Article Courtesy of The Sun
By Anne Geggis
Published May 21, 2018
Don’t call Delray Beach the drug relapse capital anymore.
The city, once delared Ground Zero for the opioid epidemic, accounted for just
four of Palm Beach County’s 168 drug deaths in the first quarter of 2018. And
that success is prompting Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach to follow its
example of imposing tougher sober home regulations.
Sober homes, also known as recovery residences, are often the first stop for
drug addicts fresh out of treatment. Cities have found that having a high
concentration of them in one area leads to havoc. Angry residents complained
about too many cars in one place, trashed belongings of relapsed clients thrown
into the street and an unsavory element appearing in neighborhoods of
The tougher regulations keep sober homes at least one city block from one
“We’re not trying to discriminate or denigrate individuals who maintain a
residence in a sober home; but we want everyone to be able to enjoy the streets
and the sidewalks and the conviviality of a typical neighborhood that a
concentration of sober homes might not be conducive to,” said Fort Lauderdale
Mayor Dean Tantralis.
His city approved the tighter rules last month; Pompano Beach is ready to give
final approval on Tuesday.
Former Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein oversaw the passage of the tougher
rules and said having former drug addicts concentrated in one place was making
the problem worse.
Two years ago, 65 people died of drugs in the city. Last year, there were 57
overdose deaths. But the crisis began easing in July 2017, the same month the
city’s new regulations were passed.
Glickstein said it makes sense that clustered housing for those in recovery was
aggravating the problem.
“If there are a lot of drug addicts in town and you’re selling [drugs], where
else are you going to go?” Glickstein said.
Delray Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Goldman agrees that having fewer sober homes
near each other appears to be working. But he also credits the drop in drug
deaths to state attorney’s sober home task force, the prosecution of those
running the homes, and his department’s hiring of an addiction specialist to
ensure each overdose survivor gets services.
“When I used to go to [homeowner association] meetings, the topic every day was
sober homes,” he said. “Now the topic doesn’t come up.”
Still, keeping tabs on sober homes can be tricky. Federal law treats addiction
as a disability protected from housing discrimination.
The state has tried to get a handle on the problem by requiring sober homes to
register if they want referrals from state-certified drug treatment programs.
After nearly two years, 385 homes have registered. Yet advocates estimate there
are about 2,500 sober homes throughout the state.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office documented 204 suspected or confirmed sober homes
in Pompano Beach, with a high concentration east of Dixie Highway and north of
Sample Road. Yet the state registry lists just 35 with a Pompano address.
A total of 96 people in recovery live in four buildings on one block, according
to a city-commissioned report. Another sober home operator has 168 people housed
on the same block, according to the report.
“These are unusually large numbers for a community the size of Pompano Beach
with an estimated 109,000 residents in 2016,” the report says.
Jeffrey Lynne, an attorney with clients in the recovery industry, said he
supports registries as a tool to weed out bad sober home operators, but he draws
the line at telling sober homes where they can locate.
“Its end result may defeat the purpose of [Fair Housing Act] housing
guidelines,” he said of the anti-clustering ordinances.
In Fort Lauderdale, Trantalis said he thinks that ultimately recovering addicts
will be helped by having fewer people in the same situation in their immediate
vicinity, in an environment that more closely resembles the wider world.
These rules, he said, “allows for sober homes to exist in our city, but helps
maintain a diversity we feel is important for a healthy neighborhood