The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 5, 2013

Transitional home to open

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — A transitional home for women coming out of alcohol and drug recovery programs will receive its first residents on March 1.

Opal House, across from Village Hall on East Jefferson Street, has been rented by Bridges to Discovery, a 501(c)(3) corporation. The group plans to use it for a 3/4 transitional home that will serve women from Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties. Cheryle McCourt, founder of Bridges to Discovery, said the home will house up to 16 women plus a house mother.

As the name implies, the residents will be unsupervised 75 percent of the time they live at the home. McCourt said the facility will fill a gap in drug and alcohol abuse treatment options. When recovering addicts leave half-way houses, they often have no other option but to return to familial situations where substance abuse is practiced. Or, because of the trail of destruction they’ve left behind, they don’t have any friends or family willing to open their home to them.

“They end up on the street or go back to living around others with drug and alcohol addictions and they relapse,” McCourt said.

While there are a few 3/4-houses that operate under the radar, they end up being little more than “flophouses,” McCourt said. As a result of having a family face the challenge of transition from addiction to recovery, McCourt became interested in addressing the need.

“I started getting involved with this because my daughter is a recovering heroin addict,” McCourt said. “In the past four years, she has lost eight friends to drugs.”

McCourt started Bridges to Discovery in 2011. Its initial activities were centered on life skills classes to help women write a resume, conduct a job search and become self sufficient. But the ultimate goal was to establish transitional housing.

“From the very beginning I wanted to have a transitional home, but we kept running into roadblocks,” she said. “People did not want this in their back yard.”

McCourt said her group found a welcoming, sympathetic community in Jefferson. An assisted living facility previously operated out of the nine-bedroom house they chose for Opal House. Village Administrator Terry Finger said its use was switched to a treatment center without giving the village proper notification, and that caused some issues.

He said the new use for the house has passed muster with the village and zoning department.

“This is not a treatment facility,” he said. “What is coming in there, we don’t expect to have any problems or difficulties with them.”

McCourt said the house’s name honors her daughter’s birthstone and the innate potential of each woman who will use the facility.

McCourt said residents will be assigned housekeeping duties and be responsible for meal preparation. They will be required to look for work, find a job and make deposits into a savings account. If they have lost their driving privileges, they will be required to work toward getting a license.

There will not be a time limit on how long they can stay, but they must demonstrate progress as long as they reside there.

Residents will be require to pay their own way; McCourt said the house will become  self-supporting at 70 percent occupancy.

In the meantime, the group needs to raise money to purchase appliances and household supplies. An open house is 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 24.

Bridges to Discovery is holding a “Jazz for Opal House” benefit fundraiser dinner, reverse raffle and Chinese auction March 24 at St. Denis Party Center, Chardon. The event will feature live jazz entertainment by Debbie Gifford and John Trzcinski. Doors open at 4 p.m. with dinner at 5 p.m. The $40 per person ticket includes entry for the main board prize of $500.