Thursday, April 16, 2015

When Oxford House came to Little Rock

The Arkansas Times shined some light on Oxford House after it came to Little Rock.  Is Oxford House a money-making scam that exploits recovering addicts (a la Dr. Drew) or an innovative way to improve one's chances of success when battling addiction?  That question and others will arise one reads the story that is very thorough and informative.  The Times reported in 2013:


Ask former Chicagoan Mike Godfrey, 27, what Oxford House is and he'll tell you it's an organization that helped place him and five other men recovering from alcohol and substance abuse in a home where peer support keeps them sober, and that it's working.

Ask people who live near the rent house at 101 Plaza Drive just off Markham west of the Park Plaza Shopping Center that Godfrey and his roommates share what Oxford House is and they'll say it's an organization whose representatives were abrasive and told them only four men lived in the 1,780-square-foot house, which was not true. That they believe the men are being taken advantage of, since the six are paying $100 a week to live in a house that rents for $1,200 a month, twice as much as the rental fee and more if additional men move in. That their attempt to negotiate limits on the number of residents per house and houses per neighborhood was refused....
  
Residents and members of the city Board of Directors alike are particularly unhappy with what they perceive as an arrogant attitude taken by persons linked to Oxford House Inc. — including Jack (known as "Daddy Jack") Fryer of Little Rock, himself a recovering alcoholic who was incarcerated just under two years in the Department of Community Corrections for a series of DUIs — who have brought it to their attention that under the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Little Rock can't regulate Oxford Houses more strictly than it does other homes for the handicapped. Oxford House representatives have argued that they don't even need to get a special-use permit for the houses.

Oxford House allies have said Little Rock could accommodate 30 or 40 such homes. That group homes housing felons and some who have mental illness as well as drug and alcohol addictions could multiply in middle-class neighborhoods has some city directors and residents worried.

Yes, says Oxford House Inc. CEO Paul Molloy, "We're arrogant." But Molloy, who founded the 38-year-old non-profit headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., said in an interview with the Times, "We help people get clean and sober and help people stay clean and sober."...

neighbors of the Oxford House rental at 102 Brookside Drive (which becomes John Barrow south of Markham) began to complain to code enforcement about yard upkeep at the house.
In a recent interview, Fryer said Oxford House Inc. employees "recommended" that he not apply for a permit when he opened the Brookside house in 2010. (Fryer was not an employee of Oxford House Inc. but was representing the homeowner, Sandy Rogers, incorporated as Arox LLC. However, he worked closely with Oxford House in their "propagation," as the non-profit's regional director put it in an email to DHS.)

"Things went real well for about six months," Fryer said, but then the code complaints began to come in, and he decided to meet with city Planning and Development Director Tony Bozynski. Bozynski, Fryer said, was "well aware" that Oxford House Inc. was legally operating the group home, but the city required Fryer to seek a special-use permit for Brookside from the Planning Commission, which he did, successfully, in February 2012.

 an appeal filed by neighbors of the Brookside house to the City Board of the special-use permit failed. City Attorney Tom Carpenter cautioned directors that to deny the permit would violate federal law.

But what was brewing for Oxford House expansion in Arkansas was a perfect storm, thanks to the way the state had handled the grant, the way individuals affiliated with Oxford House handled neighborhood concerns and the city's reaction to being forced to allow the houses....

The neighbors tried to meet and work with Oxford House but instead were slapped in the face by Molloy's Marauders:

  In an effort to smooth things over with the Plaza Heights neighborhood, since the group home at 101 Plaza was also operating without a permit, Fryer, local Oxford House lawyer Mike Shannon, then-outreach director Chris Hart and a DBHS staffer met with neighbors at the house in October 2012. It had been a year since the house had opened. Neighbors were unaware until then it was a group house and some were upset to learn about it. The reactions of some neighbors, said Plaza Heights crime watch coordinator Allen Klak, who attended the meeting, were almost "irrational." But, he said, Fryer and Shannon were "aggressive" and "arrogant" in relaying to the neighborhood that nothing could prevent them from operating a group home there, and that the home could house felons convicted of any type of crime...
 
