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Our View: Site selection key for sober house

Published: Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

For some men who participate in DeKalb County’s drug court program, finding a place to live isn’t easy.

For part of the time they are in the drug court program, participants must stay in a sober living home or a similar facility. Female drug court participants can stay at Discovery House in DeKalb, which is operated by the Ben Gordon Center.

The options for men, however, all lie outside DeKalb County in places such as Addison, Elgin and Aurora, which can make it more difficult for them to get to Sycamore to fulfill other program requirements such as frequent drug and alcohol testing and court appearances.

There are signs this might be about to change, however. The Sycamore City Council in October amended its zoning laws to define a sober living facility, and those involved with the drug court program say that having a sober living home nearby would increase participants’ chances of success.

We support the effort to bring a sober living home to the county with the caveat that any future proposal for such a facility be considered in a fair and open process. The rights and concerns of neighbors must be respected, and any proposed site must be deemed acceptable by the rest of the community.

The drug court’s mission of helping drug and alcohol offenders make a positive change in their lives rather than shunting them off to prison is a worthy one.

The program provides for regular drug and alcohol testing of participants, supervision by a sober house manager and the drug court team, counseling sessions and other meetings. Society benefits from its success.

In Sycamore, a sober living home could only be opened with a special use permit, which would have to be approved by the City Council.

No matter how much people might think that the drug court’s mission is worthwhile, some of them would cringe at the thought of a group home for men with a history of drug and alcohol abuse in their neighborhood.

Should the wrong site be selected, city and county officials will hear from them and the approval process could end in hard feelings.

Drug court officials have said the home would be near the DeKalb County Courthouse, but they have not yet settled on a site. DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert, who oversees the program, has said the participants would be responsible for being good neighbors and taking care of the property. Activities such as loud parties are prohibited, she said. 

When proposed, the council should carefully consider the concerns of neighbors – should any arise – as well as the benefits to the drug court program and the people it is trying to help.

Making the drug court program more effective is a worthwhile cause, but a sober living facility shouldn’t be ramrodded into a neighborhood that will not welcome it, or at least tolerate it.

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