Carefree residents concerned about addiction recovery home

Residents in a White River Township neighborhood are concerned with the swiftness of the opening of an addiction recovery home in the area.

A male-only Oxford House recovery home opened along the 1400 block of Nevermind Way in the Carefree subdivision at the beginning of September. This is the third Oxford home to open in the Greenwood area. Another is located on Tarry Lane, in another area of the Carefree subdivision, and on Averitt Road.

There is a three-fold philosophy behind the program: self-help is the bedrock of recovery, disciplined democracy is key to living together and self-support builds efficacy in sobriety comfortable enough to avoid relapse, according to the Oxford House Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

The Daily Journal reached out to the home, but did not get a reply.

Neighbors express concerns

Neighbors in the subdivision have expressed concern about the location of the home.

Todd Poynter is not against the idea of having a home to help recovering addicts, but he is disappointed in the lack of community involvement when it came to the location of the home.

“As someone who has been involved with this and understands their struggles, I’m concerned about the neighborhood,” Poynter said.

Poynter is a pastor who used to work with those suffering and recovering from addiction. He said he has reached out to the home several times with questions but has not received any responses.

Another concern of Poynter’s is the structure of the home. He alleges that there is no representative of the organization that lives with participants at the home, based on information on the organization’s website.

Oxford Houses are democratic, self-run addiction recovery homes that elect officers to serve six-month terms. The homes are self-run because it allows participants to learn responsibility, according to the FAQ. Additionally, lower costs associated with self-run housing permit extensive replication of the houses, the FAQ says.

“Because the houses are self-run and self-supported, it is easier to expand capacity to meet demand rather than requiring individuals to leave in order to make room for newcomers,” the FAQ says.

Poynter is also concerned about the residents of the home. Having 11 people inside a home that’s listed as having five bedrooms is troublesome to him.

Oxford Houses are designed to be ordinary single-family homes with two bathrooms and four or more bedrooms. Preferably, the bedrooms should be large enough for two twin-sized beds so that newcomers are able to have a roommate, the FAQ says.

A roommate discourages isolation and helps the newcomers with learning or relearning socialization to get the full benefit of recovering individuals helping each other become comfortable enough in sobriety to avoid relapse, the FAQ says.

According to the organization, experiences have shown that an Oxford Home with 8 to 15 members tends to work very well. The organization will not charter a house with fewer than six individuals because experience has shown that it takes at least six people to form an effective group, the FAQ says.

The homes are self-run because it allows participants to learn responsibility. Additionally, lower costs associated with self-run housing permit extensive replication of the houses. When the demand for the home exceeds the supply of beds, it is traditional for several existing residents to find another house to rent and expand capacity, the FAQ says.

“Because the houses are self-run and self-supported, it is easier to expand capacity to meet demand rather than requiring individuals to leave in order to make room for newcomers,” the FAQ says.

Houses have high success rate

Oxford Houses have a very high success rate in keeping participants clean, sober and functioning well, according to the organization. More than 125 peer-reviewed academic journals and books have been published about the organization’s success.

A 2010 article that reviewed the characteristics of the home and participants along with two federal studies that focused on Oxford Houses found that Oxford House participants were less likely to report substance abuse 24 months after entering the program compared to usual care programs, according to the Recovery Research Institute, a nonprofit research institute of Massachusetts General Hospital dedicated to the advancement of addiction treatment and recovery.

The review also found that Oxford House residents achieved more gainful employment and were more likely to regain custody of their children. Participants also had fewer days engaged in illegal activities, according to the institute.

Another study found that 81.5% of participants who left the Oxford Homes reported no substance use during the following year, institute officials say.

If the community was notified ahead of time about the recovery home moving in, maybe the community would feel different about the home, Poynter said. While this is not required, if there was an explanation of what was happening, along with assurances being made, the community would be more supportive, he said.

“It’s a matter of transparency and background research and having an idea of what’s going on,” Poynter said.

What zoning officials say

Several residents have reached out to elected county officials and the county’s planning and zoning department about whether the homethe other Oxford House operating on the 4000 block of Tarry Lane.

The county’s zoning ordinance defines single-family dwellings and families. However, the ordinance was written in 2002, so some areas of the ordinance do not reflect current regulations, planning and zoning director Michele Hansard said in a Sept. 12 email.

The planning and zoning department was asked to make a determination on the issue and staff researched federal and state laws before making a determination. Hansard also reached out to Oxford House, but not did get a response back, she said.

Planning and zoning officials say it appears to them the Indiana code prevents enforcement of the county’s zoning ordinance relating to Oxford Houses because it is a recovery home. Hansard is still looking into the matter to make sure other regulations are not overlooked, she said.

Under Indiana law, a zoning ordinance cannot “exclude a residential facility for individuals with a mental illness from a residential area solely because the residential facility is a business or because the individuals residing in the residential facility are not related.” Both the state and federal Fair Housing Acts say that addiction is defined as a mental illness, Hansard said.

The facility can, however, be required to meet all other zoning requirements, ordinances and laws, she said.

Oxford House officials also say that the Fair Housing Act applies as alcoholism drug addiction and mental illness are considered “handicapping conditions.” The act prohibits discrimination against handicapped individuals.

Former owners regret selling

The former homeowners say they wouldn’t have sold their home if they had known it would be used this way.

Brenda and Daniel Thompson had lived in the neighborhood for decades and put the house on the market earlier this year for $400,000. When the house was sold around Aug. 15, the buyer met the couple’s asking price. About a week later, the couple found out that it would be an Oxford House that would house up to 11 people.

“We wouldn’t have sold it if we knew that,” Daniel Thompson said.

The Thompsons said they are concerned about the effects the recovery home would have on the neighborhood, and on property values.

“People moved in because it was safe, secure and quiet, and this is going to scare people to death,” Daniel Thompson said.

The Thompsons say that they would have taken a loss rather than sell it to the new owners.