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The Horrors of Illegal Recovery Homes

When addicts quit using drugs, especially opiates like heroin, they often have few choices about where they can live during recovery. With so many bridges burned between friends and family members, a lot of newly-sober addicts are willing to take what they can get when it comes to a roof overhead. And in some areas of the country, that means taking up residence in illegal – and sometimes substandard – housing during early recovery.

A Money-Making Scheme

Philadelphia is home to one of the most recent and disturbing examples of rogue recovery housing. Jeffrey Jackson ran several unlicensed and unapproved “recovery homes” across the city.

Jackson works as an addiction counselor for Addiction Medicine & Health Advocates (AMHA), a local methadone maintenance program. On the side, however, he rents rooms to former and current AMHA clients – rooms that happen to be in hazardous and dilapidated homes that city housing officials have repeatedly deemed “unfit for human habitation.”

Jackson gave his underhanded rental business an interesting moniker, calling it “Dignity Recovery.” He charges each addict up to $600 per month for rent, three “complimentary” meals a day and connection to a methadone program. Unfortunately, there’s nothing dignified or therapeutic about Jackson’s business.

Jackson has no rental license or zoning permit. At least one of the “homes” was run down to the point of virtual collapse, yet it held nearly 35 beds. What’s more, the structure was completely infested with bed bugs and rats. If any of the Dignity Recovery residents tried to leave, Jackson threatened to cut off their supply of methadone.

Local Objections

Philadelphia neighborhoods have been fighting this problem for some time.

After one structure is cited for a laundry list of violations, Jackson simply opens another one somewhere else.The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections has been unable to stop Jackson from renting out these disgusting and hazardous rooms. After one structure is cited for a laundry list of violations, Jackson simply opens another one somewhere else. According to documents, he has run at least seven illegal recovery homes.

Last October, Philadelphia residents turned out for a town hall meeting to discuss potential regulatory legislation for recovery residences with Rep. James Clay, Jr. Major concerns included lack of regulatory oversight of the so-called recovery homes and the increased crime attributed to the houses.

A National Problem

Philadelphia isn’t the only city plagued with illegal recovery homes.

Last month, a Myrtle Beach, SC, TV station reported that a man was arrested for operating recovery centers. Clayton Alfred White was taken into custody and charged with grand larceny and illegally distributing drugs. Police also learned that White had opened similar clinics in North Carolina and Georgia.

Across the United States, thousands of these illegal recovery landlords collect rent – often in the form of Social Security checks, disability benefits, and food stamps – and offer desperate addicts “services” that are far from therapeutic.

Finding a Trusted Rehab Facility

The National Alliance of Recovery Residences (NARR) works to help the public dispel myths of what a quality recovery residence is and what it isn’t.

In 2011, NARR established a national standards and certification process that its affiliates use to certify recovery residences. A national advocate for effective recovery homes, NARR also champions for the rights of those living in recovery residences. With growing support on a national level, the hope is that stories like the ones in Philadelphia and Myrtle Beach will become fewer and less damaging.

Learn more about finding quality recovery homes and sober living facilities.

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