Nonprofit struggles to find a welcoming place for residential treatment center

Jul 16, 2019

Credit Aaron Bolton, KBBI News

A faith-based addiction treatment nonprofit is struggling to find a location for a new residential center. Set Free Alaska has been searching for months for a place in the Homer area to launch a 16-bed inpatient facility for men and their children. 

The organization recently considered converting a former bed and breakfast about six miles out East End Road into the new center. But residents who live near there, such as Scott Meyer, objected to it. 

Meyer said he supports a residential treatment center. Just not near him.

“There's a common Nimby attitude: I don't want this treatment center in my neighborhood,” he said. “So if they could stay away from a neighborhood where there's homes, it might be easier to find a place.”

Meyer and other residents had a range of concerns about the treatment center moving into their area, from a possible increase of traffic to the potential for declining property values.

But their main argument against the facility is that it would violate the neighborhood’s covenants.

“The subdivision has covenants that describe it as a residential neighborhood,” he said. “Everybody likes their privacy and their safety. It's a nice, safe neighborhood.”

Residents warned Set Free that if the organization moves forward with the project in this location, the community will sue.

Set Free Alaska Executive Director Philip Licht disagreed with resident’s interpretation of the covenants.

“Our program is residential,” he said. “It is a home where people live. It's not an outpatient kind of a facility where people are coming and going every day. Another aspect of that is that that particular home we were looking at was a business.”

Still, Licht abandoned the idea of putting a treatment center there. He said the organization doesn’t want to move into a place that isn’t welcoming. 

This is not the first time the treatment center has met with resistance. Set Free previously had a permit to move into a building on Pioneer Ave. But Licht said a local resident appealed: 

“I don't begrudge people at all for not wanting this next to them,” he said.  “It’s understandable, and I respect people's decisions and their desires. So with that being said, it has been a struggle. And there’s an incredible amount of stigma.”

He said Set Free is now back to square one in looking for a location. Licht said the organization is hoping to find somewhere outside Homer city limits that’s not in a neighborhood.

He hopes to open the facility next year.