Sober-living home coming to Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake soon will be home to a new sober-living residence for men in recovery for alcohol or drug addiction.

The residence, at 131 Ellsworth St., was acquired recently by Chris Reed and New Directions Addiction Recovery Services. The 12-person men’s facility is expected to open by Oct. 1 after construction and renovations to the property, Reed said.

Reed also owns The Other Side, a Crystal Lake sober bar established in 2013.

The sober-living home is intended to provide a stable environment and support network that will facilitate those individuals’ growth toward becoming a productive, positive member of society.

Case managers will meet with each resident and identify areas of improvement, as well as find a number of goals to meet on a regular basis, such as building a résumé, reobtaining a driver’s license or paying off court fines.

For many recovering addicts, these things have long been on the back burner in their lives, Reed said.

“Stuff like that just stacks up on you, and it’s easier to just not think about it,” Reed said, reflecting on his own recovery. “These types of problems in your head seem insurmountable.”

Those interested in living in the home must meet a number of requirements, including having established sobriety prior to entering the home, actively seeking and obtaining employment within two weeks of moving in and attending regular house meetings in addition to 12-step meetings, among others.

Residents will not immediately be removed from the home if they do not meet an established requirement, Reed said. Every situation is different and will be evaluated to determine if that person is ready to manage the expectations of the sober-living home.

“Ultimately, if you’re there, and on a daily basis you are trying to work on your recovery program and improving on the quality of your life, we will be there to support that person,” he said.

Those living in the home also will have the opportunity to partake in group outings or events at The Other Side.

Residents also must be able to provide the first week’s living fees, which is currently set at $100. Reed said they are unable to waive fees for residents, but they will offer a scholarship program for which people can donate toward a resident’s first week payment by visiting their website at ndars.org.

Groups such as New Directions Addiction Recovery Services often meet opposition from concerned neighbors and specific zoning codes, as well as a persistent stigma toward recovering addicts.

This proposed sober-living home was no different.

The project went to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a public hearing last month, and it did not receive a positive recommendation. The sober-living home met all necessary requirements and proper zoning, Reed said.

Board members in opposition said there were going to be too many people living in the residence. The proposed number of occupants is what’s considered allowable by city code.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the project’s request for a special-use permit for the group dwelling was approved, 5-2 — but not without discussion and concerns from city council members and neighbors.

Two neighbors spoke in opposition to the project, expressing their concerns about how it could negatively impact their property value and whether the home would be maintained with general upkeep and oversight.

City Councilor Ralph Dawson, who voted in opposition to the permit, said he wasn’t comfortable with what seemed to be cramped living quarters, especially in the lower level of the residence.

“I believe that there are other locations that would fit your needs,” he said.

Mayor Aaron T. Shepley said the group has and will continue to meet all necessary requirements, and if it does not do so, then the council will take whatever action is needed to ensure it complies.

Shepley said those who don’t recognize the drug problem in the county and Crystal Lake, specifically heroin-related, are “blind.”

“We are not in a position to turn a blind eye to this,” he said.

After the meeting, Reed said he understands the neighbors’ concerns, and the group will continue to be open-minded and willing to listen to anyone’s concerns and ideas.

“A lot of people have a lot of preconceived ideas of what a drug addict is or an alcoholic. I would say mostly it’s almost impossible to put a face to addiction,” Reed said. “It literally doesn’t discriminate.”

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