Safe Haven Has Helped Hundreds of People in Sobriety

From: Safe Haven Sober Houses
Published: Wed Apr 11 2007

"Since coming to Safe Haven I have learned responsibility and a new way and understanding of living."

A 19 year-old in recovery from addiction recently wrote these words to Dave Perry, Executive Director of Safe Haven Sober Houses based in Roxbury (Mass.), which in a short time has become one of the largest sober housing communities of its kind in the state. The teen is just one of several hundred men who have come to Safe Haven to begin to turn their lives around.

As the program recently marked its one-year anniversary, Perry describes his vision: "We’re a haven for sober people of all ages who want to live in a drug and alcohol free environment. Some of our residents have been in recovery for six to twelve months before they come to us. Others are fairly new to recovery. Often, their own families have tossed them out and even friends have given up on them. They have nowhere else to turn but to the streets and to shelters. Whether new to sober living or well-established in recovery, our residents look to us to provide a clean, safe, drug and alcohol-free environment in which to live.

Safe Haven occupies 11 townhouses in Roxbury with 120 beds. Perry lives on the site alongside his residents, working, on average, 16 hours daily. Helping others to recover is his passion.

Rent is $ 20.00 per day, though it’s not uncommon for residents to be accepted based on their promise of finding a job, getting caught up with their rent and continuing to pursue their recovery. Those further along set fine examples to the newcomers who see them get up for work each day, shop for food and live as a supportive family unit in these single-family residences. Safe Haven’s slogan sums up its goal: ‘Recovery Homes for Sober Living.’

Besides self-referrals, detox and holding facilities, half-way houses and probation officers from across the state regularly make referrals to Safe Haven due to the program’s reputation and many success stories. Residents come to Safe Haven to live independently among other recovering people.

Perry says Massachusetts is in the midst of a drug crisis. As recently as 2004, the state ranked among the top five for the highest rates of drug and alcohol use. And while drug use has become increasingly rampant, access to treatment facilities and services in Massachusetts has declined. He notes, "Treatment doesn’t only help the addicted person, but benefits all of us. Greater access to treatment facilities and sober houses such as Safe Haven means fewer addicts running lost in our communities. This reduces criminal activity, making our communities safer and saving our taxpayers money. The sober house is where recovering people find a safe and supportive living environment after they have been medically treated and while they pursue their recovery.

The National Institutes of Health reports that addiction affects over 23 million Americans - of whom only about 10 percent are receiving the help they need. With nearly one in ten Americans over the age of 12 classified with substance abuse or drug or alcohol dependency, addiction is taking an emotional, psychological, and financial toll on the country. The cost of substance abuse and addiction is estimated to exceed a half trillion dollars annually in the United States in health care, lost productivity, earnings and law enforcement costs.

"We provide safe, structured housing in a clean, sober environment," says Perry, himself a recovering addict. "We provide support and direction for residents who want to stay sober and rebuild their lives. The fact that I’ve been there helps me understand where these folks are in their recoveries. While Safe Haven itself provides no treatment, most residents are active in recovery attending meetings and receiving professional help and counseling outside of the residence as needed.

"I went from a broken child to a kind and loving man," summarized a former resident.

Each townhouse has two leaders (also in recovery) who supervise the property and assist their fellow residents. Everyone must observe a curfew and be drug tested three times a week.

Perry says, "Being in a new environment living amongst their peers helps people start fresh, separates individuals from their past memories and empowers them to take control over their lives."

Perry notes, "Although many addicts feel as though they can conquer their drug or alcohol addiction on their own, statistics show that without the help and direction of other recovering addicts, their ability to stay sober is greatly diminished."

In recent months, some Safe Haven neighbors have criticized Perry and Safe Haven, perhaps out of a "not in my backyard" philosophy. "It is human nature to be frightened by the unknown," he says. "Many people are initially alarmed by the prospect of a sober house opening in their neighborhood, and often oppose it. But if those people could witness the real miracles occurring daily, many of those neighbors would gain a greater understanding and compassion for the work we are doing at Safe Haven. Our residents are human beings who are serious about changing their lives. They want to be independent, productive members of society. In fact, many who were once lost in their addictions have since become role models and mentors in sobriety."

Some neighbors have raised zoning and regulatory issues. Perry notes that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exempts the disabled (including recovering alcoholics and addicts) from certain zoning requirements, and state and federal law prohibits interference in living arrangements of disabled persons. He says, "Safe Haven residents are expected to work and pay their own rent. They’re responsible for their own behavior. They’re free to live as their recovery and spirit dictate."

Dave Perry sums up his crusade: "Safe Haven enables those recovering from addiction to live in comfortable, affordable housing while benefiting from the peer support of others in recovery. For those who care to take advantage of it, we’re filling a need – one success story at a time."

"Every time I go home to see my family, I can see the happiness in their eyes because they can see the change in me from five months ago," notes a former resident.

For more information, contact Dave Perry: 781-727-9147.

Company: Safe Haven Sober Houses
Contact Name: Dave Perry
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 781-727-9147

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