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A Step Up : Drugs: A Long Beach home run by the county helps female addicts who are pregnant or raising children put their shattered lives back together.

January 07, 1991|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

But the most important thing that Baby Step Inn does, Yonekura said, is provide a stable drug-free environment in which the women can feel at home, have their babies and begin to deal with their problems.

"A lot of these women have never had any tender loving care," the doctor said. "They've learned helplessness (because) they've never been able to control their environments to nurture them in any way; they have lived in chaos with no emotional support. We provide a nice, warm, homelike environment."

Many seem to have responded positively to life in the neatly decorated 1920s-style house, with its pink lampshades, flowered wallpaper and cleanly tiled bathrooms.

"It's beautiful here," Hall said. "It's done a lot for me. I feel more self-esteem. I've learned to open up and express myself in front of people."

In time, she said, she hopes to become healthy and stable enough to stay off drugs indefinitely and persuade authorities that she is worthy of regaining custody of her child, which was taken from her.

"People here really care for you," Hall said. "It's a great program."

Lane said in a recent interview that she felt much better about herself than she did the morning she woke up in the park.

And Perry says that while her cut hand has healed, the psychic scars that led to the injury are still on the mend. "I had a lot of rage inside of me," she said, referring to her recent past. "I no longer cared for nothing or nobody."

As a gauge of her personal progress, Perry recalls a recent walk in the neighborhood with some other residents, when she saw a drug transaction taking place on the sidewalk.

"I used to get butterflies in my stomach when I saw that," she said, recalling the days when she craved cocaine. "This time it didn't bother me and that felt real good."

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