Thu. Oct 29th, 2020

Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – August 14, 2017 – It appears that Del Norte Counties Department of Health and Human Services in now fully invested in the enabling business with the recent authorization of the contract which along with the one for Oxford House Beachside has now perverted the most basic tenant of the Oxford House Program, that of self funding.  Thus, we now in Crescent City, have two residences that are Oxford Houses in name only.  Whether or not that’s a bad thing only time will tell, but in other instances of houses that remain in the Oxford House system, the success rate in very much affected.

When houses that are formed by referrals from local public agencies, quite often the vetting process is not what it should be for one thing.   In a typical Oxford House which adheres to the program where prospective residents are vetted by those in the house and must receive 80% acceptance to become a new resident there is an application process which each prospective new resident goes through before being voted upon.   In addition, new residents must have their own means of support though a job or some sort of pension.  Having the local Health and Human Services pay your rent and support your life style is generally not an acceptable prospect for admission to a house.  Because the house depends on interdependence for successful results, they want residents to have more of a stake in their return to normal society, rather than this form of enabling that is happening here locally when Health and Human Services intervenes in the Oxford House Program by referral and monetary support.

While I am not saying it won’t work for some residents, it is often a recipe for disaster for others.  In the closed society of an Oxford House abuses very  rarely come to light.  Oversight can become an after thought and outside reporting very seldom gets the whole story of what is happening within the walls of the residence itself.   Conflicting personalities, theft, and relapses regularly go unreported.  Groups can form within a house that dictate what happens and residents can be evicted with very little warning. Without the structure of a licensing agency, and a professional staff , or failure to follow the Oxford House program, no amount of program coordinators which quite often live miles away, can insure that the house is as effective as the residents might report.  It would be most certainly not the case that residents would have the luxury of attending a Board of Supervisors meeting en mass as most would be working.   This was particularly troubling at the recent Board meeting where the contract was approved.

As far as the houses being exposed to the public, that was probably a good thing as now there will be no reason for Director Snow to make excuses if the houses become problematic and her contracts become a negative in the proper operation of the local houses.  Her interference and the Board’s approval of the contracts hopefully will not come back to haunt either party, but history already has said otherwise in many other cases.  There are currently several States who are investigating Oxford Houses within their respective jurisdictions for a variety of less than savory reasons.  Hopefully that will not become the case here in Del Norte County.

It is truly unfortunate that we have in this County an unreliable print newspaper, The Triplicate, which along with its editor, Robin Fornoff, which cannot control his immaturity long enough to be at least less than completely one sided when clearly a potential issue exists locally.  The exposure of the Oxford House and its connection to Health and Human Services is another in a long line of editorials and narratives produced by Robin Fornoff and Tony Reed which ill serve our community and confuse the issues.  I understand that Editor Fornoff has a peculiar sense of his own importance in this community, and does not appear to recognize that his appallingly misguided editorials are not something civil, mature adults of any stripe engage in.   He doesn’t seem to be able control his animus towards Supervisor Gitlin in any rational way, and continues to manufacture issues regarding the Supervisor like some gleeful three year old.  In doing so, Editor Fornoff has completely misrepresented the Oxford House concerns raised by quite a number of locals in favor of highlighting the misinformed angst of Sunny Valero and Pat Black. The issue is simply that neither of the Crescent City Oxford Houses are being operated in the manner that has been successful in the Oxford House Program.  That should be a concern for both the Board of Supervisors and the Triplicate before the contracts with HHS were approved, and it does not appear to be the case.  In fact in all of the Triplicate’s reporting and editorials as well, there is no mention of the three things that are crucial to the proper operation of an Oxford House.  Instead the focus is on the feelings of those that occupy the houses and not their welfare. It is truly a shame that those that represent us and those that constitute the print media cannot expend the effort to understand what constitutes an Oxford House that follows the Oxford House Program. Neither of ours follow that program and as a result are Oxford Houses in name only.

14 thoughts on “Oxford House in Name Only”
  1. So many of your “facts” here are incorrect. If you had done better research or asked questions you would know that people in Oxford Houses all over the country get assistance with their first couple months EES. Be it from ATR (Access To Recovery) or parole and probation. Many times members come into Oxford directly out of prison or treatment and need a little help getting on their feet. Instead of bashing these people who are trying to get their lives together, how about encouraging them on jobs well done. I assure you that the Oxford Houses in Crescent City are ran very much according to the Oxford model. Please just leave them alone.

