Rep. Clay discusses illegal housing for recovering addicts

You could hear the frus­tra­tion and the an­ger, and state Rep. James Clay got an ear­ful of it in a loud, not al­ways civil, pub­lic meet­ing last week.

The ire was not dir­ec­ted at the Frank­ford law­maker, but at a sub­ject that’s all too fa­mil­i­ar to neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents: il­leg­al hous­ing for re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts.

For years, mem­bers of the Frank­ford Civic As­so­ci­ation and oth­er neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents have com­plained about what they be­lieve is a large num­ber of “re­cov­ery homes” or “trans­ition­al hous­ing” for ad­dicts. They’ve griped that those fa­cil­it­ies, many of which they be­lieve are il­leg­al, bring crime and more drug use in­to Frank­ford, which, in turn, dis­cour­ages in­vest­ment in the com­munity as well as cre­at­ing qual­ity-of-life is­sues.

Clay, the 179th dis­trict Demo­crat, had in­vited res­id­ents and some city of­fi­cials to bring their com­plaints and sug­ges­tions to a Sept. 19 town hall meet­ing in Aria Health’s Frank­ford cam­pus.

Sixty-six people showed up, and they wer­en’t a quiet bunch.  

“We need a little help in our neigh­bor­hood,” one man said. “We need some­body to do something.”

Res­id­ents ticked off prob­lem loc­a­tions, crimes and dis­turb­ances, and some­times, ticked off each oth­er as they jock­eyed for chances to tell their stor­ies and of­fer their opin­ions.

Sev­er­al people who live around Worth and Or­tho­dox streets said there have been nu­mer­ous shoot­ings and oth­er crimes in their area.

There have been a lot of shoot­ings in that neigh­bor­hood, said Po­lice Sgt. Ed­ward Pis­arek, and there has been a spike in re­cent weeks. He said there is a war go­ing on between people who live on dif­fer­ent sides of Frank­ford Av­en­ue.

Oth­ers said they didn’t un­der­stand why prob­lem prop­er­ties can’t be shut down 

A res­id­ent of the 4600 block of Worth St. said shut­ter­ing il­leg­al hous­ing would put an end to some neigh­bor­hood crime.

Be­fore and after the ses­sion, Clay said he was gath­er­ing in­form­a­tion about what is leg­al and il­leg­al hous­ing so he can de­term­ine what kind of con­trols state le­gis­la­tion can put on the fa­cil­it­ies.

Clay said res­id­ents provided 27 ad­dresses of what they be­lieve to be prob­lem loc­a­tions.

“The people are not up­set by leg­al hous­ing,” he said. Le­gis­la­tion, he said, could leg­ally define and set up li­censes of re­cov­ery homes.

Neigh­bor­hood prob­lems with hous­ing for re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts is not just a loc­al is­sue, said Ro­land Lamb, dir­ect­or of the city’s Of­fice of Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices. “It’s around the United States.”

Fred Way, of the Phil­adelphia As­so­ci­ation of Re­cov­ery Res­id­ences, said re­cov­ery houses are not fun­ded by the state.

There are 18 state-fun­ded drug-re­hab­il­it­a­tion fa­cil­it­ies in the city, he said, and only two in Frank­ford.

“The rest are in­de­pend­ent and un­fun­ded homes,” he said. “We know where the bad homes are … but how do we close them?”

What is now leg­al can be defined broadly, res­id­ents learned at the meet­ing. There is no state or city li­cense for a so-called re­cov­ery home, they were told.

There is no li­cense spe­cific­ally is­sued for a fa­cil­ity that provides hous­ing for re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts, said Ral­ph DiPi­etro, op­er­a­tions dir­ect­or of the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions. “A hous­ing li­cense is the only one we have,” he said.

And, it’s the same li­cense for rent­ing a home or a condo in Cen­ter City, he ad­ded.

But there are lim­its on what is ren­ted leg­ally, he said. For ex­ample, he ex­plained, only three un­re­lated people may reside in a rent­al prop­erty. Any more, he said, and the prop­erty is in vi­ol­a­tion of the city’s zon­ing code.

Res­id­ents have com­plained that the op­er­at­ors of so-called re­cov­er­ing homes jam many more than three people in­to their fa­cil­it­ies. Prov­ing the vi­ol­a­tion, DiPi­etro said, is not easy. ••

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