There were older single women in the neighborhood, long-time residents, who were "terrified," Klak said. But the group finally reached consensus that "we had to be civil" and work with Oxford House representatives to see if the number of residents, and houses as well, could be limited.

Before the Nov. 29 meeting of the Planning Commission, when the Oxford House special-use permit application for the Plaza Drive house was scheduled to be heard, Webb thought she had worked out an agreement with Oxford House regional director Longan that the number of residents at the house would be limited to six and that no more than two houses would be opened in one neighborhood.

No such luck. Read what happened next:

Those were promises he could not keep, Longan later explained to Webb in an email. The Oxford House permit application said the house would house up to seven men at 101 Plaza. Longan contacted Webb the evening after the commission met.

"I apologize, but I have made a decision to lower the bed count without approving it with the Oxford House central Office. Paul Molloy, our CEO, and Steve Polland, our lead attorney have informed me that the house charter will not be lowered to six and we can make no agreement to limit the number of houses we put into the neighborhood. ... I made a decision that was not mine to make and I did it in haste."

 The neighborhood felt betrayed. Webb, who remains a supporter of the Oxford House model and says the need for such houses is significant, replied to Longan's apology that "all the good will we worked so hard to develop is gone. No one in this neighborhood will trust anything anyone from OH says again. ... [T]hey feel like the folks at OH are a bunch of deceitful, ram-it-down the throats of whatever neighborhood they decide to enter." Webb also complained in an email to Fryer that "several neighbors expressed a great deal of unhappiness about your behavior at the neighborhood meeting."

Translation: Oxford House doesn't care about neighbors or neighborhoods.  It doesn't care about communities. It says it want's to put its patients or whatever they call them into nicer neighborhoods but is not interested at all in being part of a community or neighborhood.  The article provides more information on Oxford House.

The Oxford House model was born when CEO Molloy, who confesses to having tried to kill his wife while drunk, and fellow alcoholics in a halfway house that went bust took over the lease so they could prolong the support that group living gave them. Molloy believed the self-governance was crucial to real recovery. That's why Oxford Houses have no in-house supervisors. Residents run the houses democratically: There is a president, a treasurer, a comptroller and a chore coordinator. They hold regular meetings, and decide who may move in with them. They can also expel anyone who's not abiding by house rules.

Some 75 to 80 percent of the residents of Oxford Houses have done jail time, Molloy said. More than half, 63 percent, are homeless when they enter. Some suffer from mental illness as well as addiction. There are 10 Oxford Houses in Arkansas, located in middle-class neighborhoods convenient to public transportation and away from iffy areas where substance abuse is common.
 
Oxford House Inc. is included on the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's list of "evidence-based" transitional facilities, and the only such SAMHSA-listed organization in Arkansas, which is why it earned a sole-source grant, DHS spokesperson Amy Webb said.

Oxford House Inc. says 65 to 70 percent of the alumni of its self-help houses stay sober and substance-free and cites a two-year study in Illinois by DePaul University that found a relapse rate of 31 percent compared to 64 percent of persons who were treated as outpatients or through other means....

 There was finally a fight at City Hall over the Oxford House plans that was spirited but short.

Members of the City Board of Directors have chafed at the federal Fair Housing Act regulation that defines recovering alcoholics and drug abusers as "handicapped" and says they may not be discriminated against, a law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter had to caution the board at its April 2 meeting that the city could be sued if it created special restrictions for Oxford Houses. The city requires only that group homes meet certain square footage requirements and obtain a special-use permit; up to eight non-related individuals may live in group homes.

The caution came during board debate on a resolution to rescind the Planning Commission's approval of a special-use permit for the house on Plaza Drive. Ward 5 Director Lance Hines took Mike Shannon, a lawyer who spoke on behalf of Oxford House, to task, saying the group was trying to "bulldoze" its way into the neighborhood. Hines said the federal law was a "perversion" that needed changing and went so far as to mention that he'd been reading up on nullification (a tactic states have attempted, always unsuccessfully, to override federal laws).