    1. So Jesse what “facts” are incorrect? I see no where in the Oxford House Program Manual that public assistance is an accepted practice. I don’t see any where people who currently reside at either Oxford Houses “being bashed” in this piece, simply questioning the advisability of DHHS being involved, and the issue with taxpayer dollers being spent in a program that works best without that part of what you say is common practice. Assurances are like a cheap suit, where quite often they do not fit.

    2. Sorry, Jessie, your facts are incorrect. I did research the matter. Here’s the true facts.

      Oxford House in Maryland loans money to those residents who cannot pay up front for move in deposits and costs. These loans must be paid off over 24 months. The Oxford model stresses self-sufficiency which is maintained by requiring repayment. That’s Oxford House’s rules from the Maryland non-profit corporation.

      In Del Norte County, however, the contract agreed between Del Norte County and local Oxford House residents is to GIVE them those move-in costs without any requirement of repayment. The way the contract gets out of repayment is the residents are paid for “services”. The really bizarre part is that the “services” rendered by the residents in exchange for County money is simply existing as a resident. And it’s up to the residents to decide when they feel they need that money. That’s the oddest ‘service’ I’ve ever heard of, but that’s how the contract reads. This is not only directly contrary to the Oxford model but may have transitioned a non-profit model into a for-profit entity which may violate the 501(c)(3) non-profit status of Oxford House in Maryland. And the amount the County has agreed to pay, in the case of local Oxford House Sequoia, is $26,000 which is enough to pay all residents’ rent for the entire year. And there is no time limit to how long a resident may stay.

      I believe in the Oxford House model and I have seen their great success rate. I do not approve of the local contract which has undermined the good Oxford model.

      So far everyone involved has denied writing and proposing the contract for services. That alone tells me something’s wrong.

      1. Wes, what Jesse doesn’t realize is that it is because of a recent push by public agencies such as our own Health and Human Services, and various other mental health departments in other parts of the Country to inject their presence and funding into established Oxford Houses that the program breaks down. Most of the Oxford Houses that are disbanded or are under investigation, are so because of the sort of interference that DHHS has recently inflicted on the local houses. The only way that Oxford Houses have established their relatively high rate of success is if the proposed occupants pay their own way. They then have a so called “sweat equity” which is missing if DHHS pays their way period. If Jesse can’t see the difference, then I can’t help him. The “facts” clearly show that this will become a burden for the local house, not the benefit claimed by Ms. Snow. I can’t understand why she is so willing to tamper with a proven system. Oxford Houses work when government refrains from any involvement; therefore, I repeat, our local houses are Oxford Houses in name only.

  2. Strait said, “In the closed society of an Oxford House abuses very rarely come to light. Oversight can become an after thought and outside reporting very seldom gets the whole story of what is happening within the walls of the residence itself. Conflicting personalities, theft, and relapses regularly go unreported.”

    Comfortably going out on a limb without a net beneath, I also interject that most, if not all, Oxford residents are there because their only other choice was jail or prison.

    Without the presence of a live in, professional, objective drug and alcohol counselor keeping close tabs on the resident probationers is tantamount to a full platoon of Gomer Pyle types going through Marine Corps boot camp without the oversight of a drill sergeant.

  3. Every time Roger does something, anything, they are like “that is sexist”, “that is racist”, “that is a violation of some act or something”, “don’t press that button”,”that is not how that works”,”wait the electric is still on”, “that is a conflict of interest”, “don’t touch that” or “stop, get out of my house”. Well guess what. WE ELECTED HIM. WE SHOWED UP, VOTED AND HE IS REPRESENTING THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR HIM, GET OVER IT OR LEAVE DEL NORTE!

    1. Your nickname is full of fail, but your words are full of win. Mr Gitlin sure catches a lot of flack with no good reason. He listens to his constituents no matter how rich or poor they are, no matter their political position or their affiliations or even that they are a convicted criminal with a terrible lifelong label. He is very honorable man. To underscore how awesome Roger is, I want to share my own personal quick story of how I met him and what it means to me.

      When Roger was running for office, somewhere in 2010-2011 if I remember right, I had a chance meeting with him randomly at a local coffee shop. We began talking, he generously paid for my coffee and we sat down and talked. He gave me his ears and his attention as I spoke about my troubles with the Sheriff Department, particularly relating to the effects of an internet posting about me by the then Sheriff, Dean Wilson. See https://www.crescentcitytimes.com/guilty-until-proven-innocent/.

