City’s hands tied with Oxford House |

City’s hands tied with Oxford House

Community members ask for sober living residents to be relocated, but addiction is protected under Fair Housing Act

Responding to complaints from residents, Craig city officials said they can’t take any legal action against the new sober living home in the Glen Erie neighborhood.

Eric Bacon, a Glen Erie resident, addressed City Council on Tuesday, July 26, questioning the city about the process that the Oxford House took to open the sober living house in Craig. 

The residential sober living site, which is supported under the umbrella of the Oxford House nonprofit organization, opened on June 15. Because Oxford House is residential sober living — not supervised treatment— the house can accommodate up to eight sober men, and is treated as a single-family home. 

Representatives of the Oxford House declined the newspaper’s request for comment. 

According to Bacon, preparation done to the house prior to residents moving in was performed during the night without any visible permits. Bacon added that the residents moved in overnight. 

Residents of Glen Erie learned about the sober living home after its residents had moved in, and a group of neighbors went to City Council on July 1 to present their concerns. Bacon said that since the house opened, there has been an increased presence of law enforcement and EMS. 

Craig Police Chief Michael Cochran said over the phone in July that there had been two calls at the Oxford House since it opened. One was for community policing, a routine proactive measure where law enforcement tries to become familiar with local residents, and the other was for a civil matter in which officers took no action because no crime was committed. 

Bacon also said there have been confrontations between Oxford residents and people who live in the Glen Erie neighborhood, including claims that a resident threatened to punch a dog and used profanity in front of a child. 

“I want to make it clear, we’re not prejudiced against these people at all. In fact, we applaud them for what they are doing,” Bacon said. “Our stance here has nothing to do with them personally.”

Still, there might not be much the city can do.

The house and its residents are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which recognizes alcoholism, addiction and other disabilities, while requiring local governments to make reasonable accommodations to enable these individuals to effectively deal with their disabilities. 

Other residents of Glen Erie disagree with the Oxford House’s interpretation of reasonable accommodations. Bacon said the Oxford House should have made a reasonable accommodation request to the city and obtained community input prior to opening. Bacon also questioned whether the house meets fire safety standards. 

In the presentation, Bacon made several requests including that the city take action to ensure the sober living house is meeting requirements for reasonable accommodations. 

Glen Erie residents also wanted to know what the city is doing to prevent other sober living homes from opening in other residential districts in Craig. Bacon specifically asked what the city can do to prevent corporations, like Oxford House, from buying real estate and bypassing local regulations. 

Council member Chris Nichols responded that it’s a homeowner’s right to sell property to whomever the owner wants to. 

However, Bacon emphasized that many of the Glen Erie residents feel like their voices haven’t been heard on this matter. 

“Believe me, we’ve heard your concerns. We have staff working on what we can legally do to solve this issue,” Nichols said. “The house is grandfathered in at this point. We can set up different codes and ordinances for the future, but at this point, they are legal.” 

Nichols said the city is working under federal ADA standards and Fair Housing Act rules. According to Nichols, the city does have an ordinance regarding multi-family residences, but the FHA trumps local regulations. 

“We are doing what we can for the future and to put regulations in place that actually have some teeth in doing something,” Nichols said.

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