SMOC buying Framingham nursing home:
Program for recovering drug addicts
to be moved to Winter Street property
Saturday, June 4, 2005
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
SMOC buying Framingham nursing home: Program for recovering drug addicts to be moved to Winter Street property By David McLaughlin / Daily News Staff (David McLaughlin can be reached at 508-626-4338 or at Saturday, June 4, 2005 FRAMINGHAM -- A local social service agency confirmed for the first time yesterday that it is buying a Winter Street nursing home to provide housing for recovering drug addicts, a plan that neighbors have bitterly protested for weeks.

Gerard Desilets, planning director for the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, said the agency hopes to complete its purchase of the building within two weeks and transfer its Sage House there in about two months.  He called the neighborhood an "appropriate site" for the program, which has been on Clinton Street for 15 years.

"They are people committed to living in recovery, to reunifying with their children, doing job training and eventually moving on to independent living," he said.

Desilets' comments were the first public acknowledgement that SMOC is buying The Framingham Nursing Home at 517 Winter St.  The nursing home is closing its doors, and patients must find other accommodations.  As of yesterday, he did not know the purchase price.  The property is assessed at $733,000, according to the assessor's office.

The agency's plans, he said, have generated "unsubstantiated fears" among neighbors, who have voiced strong opposition to the proposal and have formed a group called Stop Tax Exempt Property Sprawl.  Desilets insisted SMOC has been and will continue to be a good neighbor.

"If they want to meet with us, they know how to get a hold of me.  If they want to have a respectful discussion about this program, we'd be happy to have that discussion with abutters of the property," Desilets said.

Neighbors have turned to selectmen for help.  SMOC has overburdened Framingham, they say, and a drug treatment program threatens the safety of their neighborhood.  They hope to block SMOC's purchase of the building or at least have a voice over "what's located in our front yard," said neighbor Cynthia Laurora.

"This situation has touched a real nerve in this town, and the fight against this proliferation of SMOC in Framingham is not going to go away," she said.

Desilets warned that the town cannot legally stop SMOC or any other agency from siting a community program like Sage House.  Anyone suggesting otherwise, he said, is giving "false hope" to neighbors.

Still, Laurora said she and others will not give up.

"There has got to be something we can do," she said.  "How are other towns able to fight against this type of development in their neighborhoods?  We need to consult them.  We need to consult our state and local representatives.  There has got to be a solution."

Parents living at Sage House are "committed to recovery," Desilets said.  They attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings every day, submit to random urine screenings and participate in substance-abuse counseling.  They live there for six months to a year with their children and are then expected to find their own housing.

The program now houses six to eight families at a time, usually single parents.  The new location will serve 12 to 15 families.  In its 15-year history, Desilets said, 80 families have moved on to "successful living in the community."

Sage House needs more space to meet state requirements.  The state Department of Public Health renewed with SMOC a one-year contract starting July 1 to provide the program, but required that it serve a minimum of 11 families and a maximum of 15, said spokesman Donna Rheaume.

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