Neighbors greet SMOC plan with questions, support Thursday, September 29, 2005
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Neighbors of the United Church of Christ's Badger Road property learned details last night about plans to house recovering addicts on the site, and by the end of the meeting were offering to donate clothes and help residents with resumes.

Social service agency SMOC hopes to move its new Scudder House program into a previously unused building on the church land.  The program, which is slated to open in February 2006, will house 12 sober women who are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse.

A group of about 15 neighbors met with church and agency officials in a building on the church campus.  Residents asked a host questions about the rules of the program and the women living there, but no one publicly expressed outright opposition to the plan.

In fact, Donna Fink was excited about the idea, though she was "a tad bit concerned" going into the meeting.  SMOC has been under fire for months over a similar proposal for Winter Street, but Fink said after the meeting that officials there "obviously care about humanity."

"I think it's wonderful there are other people out there helping these people reclaim their lives," said Fink, who plans to donate clothes and make welcome baskets for the Scudder House residents.

But not everyone at the meeting was as supportive.  Judith Gordon said she fears the home will change the character of the neighborhood, saying after the meeting that she "never thought in a million years" a program like Scudder House would end up on the street.

"We're living in a very nice residential area," she said, "and we never thought it would be anything but a nice residential area."

The South Middlesex Opportunity Council has agreed to a 25-year lease for the home for $1 a year.  The United Church of Christ approached the agency about using the building, said the Rev. Stephen Sterner.

The 12 women living there work and have been sober for six months or more before they move in.

"People are not coming from the street to this program," said SMOC planning director Gerard Desilets.

Scudder House is slightly different than the Sage House program, slated to move into a Winter Street nursing home.  That program, deeply opposed by neighbors, houses families, including men, and residents who have not lived in recovery for as long as those at Scudder.

Residents living near the Winter Street home have rejected attempts by SMOC to hold a neighborhood meeting.

One woman at last night's meeting, Jackie Tanner, lives in a sober housing program managed by SMOC.  She credited the agency with helping her get her life together after battling substance abuse.

"It provided me a safe place," she said.  "It provided me a substance-free place.  It provided affordable living in order for me to build my life back."

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