Mixed Emotions Surrounding ‘Sober Houses’ in Price City

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Two “sober houses” located within Price City limits are causing a stir with local residents while those in favor expect them to help local residents struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

Joseph M. White, executive director of the Foundation for Family Life/MentorWorks, has rented two local homes in Price in which he plans to house a number of local residents who are working toward sobriety. Similar sober houses can be found in Moab, Orem and two locations in Riverton.

“Utah MentorWorks’ (UMW) mission is to assist addicts/alcoholics and ex-offenders through trained mentors who help develop a workable ‘Success Plan’ for transition into mainstream society,” the entity’s mission states. “Their plan encourages goals, timelines and motivations for developing a life of success and productivity for themselves, their family and community. The plan also incorporates goals to ‘give back’ to UMW and the community. The ultimate objective is for UMW’s helping hand to become a hand-up, promoting self-reliance, self-worth and healthy family relationships.”

The houses, one for women and one for men, are located in residential neighborhoods, a point with which many residents have taken issue.

“I am just really concerned,” said Balynda Scovill, who lives next door to one of the sober houses. “My biggest concern is my kids. I have so many questions that I want to ask. What about my neighbors?”

Scovill organized a petition on which were gathered 91 signatures of neighbors. It was then submitted to Price City on Tuesday. The petition stated their desire to have their voices heard at a public meeting regarding the issue.

“….The good folks who live in that neighborhood do not want recovering drug addicts walking around so near to where their children will be attending school,” Jonathan Mangum said in a Facebook post on Monday. “I don’t blame them. The house is a great idea, only problem is it will upset any neighborhood that is chosen.”

Carbon County Commissioner Jake Mellor stated that White attempted to organize similar sober houses in Carbon County after he met with the previous Carbon County Commission. At the time, White could not find a suitable location due to the parameters set forth by the program. White renewed his search recently and found the two aforementioned houses, coincidently owned by Mellor, and began paperwork with Price City in hopes of alleviating some of the substance abuse issues within the county.

“We need help, but nobody wants it in their backyards,” Mellor said of the sober houses. “We are not trying to dirty a clean street, we are trying to clean up a dirty county.”

White said residents of the sober houses would be non-violent offenders. Sex offenders would not be accepted as well. House managers would live full-time with the residents.

“The greatest thing the program offers is help,” he said. “We provide the setting in which they can succeed.”

As to how many residents would be housed at each location, that number has yet to be set by the planning and zoning commission. Price City Building Development/Planning and Zoning Director Nick Tatton said the number would be based upon many factors. After gathering the appropriate information, Tatton will submit his proposal at the August 24 planning and zoning meeting before the Price City Council, who has final say in the matter, makes its decision during its meeting on August 26.

Price City has provided room 106 at Price City hall at 10 a.m. Thursday for a discussion between White and community members regarding the issue. Additional meetings will take place on Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. and at 10 a.m. Thursday, August 13 to accommodate those who cannot attend the first meeting.

For more information on the Foundation for Family Life, click here. Information on MentorWorks can be viewed here.

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