Lufkin Dream Center provides hope as it opens its doors to the first residents

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - It's a half-million dollar project that's been in the works for nearly a year. On Tuesday, the Lufkin Dream Center opened its doors to the first residents, those whose lives have been broken due to addiction, substance abuse, and homelessness. However, center directors say this milestone is just the beginning.

Steven Gardner sits in the bedroom of his new home at the Lufkin Dream Center, reading the Bible.

"I started reading, and it started making sense to me," said Gardner.

It's the one thing he says saved his life.

"It's one of my main tools of sobriety," said Gardner.

36-year-old Gardner says he's lost two parents from drug overdoses. His mom, he says, is the reason he's a user.

"I was born addicted to cocaine, and all my life, it's been nothing but drugs and crime. I spent 11 years in prison, and I never really knew another way," said Gardner.

Gardner is one of the first ten individuals moving into the newly remodeled center on Tuesday. For owner Billie Jean Johnson, it's a proud moment she's looked to for nearly a year. The center can house up to 65 people for a year's worth of treatment.

"Part of the program here is to help get them to a place where they can live successfully outside of the center," said Founder, Billie Jean Johnson. "So, we will actually help them find a place to live, have a job before they leave here, so they can live successfully."

Although the center has opened its doors, Johnson says there's still more work to be done, including raising thousands of dollars and finding more volunteers.

"We need people that can teach classes, to help mentor the men and women. We need to build facilities for children and youth and for families," said Johnson.

Gardner says those who come from backgrounds like his usually face three realities: institutions, jail, or death. He says he's endured two of those.

"And, the only thing I got left is death," said Gardner.

But, he now hopes to turn his life around. Gardner hopes to attend college once he completes the program to earn a degree in substance abuse and criminal justice so he can counsel others.

If you would like to donate to the Lufkin Dream Center or volunteer, you can visit their website at, or call the center at 936-875-4176.

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