SPARTA, NJ – A parent in Sparta received a scary call from their middle-aged child that someone was knocking on the door asking to enter. The child was so scared of “the man in the hoodie” that the child and a friend “hid under the stairs while waiting for the police to arrive.”
By the time the police arrived at the scene, the man was gone.
The parent had an idea of who it was. They had seen “men in hooded sweatshirts” walking around the area, going from one house on Glen Road to another on Stonebridge Road.
These two houses and others on Angelo Drive and Westgate Drive are “sober living houses”. The parent said that in an attempt to reduce the child’s fear, he went to one of the houses to meet with the residents, but was turned away by the director of the house.
“I understand, I understand,” said the operator of Riverbend Residence. “There is no threat. These people put all their heart and soul into staying sober. The person they have to worry about is the kid in their neighborhood who keeps getting high. “
The operator declined to be named because he said he and his family had been harassed, to the point of “filing a no-trespassing order with the police”, although the Sparta Township Police Department stated that was not the case.
In an interview with TAPinto Sparta, the operator said sober apartment houses would be “out of all residential areas by the end of the year”. He said he would “break his leases at great expense” to move residents from sober homes elsewhere.
A recent court case in Morristown sheds light on one aspect of the conflict between a municipality and low-cost or “class F” housing. In January, Morristown Municipal Judge William Pinillis found that a sober residence was operating without the required approvals.
Tranquility Estates was fined approximately $ 25,000, or $ 100 per day retroactively to the previous May, for managing a boarding house in a neighborhood zoned for single-family homes.
Sparta has four similar homes operated in a residential area operated by Riverbend Residence.
Several people living near the sober houses have told stories of “men in hoodies wandering the neighborhood” as they come and go between houses that are close together.
The operator said residents cannot “leave without being accompanied by staff.” They are also not allowed to receive visitors, he said. This does not seem to be the case.
The parent who spoke with the manager of the house was told that “residents are not allowed to drive but they can walk between the two houses”.
The operator said a typical day for residents is to “leave for treatment from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., come back, shower and eat then go to a 12-step meeting, go home to go to sleep”.
The residents there are “100% voluntarily”, there are no residents mandated by the court. Some are from the region and some are not, he said.
“No one can go but if someone wants to go [the program] they are taken back to a former residence or to an emergency contact, ”he said.
The operator said: “All residents have been removed from drugs and alcohol for 45 to 60 days. It’s totally follow-up, no withdrawal or detox.
The OPRA’s request for police calls to residences shows that many were “medical” calls. The operator said seizures can be part of the detoxification process. He explained that people can suffer from serious medical problems from alcohol withdrawal and the use of anxiety medications, including grand mal seizures and even death.
State laws allow drug and alcohol testing on residents. The operator of the Sparta homes said there were “random tests done three or four times a week.”
“Class F” accommodation is established by the New Jersey Consumer Division or DCA. The rules governing “sober living cooperative residences” establish the classification of dwellings with licensing requirements as well as exemptions from other parts of the “rooming and boarding houses” sections of the DCA statutes.
Subchapter 2 of NJAC 5: 27-2.1 requires in part:
The management provides a member of staff who must reside in the residence and exercise a certain level of control over the operation of the residence and establish the rules of the residence,
The occupancy should not exceed 10, not including the staff member,
Requires the maintenance of an environment free of alcohol and drugs,
The management does not provide on-site counseling, therapy or treatment,
The management does not provide food, laundry, financial or other personal services,
Allows the license holder to provide non-clinical recovery and support services,
Allows the licensee to require drug or alcohol testing of residents
The operator of Riverbend Residences in Sparta said: “I think we have every right to be there. We are protected by the Housing and Urban Development Act and Americans with Disabilities. He said: “We followed all DCA rules.”
He also said he had operated for four years in Sparta “without incident; no criminal mischief, no unsightly complaints in the yard.
A Spartan resident said he often saw “strange cars with New York license plates” parked at the end of Milton Road, for hours, near the sober Glen Road house. They saw people in hoodies crossing the road from the Glen Road house running to the car, bending over and then walking back to the house. “It’s so obvious what’s going on.”
An concerned resident once spoke to a woman in the car; “I’ve seen you here for a while, do you need help? The woman said no and replied that she was “just selling plants.”
People reside in sober houses in Sparta typically for 30 days, depending on the operator no more than 90 days. He said there have been some who have been there for two weeks “to get a good foundation” but have to leave to return to work. He said there are people from all types of professions, from accountants to plumbers.
The operator said he was “sober for 10 years, happily married with three children.” He said he went through a similar program and “it saved my life.”
“I’m not looking for conflict,” he said. “I try to render a service, I try to be harmonious.
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