Task force hunts for sober housing

  • Ally Viens of GAAMHA, a support organization for people with substance abuse, talks with Jerry Lund, who is involved with the Opioid Task Force, as they tour a sober home for women at 40-42 Cedar St. in Greenfield on Friday. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ally Viens of GAAMHA, a support organization for people with substance abuse, talks with Jerry Lund, who is involved with the Opioid Task Force, as they tour 40-42 Cedar Street in Greenfield, which is a sober home for women. February 8, 2019 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

  • A home at 40-42 Cedar St. in Greenfield will soon open as a sober home for women. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/9/2019 12:05:06 AM

GREENFIELD — Between the “Welcome Home” and the “Begin each day with a grateful heart” signs, there rests a handful of beds ready for somebody to call home.

The Cedar Street sober house for women is all but open, and when it does start taking in residents by the end of the month it will mark the first women’s sober house in Franklin County — an achievement that’s been well over three years in the works.

Now, the sober housing is accepting applicants, will have an open house on Feb. 28, and will become a place for a handful of women to live and find sustainable work in the community, with the support of the program.

On the heels of this achievement, the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and North Quabbin is looking for ways to address the need for much more sober housing, which is what its constituents often recognize as one of the most critical missing pieces for tackling the opioid epidemic in Franklin County.

At a follow-up meeting to a highly-attended sober housing summit in December that gathered local and state officials, some of the key players in the region on Friday developed an action plan to make some more headway.

“We definitely are committed to taking action on these steps,” Opioid Task Force Coordinator Debra McLaughlin said Friday. “When we come back together, we want to report out how we’re going to do this.”

The group, which included officials from the Franklin County House of Corrections, the Franklin County Justice Center, members of The RECOVER Project, various service providers and advocates in the area, created a list of short-, mid- and long-term goals.

In the immediate future, the group wants to see if it can work with Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for people in need through various sources of funding, to see if there can be a partnership creating sober housing.

Oftentimes Habitat for Humanity works with students from the Franklin County Technical School to build homes.

There is also a desire to find better ways to pool resources to ease the burden of paying first, last and security deposit when people go from their sober homes to a more permanent home. People with significant financial difficulties and a lack of family resources often find it traumatic to move out of a sober home, which can occasionally lead to relapse.

Other short-term questions concerned tax breaks for people building sober homes.

In the mid-term, some want the Opioid Task Force and possibly The RECOVER Project to host a regular housing fair, which can bring needed resources together.

Similar to other groups and some of the work that was done on the Cedar Street home, there was an emphasis to link people in recovery with the building and developing of the homes.

Longer term, the task force wants to work with area state and federal lawmakers to provide incentives and protections to landlords who provide or are trying to provide sober housing. Those at the meeting involved in creating sober housing said some of the bureaucratic regulations make it challenging to build these types of homes.

There was also a question of whether a program similar to the foster case system can be developed that can help individuals who are interested in opening up their homes to people in recovery.

In terms of building, the group tossed around the idea of more innovative housing solutions, from tiny homes to repurposing unused or underutilized buildings.

In general there was a sentiment that there needs to be more education in the community, particular between landlords and potential tenants in short- and long-term recovery to erode some potential pre-existing biases.

With the Cedar Street home getting ready to open its doors, there was a sentiment from the group that this could be a rallying point to build on.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:
jsolomon@recorder.com,
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264


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