South Bend neighbors concerned with sober living home set to open in April
SOUTH BEND, Ind. —- Neighbors in a South Bend community expressed concern on Tuesday about a sober living facility named Oxford House.
According to Oxford House officials, a house on Council Oaks Road will house eight to twelve men starting April 1. Daryn Perry, who lives next to the home already purchased by the group, said he learned about his new neighbors’ plan through a friend of a friend rather than Oxford House officials.
“A good neighbor would come and say ‘hey, how do you feel about this,’” said Perry.
Other neighbors on the block said they have concerns with the lack of communication coming from Oxford House. Hank Matthews said he is worried about what this house will do to his property value and the safety of the neighborhood.
“Are they rehabbing alcoholics, are they rehabbing addicts, are they rehabbing murderers,” said Patrick Farrell, who lives nearby.
According to the addiction service provider’s website, each house operates by the nine traditions of Oxford House. The third tradition states no member of the Oxford House is ever asked to leave without cause - drinking, drug use or disruptive behavior.
“They’re not coming to the city and going through the proper channels,” said Tim Scott, South Bend Common Council President.
Scott said the people going through addiction deserve a second chance. Scott said Oxford House officials need to follow the letter of the law.
He said the group needs to file a reasonable accommodation, building permits, and follow code ordinances. Larry Magliozzi, zoning administrator with the St. Joseph County Area Plan Commission, in an e-mail wrote that any reasonable accommodation request needs to be in a district zoned for residential uses.
According to Magliozzi, if Oxford House finds a building that is zoned for residential uses, than they could file a request for Reasonable Accommodation to allow their use without zoning approval.
The City of South Bend said the group has received a special exemption form but has not turned in anything at this point. According to the city, the law says Oxford house needs to apply for an exemption under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“What we have here is an organization that is kind of skirting the law,” Scott said.
However the Oxford House website states, they have defended their right to establish a house in a good neighborhood. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that recovering alcoholics and drug addicts were a protected class under the handicapped provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988.
Perry said the general consensus among neighbors is that they are concerned with the house being close to a nearby church and school. However, he said it would make a difference if the group tried to go through the proper channels.
“Even if they did come to us and we were like well we’re really opposed to that at least give us that,” said Perry.
There will be a meeting tomorrow in council chambers between the neighbors and South Bend Common Council at 6 p.m. Officials from Oxford House were invited but Scott said they declined the invitation.
ABC 57 has reached out to an official with the Oxford House but has not heard back.