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Disputes with local officials prominent in the development of recovery homes

August 2, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A number of Oxford House sitings end up in the courts

The name of the most prominent developer of sober-living residences in the country often can be found on court documents, stemming from disputes involving its practice of quietly establishing recovery home operations in single-family neighborhoods.

One of the more complex situations involving Maryland-based Oxford House, Inc., has been playing out over the past several months in Baton Rouge, La. There, the Parish Attorney’s office is using zoning restrictions to attempt to remove residents from two Oxford House facilities, while Oxford House has filed a discrimination complaint against city and parish officials.

The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge reported last month that as a result of the dispute in that community, a regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also has been investigating the local situation. Local officials in Baton Rouge say Oxford House should not be exempt from zoning regulations that for single-family communities allow no more than two unrelated individuals to share a home.

Ironically, the newspaper reported, the state Department of Health and Hospitals supports Oxford House’s efforts locally and has awarded contracts to the organization for several years. State officials say Louisiana lacks sober-living options for people in recovery.

Oxford House is no stranger to these types of disputes nationally. In early June, the organization filed a federal court action to challenge the town of Fayetteville, W.Va.’s move to seek an injunction to block use of a property in town for a sober residence. Oxford House contends that the town’s action violate the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Siting challenges have been among the driving forces toward establishment of a national association representing recovery home operators. The fledgling National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) also seeks to establish consensus standards for the operation of recovery homes, most of which are subject to little or no formal regulation of operations.

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