TROSA is one of few free programs in U.S.

11:26 PM, Nov 13, 2013   |    comments
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DURHAM, NC (WUSA9) -- Only on 9, we take a look at a unique program that's successfully helping addicts kick their dependence on drugs and alcohol.

It's called TROSA-short for Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers. It is unlike any place you've ever seen. Reporter Andrea McCarren and photojournalist Joe Martin take us inside the program in Durham, North Carolina.

"I know I wouldn't be alive today if I hadn't made the decision to come here," said Pablita Davis. She sold her body and her soul to feed an addiction to crack and alcohol.

"Lied, cheated, manipulated. 22 Whatever I could do to continue to get high. That's what I did," she told us.

Today, one year after moving into TROSA, she's overcome with a feeling she never expected: Pablita is proud of herself.

"Very proud. Like I'm over the top proud. Over the top," she said, beaming. "It's like I have a red carpet I wake up to in the morning and I kick it out and it just rolls out the rest of the day. And it's amazing."

TROSA provides its residents with everything-housing in dorms they built themselves. Meals--cooked by residents.  Medical care. And even a modest wardrobe--some addicts show up here with just the clothing on their backs.

"We're looking at substance abuse as a brain disease. Not a weakness of character," said Kevin McDonald. He's a former junkie himself and the man behind so many remarkable transformations.

He's the big man on the TROSA campus-doling out hugs and confidence.

"People are so self-destructive that they fall down.  Here, they can fall down and get up," he said.

It is clear that every resident matters. Not only is this program comprehensive, it's free. One of the only free, two-year residential programs in the country. 

A key element of the program is empowerment, achieved by putting residents to work in one of TROSA's successful revenue-generating businesses.

"TROSA saved my life," Carlos Claudeo told us, matter-of-factly. Crack cocaine helped him lose every job and every relationship he ever had.

"You're just dirt. Dirt. You're just dirt," he said, reflecting on his self-esteem as his addiction took over his life.

Now, he works full-time in TROSA's automotive center and has been drug and alcohol-free for eight months.

"I feel wonderful. I feel great. I feel like...  a new Carlos!"

Added Pablita Davis, "TROSA teaches us a work ethic. I get up every day and I'm successful. I do what I'm supposed to do, I'm where I'm supposed to be."

Together, the residents and staff members have built a community of hope. Addicts learn they don't have to be high to have fun. And just days after new residents get settled in, they're encouraging their peers to stick with the difficult process of overcoming addiction.

At 21 months into the program, residents get jobs in the community but still enjoy the round the clock support of TROSA, which even provides transportation for them. Even after they graduate, TROSA provides free meals and transitional housing. In fact, more than half of the program's current staff members are former residents. 


"The people that make TROSA are the individuals that come here. They're the heroes," said McDonald. "What a change, huh? Where they might have been society's garbage at one time, lepers, whatever. All of a sudden, they're the heroes."

We pointed out that same might say he is the hero.

"Not true. I'm just a guy who was lucky enough to get an opportunity in my life to help other people."

For more information on TROSA, go to

Written by Andrea McCarren, WUSA9

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