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ROGERS -- Carolyn Wallace and Sandra Warmack high-fived as a crowd in City Hall applauded.

The Planning Commission approved both women's requests for permits. It will allow two new transitional houses for women recovering from addiction. Brand New Mercies will be at 3006 S. B Street and Nicole's House will be at 118 N. Third Street.

2018 Planning Commission appointments

• Don Spann, chairman

• Eriks Zvers, vice chairman

• Dennis Ferguson, secretary

• Kevin Jensen

• Myra Moran

• Mark Myers

• Tony Noblin

• John Schmelzle

• Mike Shupe

Large Scale Committee

• Eriks Zvers, chairman

• Tony Noblin

• Mark Myers

• Mike Shupe

• Don Spann

Subdivision Committee

• Dennis Ferguson, chairman

• John Schmelzle

• Mike Shupe

• Don Spann

• Kevin Jensen

Density Review Committee

• John Schmelzle, chairman

• Kevin Jensen

• Myra Moran

• Tony Noblin

• Eriks Zvers

Board of Adjustment

• Juli Zimmerman, chairwoman

• Mandel Samuels, secretary

• Eriks Zvers, PC representative

• Hannah Cicioni

• Roger Clark

• Derek Eckelhoff

• Andrew Curry

Source: Staff Report

Brand New Mercies will house three women and their children on one side of a duplex with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Carolyn Wallace said the home will be for women coming out of drug court, women who face addiction and need a place to nurture their children.

Wallace started similar transitional homes in California previously.

"They'll never be alone, they'll always be with a staff member," Wallace said.

The 12-month program will provide transportation and test the residents for drug use once a week. A staff report before to the meeting didn't support the decision to grant a permit. Several residents showed up to the meeting in support.

Mary Haynes, who works with women in the Benton County jail system, was among them.

"They don't have somewhere to go that's safe, and they end up back in jail," Haynes said. "I've seen a trend recently, a strong desire from these women to get sober. There's not enough of these (facilities) in the area."

Resident Marcia Moore said her daughter struggled with addiction.

"These women have nowhere to go," Moore said. "They're not ready. They're not strong enough yet. They have to move to get a clean break from that."

Moore said some women of the facility will benefit from the program by becoming productive people.

Charlene Fields, executive director of Souls Harbor on Second Street, described her journey as a two-year resident of a transitional home that at the time was the only one in the area serving women and children. Fields said as a result she's four and a half years sober, employed and involved in the parent-teacher organization at her child's school.

"This is a need, it's an underserved population," Fields said. "I was in the Benton County (jail system) 15 or 20 times."

Fields said it's clearly a need for men, too. Souls Harbor has 20 residents, and 18 on its waiting list.

Jon Comstock, a former circuit judge, also spoke in favor of the transitional home. Comstock volunteered his time with the population and asked what they needed most.

"They told me 'a place to live while in transition and a way to get engaged with the community,'" Comstock said. "The state is looking to the communities to figure this out."

Comstock said a similar transitional house is in the works. Returning Home will be the first licensed facility in Northwest Arkansas and house 50 men, he said. It plans to open in spring 2018.

"We talk a lot about quality of life, but having a population in need impacts you and me," Comstock said. He urged commissioners to grant the permit to benefit these women and families.

Though the staff recommendation was initially against the project because a mismatch of land use, John McCurdy, director of community development, said the support shown for the project was overwhelming.

"Staff is in favor of this, the work that this organization is doing is outstanding," McCurdy said. "Our only concern was from a land use perspective that it didn't make sense in a dense duplex neighborhood."

One advantage to the location of Brand New Mercies is it's only a block from a major arterial street, he said. Ideally, McCurdy said he would like to see this kind of development in commercial or industrial zones, but he found it noteworthy no one spoke up against the transitional house.

Commissioner John Schmelzle said the small base of residents expected for the house makes more sense for a residential area.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," Schmelzle said.

Commissioner Tony Noblin endorsed the project, too.

"As a former policeman, I can speak from experience that folks need to get away. They'll never find a good path if they don't," Noblin said. "It's important to have structure, and this is a good answer to that."

Nicole's House will also be a women's addiction program lasting 12 months. Women must be sober three days to enter, said Sandra Warmack, its director. The recovery program will house no more than seven women in a building that's 3,034 square feet. It will have a licensed social worker, three life coaches and a house manager, she said. Residents will receive life skills and each will have both a mentor and a sponsor. The location is convenient to public transportation.

Resident Mike Evans said drug abuse and poverty are ongoing issues even for Rogers and the effects are devastating.

"I've seen it and seen what happened when they receive loving support," Evans said.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of both transitional houses receiving permits.

NW News on 12/20/2017

Print Headline: Commission green-lights home for recovering addicts

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