, which has participants say, “We have admitted we have a problem. We have admitted that we’re powerless over (…)”

A Christian himself, Dell Miller doesn’t assert that religion or God don’t play a role in the 12-step process, but rather is identifying how the process works psychologically, which can then be left open for religious interpretation. In fact, he said some of the best feedback on the book was from pastors.

“It gives people an understanding that, really, 12-step recovery isn’t necessarily about God as being the primary solution,” he said. “It’s working through people that, if you believe in God, is how God is working.”

The book is available as a soft-cover and for Kindle e-readers on Amazon, but by converting it to a digital format, the Millers will be able to cut out the middle man and distribute it themselves for free via e-mail or download.

For more information, email the authors at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..