- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

YORK, Pa. (AP) - Addicts didn’t demolish their lives in one night, and they’re not going to get them back in one night, said Joe Grdich, 46, a house manager for Safe Haven Transitional Living on West Market Street.

People think quitting drugs and alcohol will make everything OK, he said, but it won’t.

“We need to wake up and make our beds because waking up with reckless abandon is not good for our disease,” he said.

Grdich’s house is among 81 in York aiming to give people a place to stay while trying to get sober. The houses have rules, but they are unregulated, making it impossible to determine their effectiveness.

Some people, like David Sunday, York County chief deputy prosecutor; Matthew Carey, executive director of the York Rescue Mission; and York County Judge John Kennedy acknowledge the homes are part of the recovery process but wonder if state regulation would help their accountability.

Others, like Fred Way of the Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences, say they are not intended to be treatment centers and should not be regulated as such. Way’s group certifies homes that meet certain criteria, including cleanliness and security. That certification is voluntary, and less than a quarter of homes in York have it. Several are pending approvals and even more have requested to participate in the certification process since February.

Inside these houses are people struggling for their lives as they attempt to learn or re-learn routines.

Starting from behind

Some people who live in the homes - like Rob Biles, 33, who lives in a Surrender Housing residence on Hamilton Avenue - say they can help. When you start using, you stop progressing psychologically, he said. When you’re using, the most important thing to you is using, he said. A 21-year-old who has been using since he was 13 is, developmentally, a 13-year-old.

Entering an environment where there are rules and structure teaches you things you didn’t learn when you were abusing drugs or alcohol, said Biles. These things, like showering, seem simple, he said. Living in a recovery house enables you to learn to do things like paying rent - typically no less than $100 per week - or doing laundry or dishes.

Even without regulations, some home owners in York say they are trying to do it right. Owners of eight of the businesses talked about their operations, but several owners and managers of recovery houses in York declined interview requests.

A house is typically a livable rental unit for anywhere from a few to more than 10 residents. Some are more rigorously structured than others.

People in recovery need to take responsibility for their lives, said Dave Dunkel, who operates 13 recovery homes in York known as Sees-the-Day. The homes give people time in a supportive environment, he said. Dunkel’s homes offer some freedoms others might not, he said.

Residents must sign in and out of homes, but where they go is up to them. While some houses require a buddy system for people leaving the house, Dunkel sees that as restrictive.

“Our goal is to get them integrated into the community,” Dunkel said. “Making mistakes - as long as they don’t use - is part of the recovery process and helps to develop emotional fortitude to face the ‘real world’ after they transition back into the community.”

Ray and Julie Hess, co-owners of Keep It Green, say they “micromanage” their 11 homes. Each one has a house president and chore coordinator.

If he suspects a home is getting out of control, Ray said he will move in for as long as he has to. A resident came home once to Ray cleaning the house and asked him what he was doing. “I’m part of this house,” he told the resident. “That house turned around real quick.”

Residents can be fined. Violations include losing a slip to prove attendance at a meeting or forgetting to sign out of a house, said Kathy Sorandes, who owns Choices Recovery House. A resident also could be fined for not doing a chore or not keeping her room clean.

Ranging between $5 and $20, fines at Choices are typically not issued until there have been several verbal and written warnings, Sorandes said. Choices, which operates three female houses and two male houses, will issue about 10 fines in a month, she said. Sometimes a month will go by without any fines.

In early recovery, people can get distracted easily, Sorandes said.

Keeping it together

A recovery home’s “program,” as it is advertised, aims to keep its residents in the home four about six months. That’s not a hard deadline, though. And there are second chances.

Tanner Doyle has been living at True North, a recovery house on West King Street operated by New Covenant Community Church.

The 24-year-old relapsed in November, smoking half of a blunt and taking cough and cold medicine before walking to visit a friend, he said. York City Police stopped Doyle on Salem Avenue and eventually found him to be intoxicated and in possession of marijuana. Those charges were withdrawn, court records show, and he was charged with disorderly conduct.

When the house manager, Frank Hawkins, picked him up from jail, Doyle told him he was entering an intensive outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program. He’s going to a lot of support meetings too, he said, having been to three more than the weekly minimum as of a Friday in February.

There has been an amazing change in his life in the three months since his last detox, Doyle said then. He pointed to a marker board with residents’ phone numbers listed on it in the house’s dining room. As of early February, his had been there about six months. At that point, he figured, it’s time to give someone else a chance to get out of jail, come to the house and start his life over.

Life can have its challenges in a recovery house beyond fighting addiction.

Many require intense job searches during normal business hours, which made Jon Sprow, 22, believe one house he stayed in was more concerned with money than recovery.

That house fined him three days in a row - $20 each time for not cleaning the bathroom properly, he allegeed. He would clean the main bathroom every morning, he said, but if someone had used it after he had left for the day, he was told it wasn’t cleaned to satisfaction.

Sprow left after about a month. He relapsed within hours. “I didn’t know what else to do,” he said.

Living in a recovery house is what you make it, said Sprow, who is going through York County’s treatment court program and living in a different recovery house. “If you want recovery, you can get recovery.”

Most houses outline a plan to integrate residents back into society, although there are addicts who will tour the city, going from one house to another as they struggle with their addiction, Sorandes said. If “recovery-house jumping” could be eliminated, York would be a better city.

The Hesses will take people back because the next time could be the time, Ray said. “I don’t know when a person will get sober,” he said. “I’m not God.”

Even after nearly 20 years of owning recovery homes in York, the married couple that met in recovery still get surprised. A guy he thinks can stay sober will relapse, Ray said. Or someone he thinks won’t make it will end up staying sober.

And Ray knows there are former residents who don’t like him. He wears that as a badge of honor, a recovery home “thank you,” he called it.

There is pain, though. No one has overdosed and died in the home, but the Hesses have lost people along the way. When asked what upsets him about running a recovery home, Ray excused himself from the kitchen of his South Belvidere Avenue property, which houses Keep It Green’s offices.

He composed himself as he returned to the kitchen. Burying people, he said, never gets any easier.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1oQUpMG

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Information from: York Daily Record, https://www.ydr.com

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