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Woman's past is key for peer counselor helping others

Tess Reasor expresses gratitude by giving to others.


By Kaye Hult

Despite numerous encounters with the law from her teens until she was 38, Tess Reasor, now 44, has become a symbol of resilience and transformation in her community.

Locked in a cycle of trouble, Tess had a moment of reckoning as she felt the handcuffs tighten around her wrists for the last time.

"Enough is enough! I've been through this so many times. It's time to do something different," she declared to herself, a switch flipping within her.

Imprisoned for a felony charge in 2017, that has since been dismissed, Tess had six months to reflect in the South Boise Women's Correction Facility.

She delved into memories of her grandmother, a beacon of unconditional love and acceptance. Inspired by her grandmother's legacy, Tess made a vow: to return to her community as a force for good.

"I made it my mission to return to my community to help people and be of service," she said.

With her last arrest in 2017, Tess embraced sobriety from all substances.

Driven by her personal journey, she resolved to assist others struggling with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.

After her release in 2018, she pursued a license in real estate and certifications in peer support and recovery coaching. She is currently working to earn a community health worker certification to lay the groundwork for her future endeavors.

In 2019, she received an award of Who's Who in Recovery from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

In 2022, Tess began a nonprofit, 208 Recovery North. The 208 Recovery website explains that this is a community of people in North Idaho who have lived experience with substance use and/or co-occurring disorders.

They are invested in and committed to the well-being of their communities. They genuinely care about helping others overcome the challenges and barriers associated with substance use and co-occurring disorders.

208 Recovery serves North Idaho's Region 1, consisting of the five counties of Kootenai, Shoshone, Bonner, Benewah and Boundary.

Like Tess, the other recovery advocates are state certified peer recovery support specialists. They provide person-centered care and focus on empowering individuals to work toward their own recovery goals by leveraging their strengths and motivations.

Aligned with 208 Recovery North's mission to provide resources, recovery plans and a supportive community for individuals navigating their journey to wellness, Tess and her team of recovery advocates offer person-centered care empowering individuals to reclaim control of their lives.

"We exist to create a culture of wellness and positivity that supports long-term recovery," she said, articulating the organization's vision.

Through education, collaboration and the wisdom of lived experiences, 208 Recovery North strives to dissolve stigma and foster hope, acceptance and connection within the community.

In 2022, the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction presented Tess an award as an emerging leader in recovery.

"People who contact 208 Recovery often need housing," said Tess. "Some of the houses available now have two- to eight-month waiting periods."

So in 2023, she joined the nonprofit HomeShare Kootenai County as the executive director.

"Housing and helping individuals with substance use can at times go hand-in-hand," she said.

Recently, the Bureau of Justice Administration chose 208 Recovery to be mentored by one of the biggest recovery organizations in the area. The idea is to duplicate and tailor the program to fit the needs of the community in North Idaho.

"Few of the people who have applied to HomeShare have challenges with substance use disorder. This gives our program the opportunity to provide the local resources and housing options they need," Tess said.

HomeShare Kootenai County is focused on not only local workers and employed individuals who need housing but also on people who have been priced out of the local rental market.

HomeShare was launched out of the Housing Solutions Partnership in May 2022. HomeShare KC aims to increase the number of available and affordable housing options in Kootenai County by connecting home providers with home seekers.

"Homesharing is a mutually beneficial arrangement," Tess said. "It provides extra income for one party and affordable housing for another.

"With HomeShare, the clients usually are single individuals who are employed," she continued. "Few are homeless, but those who are homeless, I can refer to St Vincent de Paul's for shelter options and Access Point for transitional housing. We are trying to house as many people as we can.

"At 16, I became pregnant and married," she shared. "I moved out of my parents' house into an apartment with my then-husband. The marriage didn't last. It became abusive.

"My Grandma stepped in, saying, 'Stay with me.' She was my saving grace," said Tess.

Her grandmother babysat while she worked. Her family was not religious, but her grandmother attended a Baptist church, where some of her best friends also went. Faith became more important to her as she aged.

"Grandma helped me raise my son. It was a joy to see that relationship grow," she said. "She was my role model."

"I was on a whirlwind while finding my direction," she said, noting that some good jobs and solid support from family and friends helped "tremendously."

Because a lack of housing and substance use often go hand-in-hand, Tess has learned to look at more options than homesharing, such as permanent supportive housing through communal living.

In the last three months, she facilitated starting two sober communal living facilities, one for women and one for women with children.

"My mission is to assist in opening communal living houses, until we have enough to meet the need," Tess said.

"I'm seeking harm reduction for high-risk substance users minimizing use or using a substance that's less harmful, like heroin or fentanyl users changing to medically-assisted treatment. Not everyone agrees with this, but I have seen it make a difference.

"If the change is monitored, it can allow people to hold a job and live a normal life, including building back their family relationships. Before judging someone for using Narcan, we need to realize how it has belped thousands of people," she suggested.

Tess gave a talk to a group of juvenile detention officers a year ago. This included people from juvenile probation, the Kootenai County Substance Use Task Force and several Panhandle Health representatives.

One probation officer thanked her after the talk and invited her to talk to some of the young women in the juvenile detention center.

She asked if Tess recognized her and informed her that she formerly was Tess' probation officer. She said, "I'm proud of you!"

"I try to help people identify what they enjoy and what they would like help with," Tess said.

"My life is balanced today," said Tess who has been married 22 years. "I'm so grateful. I have everything I need and want.

"I'm going to keep on keeping on, seeking to bring community members together to accomplish their goals," she said. "My message is: Don't ever underestimate others. Give people opportunities to grow and be compassionate."

For information on HomeShare, call 208-215-2269 or email

For information on 208 Recovery, call 208-755-1445 or email

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May 2024