OXFORD, Maine — A religious group’s proposal to turn an old church into a men’s home for recovering addicts in Oxford is facing a lot of opposition from people who live nearby.
Deb Wiles has spent decades on the quiet block.
“This is a neighborhood of families,” she said. She’d like to keep it that way.
“I don’t want drug addicts and alcoholics in this neighborhood,” said Wiles. “I just don’t.”
Wiles is one of several people concerned about a proposal to turn the former Assembly of God Church on Coldwater Brook Road into a men’s home for recovering addicts.
Work has already begun on the project backed by the faith-based organization City Reach Oxford Hills.
Pastor Roland Laliberty said he and his wife want to offer a resource for those struggling with issues like addiction, alcoholism and depression. He said six to eight men would live in the house alongside a mentor. They can stay up to nine months for free.
“All the days are well planned out and we use a curriculum,” said Laliberty. “We get them out in the community.”
The home would require community service and hand out ministry instead of medication.
“I support the concept, but not in my backyard,” said Wiles.
She and her neighbors share a long list of concerns. They worry the men will attract drug dealers and decrease the value of their homes.
“Our property is going to be worthless,” said Wiles.
Laliberty has been going door-to-door telling them otherwise.
“We do background checks,” he said. “We don’t allow sex predators or people who have domestic assaults.”
Under the town ordinance, the land is zoned for residential use. If the group home is considered to be an “addiction treatment facility,” it won’t be allowed in the zone. If it’s considered a church, that’s no problem. The decision is ultimately up to the planning board.
“I’m just really excited to see how this turns out and I really believe this is going to be very beneficial to the community,” said Laliberty.
The issue will be heard by the board on June 11 and the town code enforcement officer said a public hearing is likely to be scheduled for July.