The Freemen House was founded and operated by Shawn in 2005. After he had beat his own personal addictions through community, faith, and the 12-steps, he wanted to make the same pathway available for others to follow behind him.
In early recovery, Shawn had an experience reaching out to God and having his cravings removed. In reflecting on the experience, the thought came to mind, “If God can make a bad situation better, what happens when you reach out to Him in a good situation? He makes it great. What happens when you reach out to Him in a great situation? He makes it amazing.” This led to beginning to ask for more than just personal needs, but for expansion of influence which others could benefit from. One dream was to have a place to help others in recovery. All the details were laid out in his mind, and he asked God about it.
A property in Dover that matched the vision to a tee became available through a friend. It was owned by a family with the last name of Freedmen. Letters spelling out the family name were nailed across the face of the garage, but the “D” had fallen off. The house became known at “The Freemen House”. Before long, the first residents were welcomed in. Soon more came along through local contacts in the recovery community. The three bedrooms in the house were filled and two additional rooms were converted into sleeping areas. And then two couches were soon frequently occupied. Cookouts and other social gatherings were a regular occurrence – most notably a group that came back to the house every week after a local meeting. The 12-steps were seen as a launching pad, a cultivated miracle, leading to a spiritual awakening. There was an organic desire stirred up to grow in God and welcome others into that same journey.
The house became too much to manage, balancing the demands of work and the inconsistency in pay from those who were staying. As Shawn was ready to throw in the towel and walk away, his brother joined and they continued on for another year. At this point the property was sold and the group was forced to find another location.
In speaking before a local church about the great number of people being assisted and the dilemma of needing to move, an individual came forward and decided to purchase a house in which the work could be continued. The group moved to Somersworth to a large victorian home. The group gatherings continued, now with a larger venue. Many found a home, found God, and found themselves. Over the next four years, many more passed through the house and experienced the culture of love and seeking God.
In 2010, Shawn and Leah were married and the operations of the house were handed over to the church. Shawn and Leah focused on their marriage, and Shawn transitioned to other forms of work. In his off time, he could be found at meetings or grabbing coffee with a guy or two. What was found previously in the house was now regularly experienced on the streets and throughout the community.
The house remained in operation over the next eight years, at which point Shawn heard God say, “Go back to what I started in you.” Leah heard something similar, and voiced it: “If you build it, they will come.” This was what God had spoken to Shawn before the first house had been obtained in Dover. This was confirmation! Shawn returned in 2017 as the director to expand the reach of the house. One thing was sure: God helps regain lost time. Everything was quickly picked up where it was left off. A new team was gathered, organizational structure was developed, and a fresh wave of residents were welcomed in again. Beds were filled and family dinners were regularly scheduled. It was not uncommon for over 30 people from the house, and supportive community members to come together weekly.
Midway through 2018, a transition was made to Dover. A large single-family home served as the homefront. Gatherings took on a focus of residents, their families, and other recovery community contacts. As the need for housing of a similar manner for women became apparent and a handful of women rose up to lead, a pilot was run for a few months. With great feedback from the women and a continued need seen in the community, a house was obtained for the women and the word spread. It was multiplication. The Freemen House opened its doors at two locations in Dover – one for women and one for men.
Today, The Freemen House has grown into more than just the expression of the lives of Shawn and Leah; it has become a community, a family. The houses continue to be a resource to the recovery community in Dover and the surrounding towns, and partnerships have been formed with many area rehabs. All who pass through or come in contact with the community experience a taste of love, a flavor of recovery, and a declaration of wholeness that remains with them. There is much anticipated on the horizon as the community continues to grow and mature together.