There’s something rotten in the city of Plano, TX.
The neighborhood around Bentley Place, a transitional living home for men in long-term recovery from substance use disorders, stinks with NIMBY–Not In My Back Yard. Worse, city officials are breaking laws of decency and humanity instead of enforcing them as they turn their collective heads and close their small minds.
The owner of Bentley Place, Michelle Adams, its residents, and their landlord are under attack.
Neighbors have made false allegations of drug deals. City officials have harassed neighbors by going door-to-door at all hours gathering information about so-called wrongdoings. Police are following up on complaints when cars are not parked the exact distance from a curb.
The Narcotics Division even paid a visit to the house (no drugs on the property!) and, finally, there has been the threat of a lawsuit against the landlord.
Why? Because neighbors, and apparently the city of Plano, are misinformed about people in long-term recovery. For the moment at least, they would rather intimidate and discriminate than receive education about how recovery works.
Michelle hopes to quietly change their perceptions. She wants to make a difference in the neighborhood; she’s all about education, information and collaboration. Michelle wants folks to know that people with substance use disorders can and do lead lives in recovery on par with the daily lives of Bentley Place neighbors–but they need help getting there.
Federal fair housing laws
At Bentley Place, and hundreds of other recovery houses across the country–people in recovery regain their lives under protection afforded by federal fair housing laws. These residents meet house expectations that they’ll get jobs, tend to their chosen recovery path, share household duties and above all, maintain their recovery.
Michelle, herself in long-term recovery, knows first-hand what it’s like to feel the unsavory weight of discrimination. When she left prison after serving 13 months for three felony drug charges, she couldn’t get an apartment in her name.
“I decided at that point I never wanted to see another woman with the look in her eyes that I had,” Michelle said.
It wasn’t long before she opened her first recovery residence–Recovery Inn for women–in 2008.
Ironically, she had help from the Small Business Development Center in Plano. Michelle also brokered a mentoring arrangement between her residents and students and professors of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and with members of St. Andrew United Methodist Church, also located in Plano.
Organizing peaceful support
Michelle has no interest in retaliation against her Plano neighbors. Instead, she and Young People in Recovery-Texas, will hold a large-scale vigil this Saturday in support of all recovery residences dealing with discrimination and harassment from the communities charged by federal mandate to protect them.
“This organization of support isn’t to combat the city or the neighbors–it’s to educate and inform,” says Robert Ashford, chapter lead and board member Young People in Recovery. “Protesting is often about anger and violence; rallying for recovery is something different, something more. We are lending our voices to those who need to be empowered, joining with them to educate those who seem to be heartily misinformed about what recovery is, and what it looks like.”
In addition to the local event, satellite locations will set up in San Antonio, Lubbock, Houston, and Austin. This case will be watched closely by recovery advocates across the country.
Why should you care?
You should care about Bentley Place because its mistreatment symbolizes the agony of discrimination felt by people in recovery every time they can’t get a job or insurance–or a place to live.
Society–including neighborhoods and cities–should see to it that its citizens get every ounce of support they need. People in transitional recovery homes are our sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, siblings, coworkers, pew mates and fellow Rotarians.
Would we treat the people within the walls of our home the way the folks at Bentley Place are being treated? Of course not. So let’s extend a hand of compassion and an arm of support.
As Michelle says, “Let’s all row our boats in the same direction.”
If you’re local to Dallas/Ft. Worth, come out on Saturday night to 4021 Carmichael Dr., Plano TX 75024, at 7 p.m. Don’t come early because from 5-7, Michelle and her staff will open their doors to neighbors who do want to learn about recovery or at least get a free cup of coffee and a cookie.
If you can’t be with us in person, please consider supporting the cause on social media using the hashtag #RightsForRecovery.
See you Saturday night!