Focus on sober house “nightmare”

The mayor and board of aldermen Tuesday night joined together to declare a campaign against “sober houses” in the city that, in many cases, are failing to help individuals recover from their addictions and instead are being used for illegal drug and drinking activities.

Ald. Michael Marchese said the city needs regulatory help from state and federal officials to combat the problems being caused by the facilities that require no license to operate.

“They just open up for business wherever they want and without any notice to the city – it’s ridiculous,” said Marchese. “They’ve created nightmare situations”.

The Ward Three alderman reported that in one instance recently, three residents of one of the local sober houses were smoking crack out in the open and urinating in public, as local kids were going to a Halloween March in the Whittier School area.

“If they have to be here, they definitely shouldn’t be allowed near schools, places of worship or senior citizen facilities,” asserted Marchese, but there is no such control currently permitted under the law.

At the very least, the veteran alderman maintained, “the owners of the properties in question should be held responsible” for the actions of the sober house residents.

Ald. Robert Van Campen said local neighborhoods are being “negatively impacted” by some of these sober houses.

“It’s a quality of life issue”, said the Ward Five alderman. “It’s time to fight back”.

Mayor Carlo DeMaria pointed out that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the sober houses don’t need a license and they don’t have to notify a community that they’re moving in and opening up for business.

However, the mayor reported that his administration has shut down four or five of what he calls “the unsober houses” for certain code or criminal violations.

“You’d be appalled by some of the activities in these facilities,” the mayor told the aldermen.

A former drug dealer – a “felon”, said the mayor – is running one of the local sober houses.

DeMaria said he has discussed the issue at length with Congressman Michael Capuano, as well as with Everett’s state solons. The mayor said he will continue to press for some legislative assistance to gain some regulatory control, but as Capuano told him, it’s an uphill battle.

Assistant city solicitor David Rodrigues noted that the administration has initiated an “aggressive approach” to the problem on the local front through the resources and efforts of the police and fire departments and code enforcement officials.

Ald. Marchese filed a motion asking the city to consider enacting some sort of local “vulnerability” laws to deal with the sober house dilemma.

At his request, the matter was referred to the committee on rules and ordinances for further discussion and consideration in the hope that some kind of an effective plan to battle the “nightmare situations” can be mapped out.

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