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Perseverance provides a home in recovery

  • The rehabilitated Ceder Street house will be a sober home for women in 2019 in Greenfield. Nov. 15, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Devon DeKorver stands on the porch of a rehabilitated Cedar Street house that will soon open as a sober house for women in recovery. Staff Photo/Dan Little



Staff Writer
Friday, December 07, 2018

GREENFIELD — As people kept asking Devon DeKorver when she would open the sober house she’s been working toward for years,  she started to feel the pressure mounting to follow through on her promises to the community.

The founder of the Firebird 5K fundraiser road race, DeKorver is the person who’s been building community support and fundraising toward this dream:  a home for women in recovery where they can find clean, stable housing as they take the final steps before fully maturing into their recovery. 

It can take years to fully recover from an opioid addiction, but it can also take years to open a sober house in town. 

While DeKorver’s story is one of resilience, it also points to how difficult it is even for the most determined of folks to open a viable sober house in Massachusetts. In early 2019, after a few delays, a supportive sober home — the Next Door House — will open its doors on Cedar Street to half a dozen women. In doing so, it will become the first of its kind in Franklin County.  

“Continuously, I have been telling people ‘Soon,’” DeKorver said, “soon there will be a place where ladies can go for their recovery.” 

DeKorver generated community-wide support, receiving the endorsements of city officials, the police and fire departments and the regional Opioid Task Force. She raised enough money to buy a dilapidated, ready-to-be-razed house in the outskirts of the downtown, generating $30,000 under the auspices of Sage Housing Inc. And she kept the specific property on the relative down-low before backyard criticism of a sober home could knock her plan. DeKorver also, after a couple of attempts, received a $75,000 state grant for restoration and initial operation of the property. 

“Sometimes I’m honored these people have put their faith in me, but I’ve put my faith in them as well,” DeKorver said. “They’ve put their trust in me when I had nothing to show.” 

The other important ingredient was partnering with an established provider of supportive, sober housing in the state, which is already accredited to run its services for people in recovery. Through partnerships she formed at Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and North Quabbin meetings, DeKorver linked up with Shawn Hayden and his company, GAAMHA.  

“Historically, people are asked to accept less when they’re living in a sober house,” said Hayden, who runs the house. “Our approach is the exact opposite of that. We want people to be in a dignified place. And get the support they need.” 

Hayden’s supportive housing programs link people in recovery up with services like social workers, but also, and perhaps most importantly for the founder of GAAMHA, a potential job or career path. 

A house manager will also live at the house, in a dual-role as a client and professional overseer. This person may have longer time or stability in their recovery than others. 

Hayden has sober houses with a restaurant at the ground level, which is partly run by people living there, or a farm to teach different career skills. 

The women who live there, mostly staying in doubles in the house as a way to promote accountability, will likely have six to 12 months of recovery already established, a relative “drop in the bucket,” in your recovery, DeKorver said. 

They will likely be coming from a halfway house. They can stay at this Cedar Street home for the most part indefinitely, but the intention, and the typical experience, is to stay up to two years before getting an apartment, supported by the income from a job. 

“This isn’t going to be a house where people can live and sit idle indefinitely,” Hayden said. “The intent here is to have people on a program where they’re going somewhere.”

DeKorver said “Greenfield gave me so much in my early recovery, and that’s what drives this.” 

The project has been supported by the Leonard family, which has been business and construction partners — while employing people in recovery to help with the rehab of the house. The Greenfield halfway house Swift River has also been instrumental in supporting this project, DeKorver said. 

The project could have benefited from a streamlined process to access grants, said DeKorver. She also feels some zoning law changes would help the next similar project.

One of the pieces that could’ve made the process easier, she said, was if the local housing authorities partnered with them on a project like this.

They say the grass is greener next door, but for DeKorver, she might be trying to take the expression to a new level at the Next Door House — where the opioid and affordable housing crises intersect.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264