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Potsdam halfway house planned for 2013


POTSDAM - Plans for a halfway house for women recovering from addiction are moving forward. Construction on the home will likely begin this year.

The idea for the home started when Carolyn M. White, former director of the chemical dependency unit at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, had a conversation with New Hope Community Church Pastor John T. Ault about the lack of options for local women leaving rehab programs.

“We started talking about the fact that there was very little place for our women patients to go after rehab in this area,” Ms. White said.

Most rehab programs last less than a month. This is not enough time to kick addiction, Ms. White said, especially if the patients do not have a stable home to go back to.

“If a woman goes back to an environment where there’s drinking and drug use and chaos it’s almost impossible to get better,” Ms. White said. “The cycle would never be broken.”

Halfway houses provide a way for rehab patients to further develop the skills they learned to end their addiction and restart their lives.

Ms. White and Mr. Ault formed New Hope Transformation Ministries, a nonprofit group dedicated to building a house for women recovering from addiction. The group received permission from the Potsdam Planning Board to construct the house on a vacant lot at 88 Market St.

Women will spend six to 12 months at the house, which will serve St. Lawrence and Franklin County residents. During this time they will be responsible for cleaning, cooking and looking after themselves, under the supervision of a full-time resident director who will live at the house. They will receive regular outpatient counseling, along with training on cooking, shopping, job searching tips and other life skills.

They will also study to take the General Educational Development exams and receive a diploma.

The program will be faith-based. Attending Bible studies and church services will be encouraged, but optional.

The home will house 12 women at a time. This is not enough to serve all the needs in the area, but making it larger would hamper the group’s ability to create a homey atmosphere and work one-on-one with residents, which is important to recovery according to Ms. White.

“I think if you get a house that’s more that 12 people you lose a whole lot,” she said.

Residents will also begin to seek employment and volunteer in the community. Several Potsdam business owners have already agreed to hire women who live at the home as interns or for entry-level jobs, according to Ms. White.

Once their stay is complete, New Hope Transformation Ministries will help residents find an appropriate place to live.

“We will use all of our pull and all of our resources within the community to help them find decent housing,” Ms. White said.

New Hope Transformation Ministry’s five-member board has nearly finished writing a grant application to the state’s Homeless Housing Assistance Program. The grant will give the group they funds they need to build the house.

They originally planned to apply for the grant before the end of 2012, but the village planning board took longer than they had anticipated to approve the project.

“The village planning board kind of dragged on and on, so by the time we finished that process and got ready to get it submitted the state was out of money for 2012,” Ms. White said.

The plan encountered fervent resistance from some village residents, who were worried about the possible negative effects that could accompany recovering drug addicts living on Potsdam’s busiest street.

Ms. White said the Homeless Housing Assistance Program will likely approve the request for funding, since it has already approved an early concept proposal for the house.

If the funding is approved, construction will begin this year.

Members of New Hope Transformation Ministries will hold regular meetings with the community and the police chief once the program begins in order to address any concerns caused by residents.

“I’m not saying that every woman that goes to a halfway house is cured,” Ms. White said.

But she added that the positive effects that can be brought about by programs like the one proposed for Potsdam can have profound effects.

“They make all the difference in the world,” she said.

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