Tulsa city council hears concerns over group homes for recovering alcoholics and drug users

Tuesday, September 14th 2004, 10:55 am
By: News On 6

A south Tulsa neighborhood is upset over a new group home for alcoholics and drug users. It's in a home next door to them - and one could be next to just about anybody.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says it was news to the city council Tuesday, that a group called Oxford House has opened eight group homes in Tulsa over the last 3 years. All of them are in single family neighborhoods.

Sam Colgate is happy to show off where he lives. He lives in a house with nine other men, all recovering alcoholics or drug addicts. "It helps to come home to a nice home with a bunch of other men who have the same goals as you."

The house is in the middle of a neighborhood and outside it's impossible to tell it's a group home. For some of the neighbors - that's part of the problem. Neighbor Jerianne Showalter: “To have something happen like this without any notice is a real shock.” The home opened up near her house - and two blocks from a school. The neighbors didn't know it was coming.

The Oxford House is located in single family neighborhoods on purpose - they believe it helps the men lead a more normal life. But the neighbors worry about their property values and they want the city council to restrict where these houses can go in. The city council heard about the situation and found out there may not be much they can do about it all in the same meeting.

The group house has considerable protection under disability laws. Tulsa city legal advisor Mike Domig: "Somebody buys the house, Oxford House gets a lease on it and it's done and by the time the neighbors find out about it, it may be too late." But those neighbors want some restrictions - and they got a sympathetic response from the council.

The leaders of Oxford House think the neighbors misunderstand what they do. Paul Barranco with Oxford House: "And we move in quietly and operate quietly and the neighbors won't even know we're here." But the neighbors now know exactly where they are.