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.