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Staying busy in Modesto to keep drugs at bay

Troy Burchfield's day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 9:30 or 10 p.m.

He spends it washing dishes, raking leaves, mopping the dining room floor and performing other tasks at Modesto Gospel Mission.

Burchfield is bone tired at the end of the day. That's a good thing.

He is in the mission's 30-day detox program called Exodus. The majority of the people in it are homeless. The goal is to keep participants' bodies tired and their minds busy as they break their addictions. Nearly 140 men and women have entered the program this year.

"They put you to work," he said earlier this month after nearly three weeks in the program. "You don't have time to think about nothing. When you get off work, you're so tired you take a shower and go to bed. But I'm getting clean and sober time."

The mission wants to triple the men's program, from 10 to 30 beds, to eliminate a waiting list. There is no waiting for the five beds in the women's program.

"People need help," mission administrator Barbara Deatherage said. "For some addicts ... you can lose them if you put them on a waiting list."

The project will cost $500,000, and the mission hopes to start construction in spring.

The mission plans to tear down its community distribution center, where it hands out food and clothes, and replace it with a larger building that would house the distribution center and the 20 beds.

Burchfield's days include an evening chapel service and study hall, where he reads the Bible. He gets one day off a week, but he's not allowed to leave the mission. He also attends a class designed to help him begin looking at the root causes of his drinking, and he meets weekly with his chaplain.

"We're helping Troy look at Troy," chaplain Kevin Thomas said.

This is Burchfield's second attempt at Exodus. But that's not unusual. It takes about one-fifth of the participants more than one try to complete the free, 30-day program.

"It's simple, but it's not easy," Deatherage said.

Burchfield -- who said he's had a problem with beer since he was a teenager -- said he left the program the first time in October after a week and a half.

"I had a little bit of money in my pocket," he said. "I guess the beer was calling me. I'm taking it more serious the second time around."

Burchfield was on a waiting list for eight weeks until he got in the second time. He was living with family in Oakdale while waiting, but spent the last two weeks at the mission's homeless shelter, coming in every night sober to prove he was ready for a second try at Exodus.

Once he's finished, he will enter the mission's 12-month New Life Program, which helps the homeless and others become productive members of society. The waiting list in Exodus is being caused by more men staying in the New Life Program, taking up detox program beds.

Burchfield said he hopes to earn his diploma at the mission's independent study high school and get trained as a forklift operator, one of the several occupations in which the mission offers training.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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