Among those speaking against the permit were Klak, who appealed the permit, approved by the Planning Commission in January, and Jeanette Krohn. Krohn noted that the Plaza Heights neighborhood did not object to a "legitimate" substance abuse recovery location, one that would include supervision and recovery programming. She said the neighborhood had "negotiated" a fair agreement with representatives of the non-profit that the number of residents would be limited and had no objections to the four residents she believed were then living in the house. She noted that the house on Plaza Drive had been bought out of foreclosure for $60,000 and that the requirement that each resident "fork over" $100 a week in rent meant that Oxford House was a not a charity, "but a money-making bonanza" for the owners.

Krohn also asked what was to prevent Oxford House from "jamming in 15, 20 or even more residents" if the city accepted the premise that the Fair Housing Act shields the organization from city regulation and expressed concern about where a felon ejected from the house would go. (Little Rock code does not limit the number of handicapped residents in a group home except by square footage requirements per person.)

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Coordinating Council member Belew also spoke, telling the board she'd done "a great deal of research" on Oxford House and said the city should be aware that one of the goals of Oxford House is to create new Oxford Houses, and that under the non-profit's rules, any two Oxford House residents may start another. "It feels like kudzu," she said.

Read the rest of the story in this article.  The article provides much more information about how Oxford House obtained state funding and and the issues that arose when its funding was reviewed.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Northside Dr house had about 10 cars and a yard full of folks yesterday evening.

Kingfish said...

Send pics to kingfish1935@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Who's MS congressman & Senator district is in the Oxford House? Let's start writing letters folks instead of taking this crap.
Let's get a kickstarter program going to hire lawyers to pursue this to the highest court in the land.This is a violation of my civil rights!

Anonymous said...

This article is so disturbing, and the situation with OH is so sad for every neighborhood that has to deal with them and these houses. Obviously, the people behind Oxford House, nationally, (and we know the ones locally - Anna Fiser and Neal Stephens) are devious and only out to make money off a ludicrous govt. program as opposed to considering the welfare of the community or its residents. We also know they are crafty and willing to lie and bend even their own supposed "rules" in getting these houses set up. Surely, there must be a way to stop them without having to simply throw up our hands and give over our neighborhoods to felon drug addicts??? I understand that the "traditional" routes of challenging in them in court over zoning regs have not proven successful in other venues but I refuse to believe that there aren't other routes to get them out.

Anonymous said...

I met Anna Fiser a few years ago just after she graduated from Auburn. She seemed like a fine young woman, but this incident has changed my mind. I have no respect for someone who would purposefully involve herself in an enterprise that alienates and possibly jeopardizes the residents of a neighborhood for a quick profit. Worse, to try to hide behind faith as a motivation when money is the real driving force is shameful. Her daddy has money and she has no regard for the damage she is doing.

I was obviously wrong about her.

Anonymous said...

Elected officials all the way up are involved in working on a solution.


But, but, but, Anna Fiser Stephens says this is a MINISTRY! Surely a ministry doesn't take advantage of people.

I think we can all agree on one thing: this is not a ministry.

Anonymous said...

Oxford House, Inc. v. City of Raleigh, No. 5:98-CV-113-BO(2), 1999 WL 1940013 (E.D.N.C. Jan. 26, 1999) - city's ordinance requiring 375 yard distance between Oxford home and others was upheld. Cities should act accordingly to avoid the inundation of these homes. See also, Familystyle of St. Paul, Inc. v. City of St. Paul, 923 F.2d 91 (8th Cir. 1991) (upholding quarter-mile separation requirement). See also Twp. of Plymouth v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 198 Mich. App. 385, 501 N.W.2d 186 (1993) (upholding 1,500-foot separation requirement).

Anonymous said...

