Former Raiders star breaks ground on new foster home honoring daughter

Fred Biletnikoff, fourth from right, helps break ground on a remodel of Tracey’s Place of Hope foster home in Loomis.
Fred Biletnikoff, fourth from right, helps break ground on a remodel of Tracey’s Place of Hope foster home in Loomis. begel@sacbee.com

Oakland Raiders legend Fred Biletnikoff said he has seen too many young women fall victim to drug addiction and domestic violence.

When his shovel hit the dirt Thursday outside Tracey’s Place of Hope, Biletnikoff helped the Sacramento area take another step toward preventing tragedies like the one that tore a hole through his heart 16 years ago.

Biletnikoff’s daughter Tracey was recovering from addiction and working as a drug counselor when she was murdered by her then-boyfriend at a San Mateo rehabilitation center in 1999. Her name will now be associated with the soon-to-be-remodeled Koinonia Home For Teens in Loomis, a center designed to house teenage girls recovering from drug abuse.

Koinonia operates five other recovery houses in Sacramento and El Dorado counties. The organization focuses on therapeutic and mental treatment as well as addiction recovery, an approach Koinonia director Bill Ryland said Tracey did not encounter during her time in rehab.

“She went through recovery with a bunch of 40- and 50-year-old women, (and) came out of recovery saying, ‘We need to do something age-appropriate. We need to do something for adolescents, it’s a different population than adult recovery,’ ” Ryland said.

Biletnikoff and his wife, Angela, used the former wide receiver’s name and back story to raise the $400,000 needed to refurbish the home. Biletnikoff played for the Raiders from 1965 to 1978 and coached the team’s wide receivers for 18 years after retiring. He was inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame in 1988.

The house will receive numerous upgrades, including a new roof, granite kitchen countertops and refurbished cabinets. Many supplies will come at a discount from local construction companies.

Young women like Melissa, 18, will move into other housing during the two to three months of construction at Koinonia Home For Teens. She has gotten clean since moving into Koinonia and plans to work for the California Conservation Corps while weighing her career options. The young women interviewed Thursday requested anonymity because they are in the foster care system and recovering from addiction.

“I came in here, honestly, an empty shell. I didn’t have hope. I didn’t even think I was going to make it to be 18,” said Melissa, who said she began drinking at 8 years old and using cocaine at 10. “All my life, I was mostly told, ‘You’re worth nothing, you’re not going to make it, you’re going to die, you’re going to get pregnant by the time you’re 15 or 16.’ All these put-downs, constantly.

“But here they teach you how to have self-respect, how to have morals and boundaries.”

Liliana, also 18, said she was regularly using methamphetamine, hung out with gang members and had recently violated the terms of her probation when she moved into Koinonia on Aug. 19, 2014.

After a year being drug-free, she plans to move into transitional housing in September while continuing her current job with Pride Industries.