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Healing House founder had journey of healing herself before helping others

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When she tasted her first drink at 12, Bobbi Jo Reed had no idea that her journey of the next few decades would take her full circle.

She grew up in a seemingly normal family. Her dad was a police officer and her mom stayed home. A "Leave it to Beaver" like family from the outside.

"It was very chaotic," Bobbi Jo remembers. A lot of screaming, a lot of cussing, a lot of beatings when were kids," she said.

By age 12, struggling with weight and speech issues, and parents who she didn't think loved her, she fell in with a drinking and drug crowd and never looked back. It would launch her journey into the streets of Kansas City, where eventually, in her twenties, she would find herself homeless.

"I was left to the mercy of the street. Which I must say there is no mercy in the street," Reed told FOX 4's John Holt.

She now counts 24 broken bones, 16 rapes she can remember, and two abortions. Bobbi Jo eventually had to prostitute herself to survive and feed her addiction to alcohol.

It was an addiction that nearly got her killed when she was invited by four men to drink with them and help them cook for a "party." Instead they cut her feet so she couldn't run, then raped her and tried to kill her. Bobbi Jo says when they realized she was still alive they marched her to an east side Kansas City town home where she was held as essentially a sex slave for two days.

When she overheard the men discussing where to dump her body, she jumped from the second floor room she was being held in and managed to escape.

"It was an act of desperation," she recalled.

But she would not escape the pain of the street and addictions until she was in her 30's. Both of Bobbi Jo's parents had died, and she found herself in a detox program that finally took hold. And something else took hold too: her faith.

"Fear God covered every inch of my life," she now says.

"When I woke up January 1, 1999, the Holy Spirit had taken up residence in a wretch like me. And for the first time in my life I felt safe."

She tried life in the suburbs, but her faith called her back to the very neighborhoods in the Old Northeast where she had partied and masked her pain with alcohol. Now she would rehab, by herself, the first of what is now 13 Healing House units, to help recovering addicts transition to fresh starts, as she had.

She reached out to a fellow rehab classmate Darryl Eatman to run the house dedicated to men just entering her now bustling program. He'd been in prison and made the transition to clean and sober and now wanted to give back too: "A lot of guys come from prison with nothing, then I see them get their life back all over again and watch them smile and change and it's just a wonderful thing to see."

Those who are accepted into the Healing House program must adhere to strict rules, participate in meetings and community events, help with chores, and prove that they can stay clean. Gradually they earn more privileges and are eventually able to transition back to society.

With 13 facilities now, including one for families, and children, Bobbi Jo isn't done. Healing House is now working to raise money to rehab an old bowling alley into a meeting facility and offices. A challenge to be sure, but nothing like lifting oneself off the streets and into the role of lifesaver. Bobbi Jo had to heal herself, before she could heal others.

"God has brought me a long way."

There is a Silent Auction to benefit Healing House on Saturday, August 26 at Overland Park's Ritz Charles from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Click this link for more information, along with more details about programs.