Home for recovering addicts could come to county

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

An independent program that provides housing and peer support for recovering addicts is considering placing a home in Dubois County.

Oxford House is a self-run, self-supported addiction recovery house for recovering addicts who are transitioning from controlled recovery facilities to living on their own.

“Oxford House should be the last stop before they live on their own,” Jessica Burden, state coordinator for Oxford houses in Indiana, told a group of law enforcement, government and treatment officials Thursday. “We are not [a] treatment [facility]. There’s not any programming that goes on inside of our homes. Everything is done outside of the house. We are strictly a safe, sober, supportive living environment for men and women recovering from drugs or alcohol.

“We are simply a single-family home with a set of recovery-based guidelines.”

Those living in an Oxford House pay an equal share of the house’s expenses. “They don’t pay me or [the] Oxford House organization,” Burden said. “They have their own house bank account and they pay directly to the house.”

The residents meet together as a household and pay the house’s bills.

“It empowers them and gives them responsibility,” Burden said.

The residents work together to make the decisions for the home, including voting for who gets to move into the house. “There is some oversight by staff,” Burden said, “like I check bank accounts to make sure money is there for the rent and expenses. But this is a peer-led accountability, where everyone has the same amount of responsibility and the same amount of say of what goes on in the house.”

Houses are available for men, women, men with kids and women with kids. A house tends to have four bedrooms and two baths. Private investors purchase the house and Oxford House has a long-term lease for the house under the house’s name.

Burden said the houses are placed in nice, safe neighborhoods. “You don’t want to place a house next to a drug dealer,” she said.

Most neighborhoods are accepting of the new house, but there have been some that objected. “They just don’t understand,” Burden said. “But after they see how well the house is kept up — some Oxford Houses are kept better than other houses in the neighborhood — they are more accepting.”

Burden shared that she was an addict and lost custody of her children. In her long-term recovery, she lived in an Oxford House in Louisville for 11 months.

“Living in an Oxford House taught me to pay my bills and how to be a productive member of society,” she said.

She ultimately regained custody of her children and was able to purchase a home.

People can live in an Oxford House for as long as they want, so long as they do not return to using drugs and alcohol, Burden said, and “as long as their behaviors are that of someone working in a program.”

Since the house is not a treatment facility, there is no drug testing. “We go on behaviors,” she explained, “because people will relapse in their mind and their behavior long before they ever pick up” and start using again. There is a system in place in the house that holds them accountable and can help them before they relapse, she said.

A resident must do more than just abstain from drugs or alcohol. “Oxford House supports all pathways to recovery,” she said, “as long as they’re working on themselves.”

If a resident is caught using, the house residents are the ones to expel that person from the house. That must be done, according to the agreement each person signs before moving into the house. Oxford House staff steps in to complete the eviction, if needed, Burden said. The staff will work with the expelled person to get him or her into a detox program.

The Oxford House program was founded in 1975 in Silver Spring, Maryland. There are about 2,700 houses in 46 states, as well as houses in five countries.

The program has been in Indiana for a year, and there are 29 houses in the state, the closest of those being in Evansville, Clarksville and New Albany. Three more will open in the next few weeks, Burden said.

Next year, Burden will come back to talk to more people in the community and organizations that are geared to supporting people who are recovering from addictions. She will also look at the local market to see if there are available houses for the program.

Dubois County Community Corrections Director Megan Durlauf said she was interested in hearing about the program because it might fill a local need.

“What we keep hearing [from people] is that, ‘We need some place to go whenever we get out,’” she said. “‘We need a sober place to live.’”

Information about Oxford House, including specific information about the different houses in the state and country, can be found at www.oxfordhouse.org. Questions can be directed to Burden at jessica.burden@oxfordhouse.org.




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