You people are a bunch of *ussies. If you, and every neighborhood where this cancerous group locates, would sue Oxford House (is there a name more apropos, by the way?) you could inflict death by a thousand cuts. They're gambling that you won't sue because they've won in court before. It's the same tactic the ACLU uses these days -- now they send letters instead of having to pay for lawsuits. Money-whip them. Make them win everywhere. Either way, sack up and do something: either write some checks to attorneys who will sue these low-lifes, or move out. But quit crying in the corner!

Anonymous said...

April 16, 2015 at 1:40 PM = Wants to hit my tip jar!

Anonymous said...

Hard to sue when city does not have laws on books to help support going to court.

Kingfish said...

Auburn? That explains everything.

Anonymous said...

What's the rule in Jackson for unrelated people living under the same roof? As long as it's the same for everyone you can use that to at least reduce the money they're making.

Anonymous said...

Typical Auburn booger. Worse than LUS coonasses.

Anonymous said...

Anna Fiser coaches girls sports at JA. I wonder how she would feel if her new tenants started showing up to her games and getting familiar with her players. Would she tell her students to embrace these men as an act of faith to help them assimilate? Would she arrogantly dismiss the legitimate concerns of parents with a smug, "it's helping them stay sober!"?

I think someone should send a schedule of games to the house so these men can watch her 15-year-old girls jump and run. It's for the greater good, after all.

Anonymous said...

Anna's poor judgement should disqualify her from working with young people. Parents need to protect their daughters from Anna.
Don't worry about her ministering to the residents of OH. She is too arrogant for that.

Anonymous said...

having OH move into your neighborhood is a lot like an infestation of lice. It can be treated, but will take sometime to rid ourselves of the nits.

Anonymous said...

The Department of Justice and HUD consider alcoholism a handicap. The Social Security Administration does not. I doubt that the VA considers it a handicap. Recovering people need to feel that they can become a part of society when they complete the first 9 steps. They do not need to feel apart from or pitiful. Our government labeling them as handicapped does not help them take responsibility for their behavior. Free rent is the easier, softer way for many to call it recovery. Oxford Houses are boarding houses and should be considered such.

Anonymous said...

4:55


I think someone should send a schedule of games to the house so these men can watch her 15-year-old girls jump and run. It's for the greater good, after all.

I think the wolf is already watching "her girls". It will come out.

Anonymous said...

Has the market rent of Jackson homes vs the actual rent collected each month from 6 tenants already been posted? Just wondering what the rental income difference is.

Anonymous said...

Is this your first time here @6:13 AM?

Anonymous said...

The Northside Dr house had about 10 cars and a yard full of folks yesterday evening.

Cop cars?

Anonymous said...

Just like the battle in Arkansas this fight will be long and many will grow weary. Just know I won't. I live down the street and am reminded every day when I come home of the danger. That is an excellent motivator to stay the course. Hold Fast NEJ. We are just getting warmed up.

Anonymous said...

Way to go 6:25!
Me, too!
Keep up the pressure.

Anonymous said...

You need a flanking move 6:25 PM.

I know what it is. Hope you can figure it out.

Anonymous said...

What danger? These are SOBER people living in these houses! If they use, they have to leave! Unlike the "doctor" from across the street that had to have the cops called on him, the people living in OH have caused no trouble, at all.

Anonymous said...

1:09 am
Since there is no on site supervision, the neighbors have no actual assurances the house is following its own rules or drug and alcohol testing. 3/4 by OH's own admission have recently been incarcerated. In addition, the OH members have every incentive to crowd the house to maximize the house's income in a R1 residence not design for 7 grown men sharing 3bedrooms and two baths. Can you imagine how the bathrooms smell from these men? The R1 values the neighbors all bought into by their covenants and R1 designation are upended. There was no attempt to introduce the concept to the neighbors, just stealth by Anna Fiser Stephens. When is she going to be held accountable by JA or others for her actions that are beyond inconsiderate and uncaring, but very harmful to the JA neighborhood? There are better ways to house these people that do not run over the neighbors and are zoning compliant. MDMH should never have applied for the block grants funding the recruiters for O H.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no one has to ask the neighbors permission to move in. Did YOU ask permission to move into your house?

