“There are families. There are lots of kids in the neighborhood. We’re very concerned,” said Lisa Ault, who lives near where the facility is proposed.
Ault lives on Chelsea Court, just behind an old church that The Road to Hope Foundation House hopes to turn into a monitored, 21-bed housing facility for men who have been treated for alcohol and chemical dependency.
The Road to Hope Foundation has three other houses in the Elyria area but wants to move into Eaton Township with the approval of a variance.
The Eaton Township Board of Zoning Appeals is reviewing the proposal for the variance after Zoning Inspector George Anders rejected the group’s proposal.
Anders said the property, at 12981 Grafton Road, is in a residential area. Churches are permitted in the area under the township’s zoning laws but not a transitional housing facility, Anders said.
“Usually, when I tell prospective property owners this, they go elsewhere, but apparently, this property is very appealing to them,” he said.
Because the proposal wasn’t approved, the Road to Hope Foundation House requested a hearing from the Board of Zoning Appeals, which has the final say in whether the group can operate in the township.
Anders said he has no part in those discussions, which are scheduled to continue during a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Eaton Town Hall.
Ault, along with Melissa Keating, began rounding up residents in the surrounding area to express their opposition to the idea after some residents received notification of the hearing from the township.
Keating said while the majority of residents support the foundation’s efforts, they cannot support its current proposal.
“The work Road to Hope is doing for those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse is commendable. They are providing a service that is desperately needed in our county,” she said. “However, there is a great deal of concern for the location they have chosen.
“This area is in very close proximity to the Midview School campus. Not only is that in itself concerning, but given the area does not have sidewalk access nor public transportation, residents would likely use the adjacent housing developments and school campus as a means to access community services.”
Ault said residents also are concerned about safety.
She said drug dealers are known to prey on recovering addicts and bringing such a facility into the township could bring drug dealers in as well.
Jeffrey Kamms, executive director of the Road to Hope Foundation House, said he hopes that the program will do just the opposite, but he said residents are being naive if they don’t think drug dealers already live in the community.
“What brings a drug dealer into every area? I would love to say that Eaton Township has no drug dealers, but truthfully, I can bring in 100 law enforcement officers to back up that they’re already there,” he said.
Kamms stressed that the facility is not a rehabilitation facility, but one that offers housing to men who have already gone through treatment.
“They looked at it as if we were bringing drug addicts off the streets to help them get better and that’s not what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Road to Hope Foundation House’s first group home opened in Elyria in 2007.
The facility offered a structured environment to keep the clients away from drug and alcohol use while they recovered and attempted to reintegrate into society.
Clients have an average stay of about a year, according to Kamms, who said the purpose is to isolate the residents from dysfunctional living environments.
In that way, the Eaton Township property is ideal, Kamms said.
Kamms said the foundation’s idea is to take clients away from urban areas, where drugs and alcohol are more prevalent. The property in Eaton Township, owned by Southern Baptist Church, also is cost-effective and fit the foundation’s needs.
The building would be used to provide additional services, such as life-skill training, classes and counseling.
Kamms said the Road to Hope Foundation House has a proven track record of helping clients to maintain sobriety, as well as reintegrate into society safely. He said it was troubling that residents were so opposed to the project.
“This is not jail. This is not court-ordered,” he said. “These individuals are no different than myself … or those individuals who were sitting in that room. They are choosing this location to help them get better.”