Apparent Miscommunication Leads to Displacement of Certain Parolees in Huntington Recovery Homes

Updated 1 year ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Apparent Miscommunication Leads to Displacement of Certain Parolees in Huntington Recovery Homes
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Word spread quickly through social media that a number of parolees in Huntington recovery houses had been informed the city had allegedly "rezoned" where parolees can live. 

Some of those mystified by the abrupt notices spoke to Huntington City Council. But council members like Carol Polan responded , "I don't have a clue what's happening."

Mayor Williams told HNN after the meeting, "We knew nothing about the issue until we heard that city council members had been told a crowd was coming."


However, after listening to the complaints, Mayor Steve Williams and City Attorney Scott Damron believe it relates to a miscommunication regarding an unlicensed "halfway house" and a recovery "sober living" house. "Evidently they are moving these parolees to other facilities. We issued no orders."

In May, the city sued over an unlicensed halfway facility on Tenth Avenue. 

A halfway house is defined as a facility where former prisoners readjust to life after their release from prison. A sober living facility provides an environment where those in recovery are assisted in remaining free of substance abuse.

A halfway house is zone R5 and requires a special permit. A sober living facility can be located in any residential neighborhood as long as the operator has a business license. 

Williams explained that "sober houses because of the ADA do not have to meet zoning requirements."  When city officials complained about the unlicensed facility apparently run by former inmates, the Department of Corrections agreed to remove former inmates from that one Tenth Avenue facility. 

City attorney Damron said during the meeting that he has not spoken to DOC since the discussion over the errant halfway house. 

"I'm not aware anyone been asked to leave. It would be an action of Department  of Corrections. We have no intention to ask recovering addict to be removed from a sober living house. We only discussed halfway houses, not recovery residences.   Half way is moving in before released back to society. We're not aware of any other (halfway) houses in the area [that is] not zoned," Damron said. 

Mike Basler, who operates a recovery home in Huntington, told council members that "three people in the home were moved today (June 11) by DOC due to zoning issues. "Everyone is currently working ... and its very unfair that the city is attacking... those that have gotten their life in order. "

David Williams, an addictions counselor, said "we need a recovery bridge," noting HBO's designation of "heroin capital of the U.S." and last year's  win for "America's Best Community." On Saturday, June 9, the city received a livability award from the Conference of Mayor's for development of its Quick Response Team to the opioid crisis.

Williams asked that everyone work together in "helping these people fighting the odds to come back." One man kicked out of a recovery facility immediately relapsed  once he had no monitoring, Williams said. 

Parolee John Frederick Arnold delivered an impassioned plea that he "did my time" (27 months in prison) and "now I'm asked to leave," adding that he has lost family and friends to overdoses.

Arnold told how he wrote his first song, enjoyed his first kiss, and saw "Star Wars" the first time in Huntington. Admitting "I've been an addict," he stressed "this is the first time I've truly lived and now its being taken away. This is not how to combat (the drug epidemic) by asking parolees to leave... you have to rethink (this). There are souls involved... my heart's broken."

 Justin Ponton, 34,  runs the Newness of Life recovery home on Ninth Avenue. He spoke to Damron following the council meeting.

"He assured me everything would be settled tomorrow (Tuesday, June 12) and we can keep our parolees."

Ponton referred to the "confusion" between halfway houses and recovery homes. 

"The only thing I for certain know is Scott Damron assure me that Newness Of Life was good.  Hopefully, it is resolved."

Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, told the Herald Dispatch he was unaware of "notices sent to recovery homes in Huntington." 

He did tell the newspaper that DOC parole services had made an effort to ensure that all homes in Huntington with parolees had "proper certification." 

Messina issued a statement that "Parolees can live together as long as that does not violate the terms and conditions of their parole, and such an arrangement would not in and of itself require a special license or permit."






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