Do you have on site supervision in your home? Seems like some of these hateful neighbors need it more than the OH.

It also says nothing about "recently incarcerated", you just made that up. Most people in recovery have dui and possession charges, that's a far cry from dangerous. Maybe you should go meet these people, get to know them, instead of spewing ignorance about a subject you have no clue about.

Anonymous said...

Most people in recovery have dui and possession charges, that's a far cry from dangerous.

How do you know?

Anonymous said...

I'm in recovery, and I've been to and met the guys in the Oxford houses in NE Jackson.

I shouldn't say most in recovery, because that's generalizing.

Anonymous said...

9:23. How's the weather today in Maryland?

By your own 2014 OH Annual Report online 76% have been incarcerated an ave of 11 months.

Anonymous said...

I'm in recovery, and I've been to and met the guys in the Oxford houses in NE Jackson.

Nope, you are anonymous. I've met the guys in the houses too. All con artists and you aren't their spokesperson.

Anonymous said...

I am not their spokesman, just pointing out falsehoods. You have NOT met the guys and gals in the houses or I'd know you.

Anonymous said...

I am in recovery and have met many of the women that have lived in OH facilities in Jackson. I personally know for a fact that many of these women are still using drugs and living in these houses with no repercussions. There is no regular drug testing. I don't think these houses are effective because of the "self-governance" model.

Anonymous said...

10:25am, please provide your email address or reach out to one of the main contacts associated with the neighborhood. I'm sure they would love to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

There are a couple of misconceptions in the article. First, residents do pay $100.00 per week, which covers all bills, and usually paper towels, laundry soap, etc. You are only responsible for food, however, other than paying a small amount of dues to Oxford, the remaining funds are used however the house deems necessary. If the house wants a new TV, or steak dinner, etc., it comes to a house vote and $$ is spent accordingly. It is THEIR money to do as they wish. Secondly, addicts are everywhere. They are already your next door neighbors. Would you rather be living next to a tweeker with aluminum foil covering all windows, or live next to an addict in recovery, that's staying clean, being responsible, and living a life of recovery? There is always the exception but for the most part, these are good people trying to better themselves.

Anonymous said...

11:43
The rent is $125/week for each man. Anna Fiser Stephens receives a portion of that as rent. The tenants are supplied for Anna by OH recruiters. She only has to cash her rent checks, and provides no oversight.

I'd rather live, as before, by owner occupied dwellings, not near a known boarding house which violates my R1 expectations and values. The house near me is a 1800 s.ft. residence which was designed for a family, not 7 unrelated, transient men crowded into 3 bedrooms, 2 baths; and 5 or 6 of whom by OH stats say I can expect to have criminal records.

Anna Fiser Stephens and OH gave no notice of this change to any of us as neighbors. Our lawful expectations in the peaceful enjoyment of our homes have been willfully violated.

Anonymous said...

Anna is happily cashing her checks and planning her next trip, which she will let Oxford House or Anna Fiser Stephens, LLC underwrite at the taxpayers expense.

Anonymous said...

6:30
Yes, indirectly in that Annabelle is collecting the proceeds from taxpayer supplied SSI disability checks to the residents. Your tax dollars at work.

Anonymous said...

7:50
More directly Feferal tax dollars through block grants applied for by MDMH are paying the salaries of the OH recruiters who will keep Anna's houses on Northside and Forest Park filled with ex cons and addicts. Anna gets it both ways: Out front with SSI proceeds of her tenants; from the other side by Tax salaried OH recruiters keeping her houses full. So our Federal tax dollars keep Anna's invasion of NEJ going and going thanks to The MS Department of Mental Heallth (MDMH). MDMH is responsible for this mess. I blame MDMH which needs to stop applying for the grants.

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