      Before the conversation got too far, I told him about my sex offender conviction and that it was probably not good that he be seen publicly talking with me while running for official duty as this can be political suicide if his opponents found out. He didn’t care about that but rather he wanted to hear what I had to say.

      Roger LISTENS to his constituents no matter their background, their financial status, their political status or their affiliations. Even after all these years, despite the turmoil he continues to face from opponents, he continues to fight for his constituents and continues to work hard to defend people’s rights and constitutional protections.

      Meanwhile, my friend Gini had her microphone cut by our then Mayor Kathryn Murray. See https://www.crescentcitytimes.com/constitutional-rights-obliterated-by-mayor-kathryn-murray/.

      I think it was this year or the end of last year that Roger spoke up about free speech, I saw the video on this website. I can’t find it now, maybe the editor of this website can help locate that and link to that page.

      Roger, if you are reading this, I want to say again, THANK YOU.

        1. Time for Dick Payne to quit the day job and become a Facebook comedian. Or maybe get a job with the Trip. Same difference.

        2. Let this serve as a warning:

          The last two people who thought they could hide behind VPN proxies and anonymous names online found themselves having their entire lives ruined by me simply tracking down the identity of the people who targeted me and others for online harassment.

          I exposed two people who went through a great deal to hide their identities online. They should have taken the time to understand that when they picked on me, they were picking on someone who was banished from computers for 4 years in high school and has a very lengthy record in cybersecurity work. I published the guys’ names and contact information online on http://offendextortion.com, which in turn caused lawsuits to start moving forward.

          In fact, my work resulted in the following events covered nationally.

          http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/29/us/internet-extortion/index.html

          http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2016/06/29/phoenix-website-owners-attorney-denies-harassment-claims-federal-court-trial/86313212/

          https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/consumers/2016/07/01/jury-verdict-against-sex-offender-websites-owner/86583120/

          As well as many other news sources including the Washington Post and The Sacramento Bee.

          So I’m going to make a small little suggestion: Stop with your jabs at me, or you will find yourself charged with section 290.

          While i’m not a lawyer, I happen to be well connected with Janice Bellucci, one of our country’s top civil rights attorney’s. I have her personal cellphone on speed dial should I need it.

          I recently moved to Santa Cruz County, which aggressively investigates instances where sex offenders are harassed. The outcome won’t be nice, since the California Penal Code is quite clear on what you can’t do with my information:

          A member of the public may not use the information they obtain by any means in accordance with the law to commit any crimes. Criminal misuse of this information subjects the person who misuses it to a sentence enhancement, in addition to the punishment for the crime committed. Civil misuse of this information may subject the person to civil damages and penalties pursuant to California Penal Code Section 290.4 (e) (3) A).

          If you wish to open a dialog with me to resolve your hatred with me, you may do so by emailing nick@sexoffenderissues.com. I am a very well connected individual with far deeper access to resources than you can probably phantom. Heck, last year I was at the Federal Courthouse in Oakland watching my lawyer in action. Don’t even joke about my weight as i’ve lost most of what you see in the video.

          http://www.abc10.com/news/local/california/sex-offenders-protest-their-right-for-travel/282998981

          Now is your chance to think wisely about your next move in dealing with me. Now let’s stay on topic of the Oxford House situation, shall we?

  4. They approved the halfway house and shot down the whore house? I am lost, the halfway house would do better with more brothels. I thought we were getting a Winco and a Quiznos and a Ross and a mall and a whore house and none of it ever pans out.

  5. Wes,if only that was the case with regard to Robin Fornoff and Tony Reed. It doesn’t even have to be about Roger when you are talking about inaccuracy or incomplete reporting, let alone anything that requires honesty. Robin Fornoff and Tony Reed have made a career out of narratives rather than news. Robin’s editorials are akin to the crazys that occupy the stoop at Speaker’s Corner in London. Some elevators just don’t always make it to the top floor.

  6. The model set forth by Oxford House Inc. in Maryland boasts of self-sufficiency and emphasizes the importance of having the residents become responsible for their rent as an important part of their transition. Leave it to Del Norte County to have the only Oxford Houses in the nation to make an exception to the model and undermine the entire platform by paying their rent. An important thing to remember is that Oxford House Sequoia on E. Lauff was already a working Oxford House prior to the recent contract. Many folks from the public were misled to believe there was no Oxford House Sequoia unless the contract was adopted.

    As for Robin Fornoff and Tony Reed’s reporting, the only consistency I see is their willingness to report inaccurately or incompletely as long as it’s contrary to Roger Gitlin.

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