HALLOWELL — A plan to bring a new recovery house for people with drug or alcohol addiction to Town Farm Road is drawing criticism from neighbors, but the person spearheading the effort plans to explain the concept Wednesday to the Planning Board.

Elaina George, a former nurse and recovering addict, has signed a lease to bring the program to 138 Town Farm Road. She said she initially looked in Augusta but couldn’t find a suitable property to rent.

George said the house will be associated with Oxford House Inc., a Maryland nonprofit organization founded in 1975 that provides the network connecting all Oxford Houses and allocates resources to duplicate the Oxford House concept.

“This is what we need (in the Augusta area),” said George, 33, by phone Monday. “Why can’t Augusta be known as a recovery community?”

She said the Augusta area has a significant, well-known drug problem and that these types of residences are important for recovery.

Hallowell resident Larry Davis plans to bring to the board’s attention his concerns, and those of others in the community, about the house and the residents who might live there. Davis built a house a short distance from the location and thought any proposal for a house of that nature should be subject to Planning Board approval. The Oxford House plan is not on the board’s formal agenda, but Davis and George both said Monday they are prepared to discuss it.


Davis said his main concern, and those echoed by neighbors he’s spoken to, is that Oxford Houses has no oversight or regulations. The Oxford House concept is that the house is self-run by its residents, who elect officers to serve for six-month terms.

“The organization paints a positive picture of itself, but I’ve seen articles where they’ve had problems in places like New Jersey,” Davis said. “There’s no oversight and the residents are actually transients, so they’ll be rotating throughout the year.”

An article on NorthJersey.com in 2014 said residents in Bergen and Passaic counties and across the state were concerned that Oxford Houses aren’t licensed or regulated by the state and don’t have to be.

George, who works as a case manager for a nonprofit organization, said she’d be at the meeting Wednesday to educate those who might oppose her plan. She said there’s a stringent interview process and the home won’t allow violent criminals or sex offenders. It’s a voluntary program, she said, so the people who choose to live there are bound by a set of principles with like-minded people.

“We are people who are accountable for our actions,” George said. “The people here are living within a program and living a positive lifestyle.”

Davis wondered if the house would have go through a review process before the Planning Board, but it doesn’t appear that any ordinances on the books would apply to this proposed residence. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people with a disability, or handicap, as defined by the act. The definition includes drug addiction and alcoholism, as long as the condition is not caused by current illegal use of a controlled substance.


George, who will celebrate one year of sobriety Aug. 10, said the house initially was going to be for women, but that plan was scrapped. There has been a lot of interest and a lot of applications, and residents not only have to stay clean and sober while paying their share of the monthly expenses, but also are required to either work, go to school or volunteer a minimum number of hours to remain in the house.

“(Oxford House) has an 80 percent success rate, which is unheard of in this community,” she said. National figures show that 16 to 17 percent of Oxford House residents relapse, and the organization has more than 2,000 houses and 16,000 beds nationally, according to its website.

One of Davis’ other concerns is that nobody from the Oxford House organization or anybody else involved in the project came around to ask neighbors their opinions or to let them know what was happening.

Paul Molloy, the CEO of Oxford House, said his organization deals with the “not in my backyard” mentality fairly often, but he said the Oxford House concept works.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate that a group of people recovering and living together greatly enhance their odds of continued recovery,” Molloy said.

There are 12 Oxford Houses across the state, including eight in the Portland area. The house on Sherman Street in Portland was destroyed in a fire in January, and Molloy said many of the displaced residents have been working to secure another house in Portland to replace the one that was lost.


Molloy confirmed Davis’ assertion that there is no oversight or screening process for Oxford House locations. Molloy said an applicant needs approval by at least 80 percent of the current residents to be admitted into the house, and residents can stay as long as they want if they remain clean and sober and pay their share of the monthly expenses.

George spent time in an Oxford House in Portland, and she still lives in the Portland area with a friend. She started a GoFundMe page in hope of raising $4,000 for the proposed Hallowell house. By midday Monday, she had received $947 in donations that would be used for furnishings such as beds, bureaus and night stands.

The Town Farm Road property is owned by Gary Violette, who declined to comment when reached by telephone Monday except to say that he supports any person trying to get help. He’ll be at Wednesday’s meeting for an unrelated matter, but he wouldn’t say if he would talk about the Oxford House project. The three-unit house was undergoing renovations to turn it into a single-family home when it caught fire in early January, sustaining about $60,000 in damage, mainly to the second-floor apartment where the fire started.

George hopes to have the first residents move into the house by Aug. 1. She said the home has new appliances, drywall and other upgrades, and she chose it because of its tranquility and the ability to get away from where the problems might be.

She said this won’t be the last Oxford House she builds in this community.

“I want to continually build these houses around Augusta so people have the opportunity to recover,” she said. “If not for this program, I wouldn’t be giving back to the community, I’d still be taking from it.”


The Planning Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The board is having a workshop with community planning expert Mark Eyerman about the Stevens School project before the regular meeting.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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