By Todd Travis
In the Carefree South Neighborhood, in an unincorporated area of Greenwood, a five-bedroom house was recently purchased to accommodate 11 recovering addicts. As neighbors are discovering this, some concerns are being raised regarding the nature of the arrangement. While the house was purchased by realtor, Scott Smith, the concept comes from an organization called Oxford House. According to their website, the “Oxford House is a concept in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. In its simplest form, an Oxford House describes a democratically run, self-supporting and drug free home.”
Neither Smith nor anyone from the Oxford House was willing to comment on the matter.
An ordinance debate
County Commissioner Ron West contacted the Oxford House regarding the situation. With 11 unrelated people residing in the house, it appeared to break an Indiana ordinance which only allows for three unrelated people to live in the same home. The response from the Oxford House stated that the ordinance may not exclude a residential facility for individuals who have a mental illness from a residential area solely because residents in the facility are not related. “Basically what he’s telling us is that people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction are protected under the fair housing act because they’re considered disabled,” West summarized. “We need to provide services and facilities for people and help them in that regard, but at the same time we have to consider the taxpayers trying to protect their property values, and to me, that’s where it gets a bit cumbersome.”
Todd Poynter is a resident near this newly inhabited home. As a pastor, he understands meeting the needs of people in recovery and has spent a great deal of his life dedicated to that very mission. “If you leave the struggle with addiction out of the conversation and look at it purely from the situation, if people started renting or subletting out their homes to a larger number of people than the homes were equipped to handle and that the neighborhoods were equipped to handle, you end up with parking situations and usage issues, among other problems. This is why we have zoning, and this is why we have restrictions,” Poynter explained.
A place that fosters helping people
“I give my life to helping people.” Poynter continued. “I’m not opposed to this idea – in fact, I’ve looked into ways to do something similar with some type of facility. The biggest issue I’ve had so far is the lack of transparency from the organization. I’ve reached out multiple times to the organization with no response,” he added. One of the things Poynter likes about being in the Johnson County area is that it is a place that fosters helping people. “Fundamentally, Johnson County is an area that wants to help people. I just want to be sure that this is something that is helpful for the people living in the house, but also keeping in mind the needs of the other residents in the neighborhood,” he concluded.
At this point in time, the Oxford House appears to be operating within legal guidelines and state ordinances. The neighbors in the area are raising concerns but there is yet to be any resolution for them from a legal standpoint. For more information about the Oxford House, you can visit their website: oxfordhouse.org.