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.