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Sycamore refines rules to allow sober living home

SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Drug and DUI Court now has the chance to run a home in Sycamore for recovering addicts who are part of its program. 

On Monday, City Council members unanimously approved amending the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to define the criteria for recovery and sober living homes. This will allow agencies such as the drug court to apply for a special use permit should they want to run a recovery or sober living home in the city. 

This summer, drug court representatives approached city officials about running a sober living home in the city. Before the meeting, Marilyn Stromborg, drug court coordinator, said this type of home for men who participate in the program is needed because none exists in the county. 

Participants typically are those who go through the three-month residential program outside the county in the beginning stages of drug court, where they are intensively supervised and counseled. After that, they would need to enter into another facility that provides a recovery environment for them.

“The problem we have is 1/3 of our program is out of the county now, because we have no resources for men,” she said.  

Women who participate in the program stay at the Discovery House, which is run by the Ben Gordon Center, she said. 

Because this kind of home is not defined in the city’s list of residential uses, officials needed to agree on the definition of a recovery or sober living home. As defined, a sober living home would be a monitored residence for people suffering from substance abuse issues. The home would not have more than eight people living in it. 

First Ward Alderman Curt Lang said he was wondering how drug court participants would be monitored and what would happen to them if they broke any program rules. DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert, who was at the meeting, said the drug court team would monitor the participants frequently and they would be sanctioned immediately if they were found to have violated any rules of the program.

Participants who break the rules of the program can face harsher punishment than sanctions, such as time in jail. If they don’t successfully complete the program they would have to face the criminal charges they received before they entered it.

“We have participants in our program now [who have] nine to 12 to 14 years of time with the Illinois Department of Corrections hanging over their head,” she said.

Candidates who apply to drug court must be nonviolent offenders and a screening is done to determine if they meet the criteria for addiction. The State’s Attorney and the police also must approve applicants for the program.

Lang said he wondered if the participants would be interacting with the neighbors. Stuckert said the participants would be and they would be responsible for being good neighbors and taking care of the property. Activities such as loud parties are prohibited and would be immediately dealt with by the drug court team, she said. 

“When these people graduate from the program… they are going to be our neighbors and we want them to learn all the tools to make them successful,” she said. 

Stromborg said the exact location for the home hasn’t been nailed down yet because the plans for it are still in the early stages. For now, she said the location might be near the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, where the drug court program is held. 

Third Ward Alderman Gregory Taylor and 4th Ward Alderman Rick Kramer were absent from the meeting.

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