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Benton woman opens her own home to recovering drug addicts

When Bonnie Johnson lost her brother to drug addiction, she gained a passion to help others.

BENTON, Ark. — A Saline County woman won't let the opioid crisis take over her community, so she's doing what she can to combat the nationwide issue right in her own home.

“One of my biggest dreams is to say they made it,” said Bonnie Johnson, founder of Sheltering Arms.

Johnson has high hopes for the seven women she now houses because each of them have one thing in common.

"It's not like 'hi, I'm Melissa, and I’m an addict,'” said Melissa Richardson. “We aren't addicts anymore. We are learning how to live life through God."

Johnson and her roommates are putting their drug addictions behind and starting new.

Addiction hits close to home for Johnson because drug addiction killed her brother.

With his death, came passion to help others.

That's why she just opened Sheltering Arms, a non-profit; the home the women now share.

"I was told one time, you can't feel another person’s pain,” said Johnson. “I don't believe that. I feel their sorrow. I feel like I know what they need to change their life."

Johnson said the women need Jesus and opportunity.

With the house, comes both.

The women are learning how to take care of themselves again; visiting with counselors, learning to cook, getting jobs, and building a bond with God.

"It's just retraining the way we think,” said Richardson, “If we sit around, we will start thinking about our past."

The journey doesn’t stop with the latest project. Johnson is working on opening a transitional style home for a place the women can go to enjoy time with their children.

"Our main focus is to get them back with their children, so we don't have another generation of this," said Johnson. “I know everyone can’t be saved, I know that. But it’s kind of like Jesus said, if it's just the one, I feel I’ve done what I’ve needed to do."

Johnson also has managed Helping Hands thrift store in Benton since 2005, which is where she met many of the women.

It’s where she provides jobs for people who are overcoming addiction.

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